You usually have to repay housing benefit if you get more than you are entitled to.
How overpayments happen
You can be overpaid housing benefit for different reasons.
For example, if:
- you put the wrong information on your claim form
- the housing benefit office make a mistake when calculating your housing benefit
- Jobcentre Plus or the Pension Service pay you the wrong amount of another benefit you are claiming
- you don't tell the council about changes in your circumstances that affect how much housing benefit you should get
The council write to you if they decide you have received too much housing benefit.
Do you have to pay back overpayments?
Our housing adviser Danielle explains what happens if your housing benefit is overpaid.
Overpayments you must repay
In most cases, an overpayment must be repaid.
It doesn’t have to be repaid if:
- it was caused by an official error
- you could not have been expected to know you were being overpaid (or your landlord couldn’t if it was paid directly to them)
Who has to repay an overpayment?
Usually, you or your partner have to repay the amount that was overpaid.
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 error by the council but the landlord or agent should have noticed it
How councils recover overpayments
The council can make deductions from your ongoing housing benefit payments. This will mean that 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 is deducting if this is causing you hardship. Find out how to get advice if the council refuses to do this.
Alternatively, the council might send you a bill. You can ask to repay the overpayment in instalments. The council can take court action to recover what you owe if you don't make a repayment arrangement.
How to challenge an overpayment decision
The council must write to tell you they are going to recover an overpayment.
The letter must say:
- why there is an overpayment
- how much you must repay and at what rate
- how the money will be recovered
Ask the council to review their decision if:
- the overpayment is not your fault and you were not aware you were overpaid
- you think the council’s calculations are wrong
You must request the review in writing within one month of receiving the council’s letter.
Underpaid housing benefit
You should be paid all the money you are owed if you are underpaid.
If your underpayment has been caused because you didn’t report a change in circumstances, make sure the council have the right information as soon as possible.
If you take longer than a month, you will only get the right amount of housing benefit starting from the Monday after you report the change.
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. Find out where to get help with benefits.
Last updated 30 January 2019 | © Shelter
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