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 claimant 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 is Overpayment recoverable 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 4 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 or an invoice for payment may be issued. Recovery of an overpayment will not prejudice any criminal proceedings that may be taken by the Council in respect of fraudulent overpayments.
How is Benefit Recovered from the Landlord?
If the Council has decided to recover an overpayment from a landlord it may issue an invoice or make deductions from other tenants' benefit paid to that 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. 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?
For further information on reviews and the Appeals process see ' Housing Benefit Appeals'.
You can ask for a review of a decision to calculate an overpayment. Any such request should be made within 1 month of the decision notice.
A landlord can request a review where recovery is being sought from them personally; that is, where an invoice for payment has been issued to them, or a deduction is being made from the benefit they receive for one of their tenants in order to recover an overpayment owed by the landlord in respect of another tenant.
Where the overpayment is owed by the landlord personally, they will be notified in writing of a decision to recover from him. Any request for a review should be made within 1 month of the decision notice.
A landlord can write to the Council at any time requesting a written statement of reasons for the recovery of an overpayment from him.
What will happen if an Overpayment is not Repaid?
Where an invoice addressed to a landlord 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.