An overpayment is an amount of Housing Benefit that has been paid to you which you are not entitled to.
An example would be if you failed to report if your income had increased and a recalculation of your entitlement meant you had been paid too much benefit.
A fraudulent overpayment may occur when someone 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.
If a change in circumstances occurs which reduces the amount of Council Tax Support you are entitled to, rather then being overpaid, you will simply get a revised Council Tax bill to reflect the amount you should have been awarded.
We have a duty under law to recover over-payments from tenants and landlords. We will also consider undertaking criminal proceedings in respect of fraudulent over-payments.
Who has to pay back the overpayment?
An overpayment is recoverable from either the person who caused the overpayment, or the person who received the overpayment.
How do we recover an overpayment from a tenant?
If the tenant is currently receiving Housing Benefit, the overpayment can be recovered from future benefit payments by a weekly deduction.
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 then responsible for paying any additional amount due, 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 or we may send an invoice for the payment.
In cases of fraudulent overpayments, the recovery of the overpayment does not mean we will not still pursue criminal proceedings and recovery will not prejudice any such proceedings.
How do we recover an overpayment from a landlord?
If we have decided to recover an overpayment from a landlord, we will send an invoice or make deductions from other tenants' benefits paid to that same landlord. 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.
In cases of fraudulent overpayments, the recovery of the over-payment does not mean we will not still pursue criminal proceedings and recovery will not prejudice any such proceedings.
Can I appeal an overpayment?
You can ask for a review of a decision to calculate an overpayment. You need to ask us to do this within one month of the original decision.
A landlord can request a review where recovery is being sought from him/her personally - that is, where an invoice for payment has been issued to him/her, or a deduction is being made from the benefit he receives for one of his tenants in order to recover an over-payment owed by the landlord in respect of another tenant.
Where the over-payment is owed by the landlord personally, he/she will be notified in writing of a decision to recover from him/her. Any request for a review should be made within one month of our decision.
A landlord can write to us at any time asking for a written statement of reasons for the recovery of an overpayment from him/her.
You can read more about the appeals process.
What will happen if an overpayment is not repaid?
If an invoice addressed to a landlord remains unpaid, or an agreed arrangement to repay the debt over time is not being maintained, we will consider a range of further recovery methods which may include court action.
If a landlord habitually fails to repay over-payments that are recoverable from him/her, we can decide that they are not a fit and proper person, under benefit regulations, and refuse to make direct benefit payments to them.