Overpayment of housing benefit
What if I am overpaid benefit?
An overpayment is an amount that has been paid for which there was no entitlement. An example would be if a claimant failed to tell us that their income had increased. A recalculation of their entitlement could mean that they received too much benefit.
A fraudulent overpayment may occur when a person has deliberately provided a false statement, or document. It could also be that a person has deliberately failed to report a change of circumstances. This is 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. There are other subsequent legislations. We have a duty to implement these legal provisions. We also have a duty to recover overpayments from tenants and landlords. We may also decide to take criminal proceedings in respect of fraudulent overpayments.
Who do we recover overpayments from?
An overpayment is recoverable from either the person who caused the overpayment, or the person who received the overpayment.
In the case of a landlord, it is only recoverable from them if:
- they caused the overpayment; or
- could reasonably have been expected to realise there was an overpayment.
Example 1 of overpayment
The landlord directly receives the Housing Benefit. There is an overpayment due to the claimant starting work. If the landlord did not know that the claimant has started work, the overpayment is recoverable from the claimant.
Example 2 of overpayment
The landlord directly receives the Housing Benefit. The overpayment is due to the claimant moving out. The overpayment is recoverable from the landlord. It is reasonable to expect him to have realised that his tenant had left.
How we recover benefit from the tenant
If the tenant is currently receiving Housing Benefit, we will recover the overpayment from future benefit payments. We will do this by a weekly deduction known as a 'claw-back'.
If the landlord receives payments directly, we will reflect the tenant's reduced entitlement by the amount of the benefit payment. This is every 4 weeks.
The tenant is responsible for paying any rent arrears that occur because 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, we may recover the overpayment from other benefits. We may issue an invoice for payment.
Recovery of an overpayment will not prejudice any criminal proceedings taken by us in respect of fraudulent overpayments.
How we recover benefit from a landlord
If we recover an overpayment from a landlord, we will issue an invoice. We may make deductions from other tenants' benefits paid to that landlord. We do not treat the amount of these deductions as rent arrears for those tenants. The landlord must not try to recover the shortfall from them.
Recovery of an overpayment will not prejudice any criminal proceedings we may take in respect of fraudulent overpayments.
Is there a right of appeal?
See What are my Rights of Appeal? for further information on the Reconsiderations and Appeals process.
The claimant can ask for a review of a decision to calculate an overpayment. You must make a request within one month of the decision notice.
A landlord can request a review where we seek recovery from him personally, when we issue an invoice to him. It could be that we deduct from the benefit of one of his tenants. The deduction is to recover an overpayment. The overpayment is owed by the landlord in respect of another tenant.
Where the landlord owes the overpayment, we will notify him in writing. You must make a request for a review within one 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 I do not repay an overpayment?
We may take action in the County Court if:
- an invoice addressed to a landlord remains unpaid; or
- you do not maintain the agreed arrangement to repay the debt.
If we seek recovery from a landlord, only he can request a review. This is where:
- an invoice for payment has been issued to him; or
- we make a deduction from the benefit he receives for one of his tenants. This is in order to recover an overpayment owed by the landlord.
If a landlord habitually fails to repay overpayments, we can decide that he/she is not a 'fit and proper person'. We can refuse to make direct benefit payments to that landlord.