An overpayment is an amount of benefit/reduction which has been paid to you that you were not entitled to receive. An overpayment sometimes happens because:
- we have been given the wrong information
- you haven't told us something that we needed to know about
- there has been a delay or you haven't told us about a change.
An overpayment can happen because:
- we've made a mistake
- your circumstances changed which means your benefit award should have reduced
- there has been a delay between you reporting a change to us and our processing of that change. Even if you tell us immediately and we deal with it quickly, there might still be an overpayment.
If you have been overpaid a benefit or reduction, we'll send you a letter letting you know how much you have been overpaid and how we are going to recover it.
Recovering overpaid benefits
We can ask for the overpaid money back if the Housing Benefit overpayment:
- was your fault
- was our fault, but you should have realised you were being overpaid.
We can't ask for it back if it's our fault and you couldn't have realised you were getting too much.
If you were paid too much Council Tax reduction, this is recoverable in full regardless of who was at fault. The amount will usually be added to your remaining instalments and you'll get a new bill showing the increase.
We recover overpaid money in different ways, such as:
- adding it to your Council Tax bill
- making weekly deductions from your Housing Benefit
- reducing any money that we owe you
- payment arrangements
- from your landlord
- contacting the Department for Work and Pensions to take money out of your social security benefits
- contacting another council to take money out of any Housing Benefit they are paying you
- contacting your employer to take money out of your earnings, this is called a Direct Earnings Attachment.
If you still receive Housing Benefit, we can take money out of each week's benefit to recover the overpayment although there are legal limits on how much we can take. If the amount we take causes you a problem, please tell us as we might be able to change it.
If you rent from a housing association and your rent account is in credit, we may take this off the account but we won't put your account into arrears. If we owe you benefit for another period, we can hold on to the money and use it to repay your overpayment. This is called 'offsetting'.
If we've been paying your landlord we may ask them to repay the money.
Repay overpayment as instalments
If you find it difficult to repay an overpayment as a single payment, it may be possible to arrange an instalments plan.
Overpayments to landlords
If you're the tenant of a private landlord or housing association, we may have been paying your rent allowance directly to them. In these cases, we could ask you to pay us back as your landlord might not have known you've had a change. However, we could ask your landlord because they were in receipt of the money.
We will decide how these types of overpayments are to be repaid and will tell you our decision. You have the right to appeal if you disagree with our decision. If you're the landlord, you also have a right to appeal.
We have a public responsibility to recover overpayments and if necessary, we will ask the person who is more likely to be able to repay us.