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Housing Benefit overpayments

Housing and council tax benefitsWhat is an overpayment?

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 tenant failed to tell the Council 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 does the Council deal with overpayments?

The rules concerning the administration of benefit overpayments are contained in the Housing Benefit Regulations and other subsequent legislation. The Council has a duty to implement these legal provisions, and has a duty to recover overpayments from tenants and landlords. The Council may also decide to take criminal proceedings in respect of fraudulent overpayments.

Who can an overpayment be recovered from?

An overpayment is recoverable from either the person who caused the overpayment, or the person who received the overpayment.

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 four weeks.

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

If the tenant is not currently receiving housing benefit, the overpayment may be recovered from other benefits they are in receipt of or an invoice for payment may be issued so that the claimant can repay the debt at any council office.

How is benefit recovered from the landlord?

If the Council has decided to recover an overpayment from a landlord it will either issue an invoice or make deductions from the benefit of another of the landlord's tenants, where that tenant receives benefit which is paid to the landlord directly. 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 the Council in respect of fraudulent overpayments.

Is there a right of appeal?

Only the tenant can ask for a review of a decision to recover an overpayment by "claw-back". The "claw-back" could be in respect of an overpayment at the current address or a previous one. The tenant would have been notified in writing that a weekly deduction was being made. The landlord will be notified of a "claw-back" from a tenant's entitlement if housing benefit is paid directly to that landlord.

Benefit regulations do not give a right of review to the landlord in the above circumstances, and neither can the Council discuss details of the tenant's claim with the landlord.

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.

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 one calendar month.

 

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

For further information on reviews and the Appeals Process please go to 'Housing Benefit Reviews and Appeals'.

What will happen if the debt is not repaid?

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

A landlord who habitually fails to repay overpayments that are recoverable from them, can be declared not a "fit and proper person" under benefit regulations, and the Council can refuse to make payments to them directly.

 

 

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0303 123 1702

Allerdale Borough Council
Allerdale House, Workington, Cumbria,
CA14 3YJ