Housing Benefit Overpayments

An overpayment happens when you are paid Housing Benefit that you are not entitled to.


How will I know if I have an overpayment of Housing Benefit?

We will write and tell you. The letter that you receive from us will give you full details of the overpayment. We will tell you:
• What caused the overpayment
• The dates of the overpayment
• How much the overpayment is
• If we are going to ask you to pay the overpayment back and how this will be done
• What you should do if you disagree with the overpayment


Why have I got an Overpayment?

There are several reasons why you may have been overpaid Housing Benefit. Here are a few examples:
• You may have forgotten to tell us that your income has increased. (Income is money coming into your home. For example wages, Department for Works and Pension (DWP) benefits, a works pension, Tax Credits)
• You may have had a change in your savings
• Somebody may have moved in or out of your home
• You or someone in your household may have started work or changed jobs
• If you have a non-dependent living with you, their income may have changed
• You may have moved out of your home and not told us. (Please do not rely on the DWP or your landlord to inform us of any changes)
• The DWP may have told us to cancel your claim or there may have been a delay in receiving information from them


Can the overpayment be reduced?

We may be able to reduce the amount of the overpayment if you are still entitled to some benefit for the period of the overpayment. This is called awarding "Underlying Entitlement".

For Example:
Mrs Smith is paid Housing Benefit of £50 per week for the period 3rd June to 28th July. The Housing Benefit entitlement of £50 is based on Mrs Smith receiving Income Support.

On 2nd September we are advised by The DWP that Mrs Smith's entitlement to Income Support ended on 12th July as she had started a part-time job.

This creates an overpayment of £100 for the period 15th July to 28th July.

However, as Mrs Smith's Income Support has stopped because she has started part time work she is still entitled to Housing Benefit of £30 per week based on her earnings for the period of the overpayment. The overpayment is therefore reduced by £60, 2 weeks at £30 per week. A revised overpayment of £40 is recoverable from Mrs Smith.

If Mrs Smith had ceased to be entitled to Income Support because, for example, her savings were now more than £16,000 she would no longer be entitled to Housing Benefit and therefore the overpayment of £100 would be recoverable.

If you think you may be entitled to Underlying Entitlement you should contact the Benefits Section as you will need to provide proof of your income and savings and may need to complete a new benefit application form.


What can I do if I disagree with the overpayment?

The first thing to do when you receive your overpayment letter is to read it carefully.

If you still disagree with the overpayment after reading the letter you can do the following:

• If you do not understand the overpayment you can telephone, write or visit the offices where a Benefits Officer will be able to help you
• You can ask us to look at the decision again
• You can appeal against the decision

In all of the above cases you must contact us within one calendar month from the date of your overpayment letter. If you want us to look at your claim again or you want to appeal you must make your request in writing.


Things you should remember

• If you are starting work don't forget to let us know - if we know before you start work, there is less chance of an overpayment.
• If you are moving home your overpayment will not be cancelled. We will recover it from you at your new address.


How will the Overpayment be recovered?

If you are still receiving Housing Benefit we may reduce this each week by the amount shown on your letter. If you pay your Housing Benefit to your landlord, your landlord may ask you to make up any difference. If you feel that the amount we are reducing your Housing Benefit by is causing you hardship you can write and ask us to change it.
If you stop receiving Housing Benefit we will send you an invoice for the amount you owe. If you are unable to repay this in full we may be able to arrange for you to pay by instalments. Please see below for further details.


What Happens to the Overpayment if my Housing Benefit Ends?

If you stop receiving Housing Benefit and you have an outstanding Housing Benefit overpayment you will be sent an invoice.
If you do not contact us to make an arrangement to pay the overpayment within 14 days you will be sent a Reminder invoice and given a further 7 days. If you still fail to either pay the invoice or contact us to make a payment arrangement, further recovery action will be taken.


Other Housing Benefit Overpayment Recovery Methods

If you do not pay back your Housing Benefit overpayment in full or make an arrangement to pay by instalments we may recover the overpayment via the following methods:

• If you are in receipt of a DWP Benefit we can ask the DWP to recover the overpayment from your weekly benefit payments. Please see the Prescribed Benefits List for the DWP Benefits that we are allowed to recover from
• If you are working we can ask your employer to apply a Direct Earnings Attachment (DEA). Please see the Employers DEA Guide for further information
• If you are in receipt of Housing Benefit at a different Local Authority we can ask that Local Authority to recover the overpayment from your Housing Benefit payments
• We can refer your overpayment to an independent Debt Collection Agency
• We can refer your overpayment to our Legal Department


Ways to pay

If you wish to pay your invoice in full

• Go to www.winchester.gov.uk/pay and click on Housing Benefit Overpayment
• Pay by debit card on the payment line by calling 0845 6024438
• In person by cash, cheque or debit card at the cash office, City Offices, Colebrook Street, Winchester. Open 8.45am to 4.00pm Monday to Friday. Please bring your invoice with you.
• We do not accept payment by credit card

If you wish to pay by Instalments

Please call the Benefit Section on 01962 848 539 to agree an instalment plan to pay by Direct Debit. You will need your bank details and your invoice available when your call.

You can choose a payment date of either the 5th, 15th or 25th of the month (or nearest working day afterwards).

Please note we would usually expect any instalment plan to clear your overpayment within 12 months however we can arrange a longer repayment plan if you are experiencing financial hardship.

Other methods of payment

You can pay by the following methods but please allow an additional 7 working days for these payments to clear.

• Standing Order: Please telephone 01962 840222 and ask for the Debtors Section who will send you a mandate which you can complete and give to your bank.