Overpayments of Housing Benefit

What is an Overpayment?

An overpayment occurs when you are paid benefit that you were not entitled to. This can happen because of various reasons, such as:

  • You have given us wrong information
  • You have not told us about a change straight away
  • You have not told us something we needed to know
  • We have been too slow to action something you told us
  • We have made a mistake

How will I know if I have got an overpayment?

You will receive a letter from the Benefits Section if you are overpaid. The letter will give you the full details of the overpayment, including:

  • What caused the overpayment
  • The dates and amount of overpayment
  • What to do if you disagree with the overpayment
  • How the overpayment will be recovered

How will the overpayment be recovered?

Housing Benefit overpayments can be recovered in a number of ways, and the letter sent to you will state how your overpayment will be recovered. This could be from one of the following:

  • From your on-going benefit
  • By sending you an invoice
  • From your landlord
  • From another social security benefit that is being paid to you
  • Direct Earnings Attachment (DEA)

If you are having any financial difficulties or feel that the amount we are recovering from you is too high, then you can request a financial statement, where we will look at your income and outgoings and arrange where possible to reduce the amount we recover from you.

Paying an overpayment

Online

If you have received an invoice for an overpayment and wish to make payments online you can do this by visiting our Payments page.

By Phone

Using Switch, Delta, Mastercard or Visa you can contact our automated payment line on 0300 123 5039, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to make a payment.  Select option 3 - invoice for benefit overpayment.

Direct Earnings Attachment

What should I do about a Direct Earnings (DEA) warning letter?

Where we have been unable to make contact with you and you have an outstanding overpayment the Council is allowed to request that your employer makes direct deductions from your wages/salary to repay what is owed.  This is known as a Direct Earnings Attachment (DEA).

The Council can do this to recover any money that you owe, without going to a Civil Court and your employer is legally bound to agree.

How much you pay from your wages depends on how much you earn.

For information on how your employer will work our how much to deduct please see our guides;

To avoid this happening you must contact us within 14 days from the date of the DEA warning letter we send to you to arrange a mutually acceptable payment arrangement for your debt.

What should I do about a DEA letter I've been sent telling me money is going to be taken from my wages?

The letter will tell you that your employer will start to take money from your wages to repay your debt.

The amount taken from your wages will be worked out using the tables on the back of the letter you were sent telling you about the DEA.

As soon as the debt has been paid back the deductions will stop.

What if I change jobs?

You must tell us straight away if there are any changes to your employment, such as moving jobs, ending work or starting work again.

You must tell us the name and address of your new employer, how much you think you will be earning.  You must also tell us where your place of work will be, what type of work you will do and your payroll/employee number.

What if I want to pay my debt off in one go?

If you decide to repay your debt in one go please let us know straight away so that we can stop the DEA with your employer once we have received the payment in settlement of what is owed.

What should I do if I get a letter from a debt collector about my housing benefit overpayment?

All of your details will have been given to the debt collector if we have been unable to arrange repayment of the debt with you.

You must contact the debt collector to arrange payment of the debt.

What should I do about a letter from the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) telling me my overpayment will be recovered from my benefits?

If we have been unable to arrange repayment of the debt with you we may ask the DWP to do it for us.   If the DWP decide they can do this they will write to you.  The amount they take from your benefits is calculated by them, any discussions over the amounts deducted from your Benefits will need to be with the DWP, not the Council.

Should your circumstances change before the full amount has been recovered it may be possible to enter into a mutually acceptable arrangement with the Council to clear any remaining balance.  

What if I do not agree with the overpayment?

The first thing to do when you receive your overpayment letter is read it carefully. It will contain a paragraph, which will explain the reason for the overpayment and dates you have been overpaid.

If you still disagree with the overpayment after reading the explanation please view our Appeals page which will tell you what to do next.

Where can I get help?

Please contact the Citizens Advice Bureau for further advice. They can help you to fill in forms or to write a letter.

Please contact Shelter which is the housing and homelessness charity or use their freephone number of 0808 8004444. They offer advice about money matters, homes and housing problems.