Information about housing benefit overpayments
What is a housing benefit overpayment?
An overpayment is where you have been paid more housing benefit than you are entitled to.
Overpayments of benefit usually happen when you do not tell the council of changes in your circumstances as soon as they happen, for example:
- An increase in your wages or any other income
- If someone moves in to your home
- If you move out of your home
It is your duty to tell us of changes in your circumstances promptly to avoid having to repay any monies (click here to download a Change of Circumstances form).
Where an overpayment arises, the council will take action to recover the money.
In some circumstances, you may be entitled to a reduced amount of benefit for the same period as the overpayment. We may contact you if we think this applies to you to ask you to provide information about your income and circumstances for the period of the overpayment. If you are asked to provide these details, you must do so promptly as it could reduce your overpayment.
How will I know if I have been overpaid housing benefit?
We will write to you with full details, for example:
- The reason for the overpayment
- The amount of the overpayment
- What period the overpayment relates to
- Whether the overpayment will be recovered, and if so, how
- What to do if you disagree with the overpayment
We will also send you an invoice for repayment of the overpayment.
What if the overpayment was not my fault?
Even if the overpayment was not your fault, you may still have to pay it back. This would happen where you continue to receive and accept payments of benefit knowing that either the amount is too much or you should not be receiving any at all.
Can I appeal against the overpayment?
Yes, if you are unhappy with our decision you can ask for the decision to be reconsidered or you can appeal against it. You can pick up an appeals leaflet from the Customer Services Centre at Lancaster or Morecambe Town Hall.
If I am overpaid, will I have to repay the money all at once?
No, overpayments can be recovered gradually by:
- Reducing your current housing benefit entitlement
- Reducing your current social security benefits, e.g. state retirement pension, income support, job seekers allowance
- Making an arrangement to make weekly/monthly payments to the council
If your landlord received housing benefit payments on your behalf, we may ask him/her to repay the overpayment.
What will happen if I do not repay the overpayment?
The council may take action to recover the overpayment through the courts. The cost of the court action will be added to your overpayment.
Who do I contact if I am having difficulties making repayments?
You can contact the following: -
- The benefits section and ask for the overpayments team to arrange to repay the overpayment over a long period of time or
- The Citizens Advice Bureau for independent advice on debt recovery proceedings or help with managing debt (click here to be taken to the Citizens Advice Bureau Web site).
- You can also make use of a new service offered by the government aimed at helping people with their budgets and managing their debt. This can be found on the money advice service website.
How do I make payments to the council?
- By post (except for cash) to the address shown at the end of this page. Cheques or postal orders should be made payable to Lancaster City Council, crossed A/C PAYEE ONLY and the invoice number written on the back of the cheque. Post-dated cheques will not be accepted
- At any Post Office (free of charge) by taking this invoice/letter together with your payment. You can pay by cash, debit card or cheque. Cheques should be made payable to Post Office Ltd, crossed A/C PAYEE ONLY and the invoice number written on the back of the cheque.
- By credit/debit card either via the internet (click here to be taken to Lancaster City Council's secure online payment page) or by telephoning the benefits section on (01524) 582965 and asking for the overpayments team. Our new credit / debit card payment methods are more efficient for both you and the council. Please remember to have your card details with you.
- For details of other payment methods by banks please contact the benefits section and ask for the overpayments team.
This payment facility does not support all available internet browsers. If the browser you are using is not included in the list below you may experience difficulties or the payment may be processed incorrectly.
Supported - Internet Explorer Version 7 and 8, Mozilla / Firefox Version 2 (there may also be some display problems when using Opera version 6.4)
Do you require further information?
Should you require more information regarding housing benefit overpayments you can call in to the Customer Services Centre at Lancaster or Morecambe Town Hall or using one of the methods at the bottom of this page.
REMINDER: Changes of Circumstances
You must tell us about any changes in your circumstances and in the circumstances of anyone who lives in your household, within one calendar month of the change (click here to download a Change of Circumstances form).
It is an offence to knowingly or dishonestly fail to notify the council promptly of a change in circumstances that could affect housing benefit entitlement or the amount of benefit payable.