Housing Benefit overpayments

An overpayment is when we pay you an amount of Housing Benefit but you were not entitled to receive either some or all of it.

If we have paid you too much benefit, we will usually ask you to pay back the amount you have been overpaid.

You can pay by debit or credit card.

It is our policy to pursue all overpayments that are recoverable.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do overpayments happen?

When you claim Housing Benefit we work out your benefit and make every effort to make sure payments are accurate.

Sometimes, we have to work out your benefit again because you have had a change in circumstances or we have found we made a mistake. If your benefit goes down and we have already paid you a higher amount there will be an overpayment. Some examples of why an overpayment could have happened are:

  • You may have forgotten to tell us that your income has increased, such as you have had a pay rise, or your tax credit award or pension amount has increased.
  • Somebody may have moved into or out of your home.
  • You may have moved out of your former home and not told us.
  • You may have started work or changed jobs.
  • If you have other adults living with you, their circumstances may have changed.
  • We may have made a mistake and corrected it later.
  • There may have been a short delay between you telling us about a change and us changing your benefit award.

You need to tell us about any changes and not rely on anyone else to do it for you. Even if you have told the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) or Job Centre about any changes in circumstances, you should still tell us.

If we pay you too much benefit by mistake this can be recovered if we think it was reasonable for you to have known about it.

If we pay you too much benefit because you did not tell us about a change in your circumstances then we will always recover the overpaid benefit.

How do we recover overpayments?

We send you an invoice and you are asked to repay the amount overpaid in full.

If you are unable to pay in full or in part and you are getting Housing Benefit, we will reduce your benefit each week to recover the overpayment.

If the benefit we pay towards your rent is reduced, you will have to pay the difference to your landlord yourself.

If you pay rent to Berneslai Homes, and your rent account is in credit, we may ask them to transfer this credit to us to pay back the overpayment.

If we are not paying you Housing Benefit you must make arrangements to repay us.

If we paid your landlord your benefit, we might ask them to repay the overpayment, but only in certain circumstances.

We can ask the DWP to take money from your other benefits to collect the overpayment.

Where you move out of the area, your new council can take money from any Housing Benefit paid to you.

Is your overpayment correct?

Sometimes, we can reduce the amount you have been overpaid if you tell us about your correct circumstances during the period of the overpayment. If we do this it is called Underlying Entitlement and we can use this to reduce the overpayment.

What can you do if you cannot afford to repay the overpayment?

If you want us to reduce the amount we take from your Housing Benefit contact us straight away. Our contact number is on the back of your invoice, and further down this page.

If we have sent you an invoice and you cannot pay the full amount, you can arrange to pay it back in instalments. You should ring us straight away to do this. Before arranging to repay by instalments, you may need to give us details of your income and outgoings.

If you do not contact us to arrange to pay, or you stop making payments we may refer the overpayment to a debt collection agency, or register your debt with the County Court and ask them to force you to pay it back. If the court grants a court order against you it will affect your credit rating. We will also add court costs to the amount you owe us.

You can only make arrangements to repay Housing Benefit overpayments with the Overpayment Recovery Section. Contact us.

How can you help avoid overpayments?

To avoid overpayments make sure you always give us correct information and report any changes in circumstances as soon as possible. To report a change to your circumstances please complete and return the Housing Benefit change in circumstances form.

Why have you sent me a bill for an overpayment of benefit when you paid the benefit to my landlord?

If an overpayment of benefit occurs where payments were made to your landlord the overpayment is recoverable from both you and the landlord. We looks at who the benefit was paid to, why the overpayment occurred, who caused the overpayment and whether that person would have known they were being overpaid before deciding who should repay an overpayment.

If you have a change in your personal circumstances, such as starting work or starting to get tax credits, it is not reasonable for a landlord to know about such changes. The overpayment decision where this is the case will normally be to recover from you as the person that claimed benefit and declared that they would inform the council of those changes.

What can I do if I do not agree with the overpayment?

If you do not agree with an overpayment, or are not sure about it, you can contact us and ask us to explain the decision.

If you want to dispute the decision, please see the information page Housing benefit appeals.

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