An overpayment of housing benefit is where someone has received more benefit than they were entitled to, whether paid to the person, the landlord or direct to the rent account. This can be due to a change of income, a change of household or a change in the circumstances of a non-dependant, for example.
You can register and login to view your benefits account online.
How do overpayments happen
Overpayments can happen in several ways, such as:
- the council fails to act on information provided by the claimant;
- the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) mistakenly make an award of a benefit, for example, Income Support or Income-Based Jobseeker's Allowance;
- the claimant fails to notify the council of a change that would lead to reduced benefit entitlement.
All overpayments are recoverable unless they are the result of a mistake by the council or DWP and the claimant could not reasonably have been expected to know that they were being overpaid and the claimant did not contribute to the error.
How overpayments are recovered
If the claimant is still receiving housing benefit, the overpayment is usually recovered via deductions from ongoing benefit entitlement. If there is no future benefit entitlement, the overpayment is recovered by issuing an invoice for payment.
In some circumstances, an overpayment can be recovered via deduction from a DWP benefit, such as Jobseeker's Allowance; this is known as an attachment of benefit. Deductions can also be taken from wages; this is known as a direct earnings attachment or an attachment of earnings for overpaid housing benefits. Please note this is a different and separate process from an attachment of earnings for recovering council tax.
In some cases, enforcement agents can be instructed to recover overpayments.
Overpayments can also be recovered from landlords, if they received the payments of benefit, unless:
- the landlord informed that they suspect that there had been an overpayment;
- the overpayment was due to a change in the tenant's circumstances, which the landlord could not reasonably be expected to know about;
- the landlord did not contribute to the overpayment.
When you have an overpayment, the letter will tell you why the decision has been made and the dates to which it applies. If you think the decision is wrong and wish to appeal, you must do this within one month of the date of the letter.