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Housing benefit overpayments

An overpayment is when the council pays housing benefit that you were not entitled to.

You might be overpaid housing benefit if, for example:

  • you give the wrong information on your form

  • you do not tell the council about a change that affects your benefit

  • the housing benefit team make a mistake when working out your benefit

The council might suspend your housing benefit while they get more information if they think you have been overpaid.

Letters about overpayments

The council must write to you if they are going to recover an overpayment.

The letter must say:

  • why there is an overpayment

  • how much you have been overpaid by

  • who should pay the money back, for example, you or your landlord

  • how the money will be recovered, for example, deductions from future housing benefit

The housing benefit team should write to you within 14 days if you have been overpaid.

Ask for reasons

Copy this template into an email if the council's letter does not explain why you were overpaid.

[Use your housing benefit reference number as the subject]

I am writing to you about the letter you sent me on [date of letter] telling me that I have been overpaid housing benefit.

Please send me a written statement of reasons explaining why I was overpaid.

You can also send as an email attachment or by post:

You usually have to pay back overpayments

You might not have to pay back housing benefit overpayments if:

  • they were caused by an official error

  • you have some forms of debt relief in place

  • the council decides not to recover the overpayment

Official errors

The council cannot recover housing benefit overpayments that have been caused by their mistake unless they can show that you should have known that you were being overpaid.

Debt relief

Special rules apply to the recovery of housing benefit overpayments if you have a:

Other overpayments

All other housing benefit overpayments could be recovered by the council. For example, if you do not report a change of situation in time.

The council has the choice about if they will recover the overpayment so let them know if this will cause you hardship.

How councils recover overpayments

The council can make deductions from your ongoing housing benefit payments.

This means you have to pay more towards your rent until the overpayment is repaid to avoid rent arrears.

You can ask the council to reduce the amount it takes if you cannot afford rent, food or other living costs.

Get advice if the council refuses to reduce the deductions.

Sometimes, the council sends a bill. You can ask to repay the overpayment in instalments.

The council can take court action to recover what you owe if you do not make a repayment arrangement.

How to challenge an overpayment decision

Ask the council to review their decision if:

  • you think the council’s calculations are wrong

  • the council made an error and you were not aware you were being overpaid

You must request the review in writing within 1 month of getting the council’s letter.

Find out more about challenging a housing benefit decision from Citizens Advice.

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Last updated: 18 May 2022

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