What if I am overpaid Housing Benefit?
An overpayment is an amount 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 provided a false statement, or document. It could also be that a person has failed to report a change of circumstances. This is with the intention of obtaining or retaining benefit.
How do we deal with overpayments?
Housing Benefit Regulations contain the rules on the administration of benefit overpayments. There are other later legislations. We have a duty to put in place 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
- they could reasonably expect to realise there was an overpayment.
Example 1 of an overpayment
The landlord 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 an overpayment
The landlord 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 the landlord to realise that his tenant has moved out.
How we recover Housing Benefit from a tenant
If the tenant is 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 the payments, we will reflect the tenant's reduced entitlement by the amount of the benefit payment. This is every 4 weeks.
The tenant must pay 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 Housing 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 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. The claimant must make a request within one month of the decision notice.
A landlord can request a review where we seek recovery from him, 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 landlord owes the overpayment in respect of another tenant. Where the landlord owes the overpayment, we will notify him in writing. The landlord 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
- the agreed arrangement to repay the debt is not maintained.
If we seek recovery from a landlord, only he can request a review. This is where:
- we issue an invoice for payment to him; or
- we make a deduction from the benefit he receives for one of his tenants. This is to recover an overpayment owed by the landlord.
If a landlord fails to repay overpayments, we can decide that he/she is not a 'fit and proper person'. We can refuse to make benefit payments to that landlord.