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Housing Benefit: Overpayments

What if I am overpaid benefit?

An overpayment is an amount of benefit that has been paid, but for which there was no entitlement under the Regulations.

An example would be if a claimant failed to tell us that their income had increased, and a recalculation of their entitlement meant that they had been paid too much benefit.

A fraudulent overpayment may occur when a person has deliberately provided a false statement or document, or has deliberately failed to report a change of circumstances with the intention of obtaining or retaining benefit.

How do we deal with overpayments?

The rules concerning the administration of benefit overpayments are contained in the Housing Benefit Regulations and other subsequent legislation. We have a duty to implement these legal provisions and to recover overpayments from tenants and landlords.

We may also decide to take criminal proceedings in respect of fraudulent overpayments.

Who are overpayments recoverable from?

An overpayment is recoverable from either the person who caused the overpayment, or the person who received the overpayment. However in the case of a landlord it is only recoverable from them if they caused the overpayment or they could reasonably have been expected to realise there was an overpayment.

Example 1

The Housing Benefit is being paid directly to the landlord and there is an overpayment due to the claimant starting work. As long as the landlord did not know that the claimant has started work then the overpayment is recoverable from the claimant.

Example 2

The Housing Benefit is being paid directly to the landlord and the overpayment is due to the claimant moving out. In this case the overpayment is recoverable from the landlord as it is reasonable to expect them to have realised that their tenant had left.

How is benefit recovered from the tenant?

If the tenant is currently receiving housing benefit, the overpayment will be recovered from future benefit payments by a weekly deduction known as a 'claw-back'.

If payments are made direct to the landlord, the tenant's reduced entitlement will be reflected by the amount of the benefit payment that is issued every 4 weeks.

The tenant is responsible for paying any rent arrears that occur as a result of the reduced amount paid to the landlord.

If you are overpaid Housing Benefit we will write to you and tell you:

  • what your correct benefit is;
  • why you were overpaid;
  • how much the overpayment is;
  • the period it covers;
  • how the overpayment should be repaid;
  • how you can appeal if you think it is wrong;

If the tenant is not currently receiving housing benefit, the overpayment may be recovered from other benefits or an invoice for payment may be issued.

Recovery of an overpayment will not prejudice any criminal proceedings that may be taken by us in respect of fraudulent overpayments.

How is benefit recovered from the landlord?

If we have decided to recover an overpayment from a landlord it will issue an invoice or make deductions from other tenants' benefit paid to that landlord. The amount of these deductions should not be treated as rent arrears for those tenants, and the landlord must not try to recover the shortfall from them.

Recovery of an overpayment will not prejudice any criminal proceedings that may be taken by us in respect of fraudulent overpayments.

Is there a right of appeal?

For further information on the Reconsiderations and Appeals process see What are my Rights of Appeal?

The claimant can ask for a review of a decision to calculate an overpayment. Any such request should be made within 1 month of the decision notice.

A landlord can request a review where recovery is being sought from him personally; that is, where an invoice for payment has been issued to him, or a deduction is being made from the benefit he receives for one of his tenants in order to recover an overpayment owed by the landlord in respect of another tenant.

Where the overpayment is owed by the landlord personally, he will be notified in writing of a decision to recover from him. Any request for a review should be made within 1 month of the decision notice.

A landlord can write to us at any time requesting a written statement of reasons for the recovery of an overpayment from him.

What will happen if an overpayment is not repaid?

Where an invoice addressed to a landlord remains unpaid, or an agreed arrangement to repay the debt over time is not being maintained, we may take action in the County Court.

Important notes

A landlord can only request a review where recovery is being sought from him personally; that is, where an invoice for payment has been issued to him, or a deduction is being made from the benefit he receives for one of his tenants in order to recover an overpayment owed by the landlord.

If a landlord habitually fails to repay overpayments that are recoverable from him, we can decide that the landlord is not a 'fit and proper person' under Benefit Regulations, and can refuse to make direct benefit payments to that landlord.

For further information:

  • Contact: Benefit Team Leader, Town Hall, Penrith CA11 7QF 
  • Email: benefits@eden.gov.uk
  • Telephone: 01768 212131
  • Fax: 01768 890470  

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