Housing benefit overpayments

You usually have to repay housing benefit if you get more than you were entitled to.

How housing benefit overpayments happen

You can be overpaid housing benefit for a number of different reasons.

For example if:

  • you put the wrong information on your claim form
  • the housing benefit office makes a mistake when calculating your housing benefit
  • Jobcentre Plus or the Pension Service pays you the wrong amount of another benefit you are claiming
  • you don't report a change in your circumstances that affects your claim

The council writes to you if it decides you have received too much housing benefit.

Video: Do you have to pay back overpayments?

Overpayments that must be repaid

The council can choose whether or not to recover an overpayment but, in most cases, the overpayment must be repaid.

Even if the overpayment has been caused by the council's own error, it must be repaid if you or your landlord should have noticed that you were being overpaid.

Who can overpayments be recovered from?

Usually, an overpayment is recovered from you or your partner.

An overpayment can be recovered from your landlord or agent if the housing benefit was paid directly to them and:

  • they caused the overpayment by providing wrong information
  • there was an official error by the council which the landlord or agent should have noticed

How councils recover overpayments

The council can make deductions of up to £11.10 per week from your ongoing housing benefit payments. This may mean that you have to pay more towards your rent until the overpayment is repaid to avoid rent arrears.

Or the council might send you a bill. You can ask to repay the overpayment in affordable instalments. The council can take court action to recover the money if you don't make a repayment arrangement.

How to challenge an overpayment decision

The council must write to you within 14 days of making a decision to recover an overpayment from you.

The letter says how much you must repay and how the money will be recovered.

Ask the council to review its decision if:

  • the overpayment is not your fault and you were not aware you were overpaid
  • you think their calculations are wrong

You must request the review within one month of receiving the decision letter. Put your request in writing.

Use Shelter's template letter to write to the council about overpayments

Underpaid housing benefit

If you are underpaid housing benefit because the council made a mistake, you should be paid all the money you were entitled to.

If you are underpaid because you gave the wrong information or did not report a change in circumstances, you are not paid the outstanding money. You will be paid the right amount of housing benefit starting from the Monday after you report the change to your housing benefit office.

Still need help?

Housing benefit overpayments can be confusing and make it difficult to budget.

If you don't agree with the council's review decision, you can appeal to a housing benefit tribunal.

A benefits adviser may be able to help you.

Search for your nearest Citizens Advice service

Last updated 26 Apr 2016 | © Shelter

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