Benefits overpayment

An overpayment is when we pay you or your landlord an amount of Council Tax support or Housing Benefit you were not entitled to receive.

If we pay you too much benefit, we will usually ask you to pay back the amount we have overpaid. This is called a recoverable overpayment.

What is a recoverable overpayment?

We can recover all overpayments, except if they are caused by an official error which you could not reasonably have known about when you were paid or told about your benefit. An official error is a mistake we make. It is not an official error if you or a person acting on your behalf contributed to the mistake by not giving us information or by giving false or misleading information.

Examples of why overpayments happen

  • You may have forgotten to tell us that your income has increased, for example, you have had a pay rise or your tax credit award or pension amount has changed
  • Somebody has moved into or out of your home
  • You may have started work or changed jobs 
  • You may have moved out of your home and not told us
  • If you have any other adults living with you, their circumstances may have changed.

How will I know if I have an overpayment?

We will send you a letter giving you the full details of the overpayment. The letter will set out:

  • How the overpayment occurred
  • The amount of the overpayment
  • The period the overpayment covers
  • If it is a recoverable overpayment
  • How we will recover the overpayment
  • What to do if you disagree with the overpayment

Can you reduce the overpayment?

In some circumstances we may reduce the amount we overpaid you if you tell us about your correct circumstances throughout the period of the overpayment. If we give you housing benefit for the period you were overpaid it is called underlying entitlement, this means you were actually entitled to receive some of the benefit; we will use this to reduce the overpayment.

What can I do if I disagree with the overpayment?

If you disagree with the overpayment you must write and ask for a detailed explanation, or ask us to look at our decision again. You must do this within one calendar month of the date on the letter.

The areas you can challenge are:

  • If we can recover the overpayment or not
  • Who we can recover it from
  • How we have worked it out
  • If you had an underlying entitlement

You cannot challenge:

  • If we should recover the overpayment or not
  • How we choose to recover the overpayment

Can I appeal?

If you’re not satisfied with our decision or how we explain our decision, you can appeal. You must appeal in writing and sign it. You must make it clear which decision you are appealing against and your reasons for appealing.

Send your appeal to us, see contact details. You must do this within one calendar month of the decision you are appealing against. Your appeal will be heard by a tribunal run by the Tribunals Service, who are independent to us.

How do you recover the overpayment?

If we overpaid your Council Tax support we will add the amount of the overpayment to your Council Tax bill. Our Council Tax office will collect the overpayment by increasing your monthly payments.

If you are still getting Housing Benefit, we may reduce your benefit each week to recover the overpayment. If we are not paying your Housing Benefit, we may send you a bill and you should make arrangements to pay us.

If we pay your landlord your benefit, we may ask the landlord to repay the overpayment in certain circumstances. We can ask the Department for Work and Pensions to take money out of your social security benefits to collect the overpayment.