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Housing benefit overpayment: do I have to give it back?


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I'm currently out of work and receiving JobSeekers Allowance, Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit. At the end of August, I moved into a new borough. I was informed that I would receive 4 weeks "extra" Housing Benefit (of £600) from my previous borough council. It's not really extra, but 'rolled-over' from the period when I was living there, as they paid the benefit in arrears. Sure enough, a month after I'd moved out of my old address and into my new, £600 appeared in my account from my old council.

(I am also in receipt of HB from my new council.)

However, since then, 3 further monthly payments of £600 have been made into my account, from my old council, in spite of the fact I no longer live in their borough, and I am not claiming any benefits in their borough. They were fully informed by letter that I was vacating the premises and moving to a new borough, and they would have been further informed of this when my claim for JSA in that borough was transferred to my new borough.

 

Many years ago, during a previous stint of unemployment, I was claiming as a couple with my girlfriend. When we split up, despite me informing the JobCentre of our circumstances, they continued to pay me the same amount instead of cutting my benefit. When I queried this with them, I was told quite frankly to go home and forget about it. The person I spoke to told me that it was their mistake, and they'd get round to correcting it eventually, but in the meantime I might as well enjoy it, and that I wouldn't be required to repay it. The overpayments continued for almost a full year before suddenly changing to a single person's benefit with no explanation.

 

Will the same thing happen again? I have fulfilled my side of the 'contract', I have no intent to defraud, I fully informed the council of a change in my circumstances: I haven't done anything wrong. I assume they will eventually discover that they seem to be overpaying me, either from an internal review or when they request an update to my circumstances. But will they be entitled to ask for it back? Where do I stand? Many thanks for any advice.

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They'll still chase for any overpayment. It it going to cause you hardship, you should be able to make an arrangement to pay it of in small lump.

Frederickson - CCA Sent 11/4/07 - Lost - Claiming back from post office

Connaught Collections - CCA Sent 11/4/07 - No Agreement - returned to client

Lowell - CCA sent 11/4/07 - No agreement - returned to client

Moorcroft - CCA Sent 11/4/07 - No Agreement - returned to client

Red Castle - CCA Sent 11/4/07 - Copy returned but no T&C's

Robinson Way - CCA Sent 16/5/07

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Hi, thanks for your response. At the moment, the money is just sitting there in my account, unspent. Should I just call them and tell them about it now, or is it better to just stick in a high interest account until they ask for it back? That way, at least I'd make a bit of interest on it, and still be able to repay the full amount in one go.

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I would suggest you make contact if possible by visiting the local office in your area, or in writing, get the currant over payments stopped before the sum gets any higher, u are aware that this money isnt what ur entitled to, and the council will expect repayment of this money, it would be alot easier for you in the long run, to repay the money and get confirmation that you are no longer registered for benefits at ur old brough.

Putting the money in another account might lead you to temptation, and end up spending it, which will leave you facing many hundereds of pounds to find once there ask for it back.

One question since you are getting the rent benefits placed into ur bank account, i'm guessing it didnt get paid direct to ur landlord, what was you renting a mansion. as £600.00 per month for rent seems quite high? and you come across as been a single person, so guess you rented a flat?

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shywazz where do you live i'l come live next door.

 

I Pay £495 a month and I get %95 help with my rent.

 

I have a dissability which affects getting a job for a certain lenght of time.

 

However This has been the lowest rent in the area for 3 years where the flat next door was offered at £500. This is a monthly rate by the way.

 

Council housing is non existent around here due to the tory right to buy.

 

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You won't wanna live where i live in the city of Birmingham, but guess the rents here a way way way lower than where you live? i used to pay £312.46 per month for a one bed housing assocation flat, i now have my own place ( buying ) but the rents here in Brum are quite low dependant on the area.

!2 years Tesco distribution supervisor

7 years Sainsburys Transport Manager

 

4 Years housing officer ( Lettings )

Partner... 23 Years social services depts

 

All advice is given through own opition, also by seeking/searching info on behalf of poster, and own personnel dealings.

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Alastrum - my daughter is a HB Contractor and I asked her for you and this is the reply. She has asked some questions so if you post your answers I will pass them on for you.

 

QUOTE

you will have to pay it back - however

 

1. If you where claiming council tax benefit your council liability should have ended - did you inform the council tax section that you where moving or just housing benefit?

2. Have you contacted them to see if they have got your letter

3. Contact the Job Centre to see if notifcation was sent to the old authority that you had moved and get the date this was done

 

Also can you confirm the date you moved, the date you sent the letter in and the date you informed the job centre

 

let me know and I will give you more answers

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Thanks for your responses. I'll try and keep this brief, but here's the background info:

I live in Greater London, which is why the rent is high. In fact, these are cheaper rents for London, as we (I'm married) live in the outer areas rather than the more central areas. We originally lived in a one-bedroomed flat where the rent was £915 a month. At the beginning of this year, we were forced to move out of there due to the collapse of the ceiling. Apparently, a leak in the plumbing of the flat above had built up a store of water in the floor/ceiling space, bringing our whole ceiling crashing down. Fortunately, we were not in that room at the time, but a lot of our possessions (books, stereo, etc) were damaged. A legal case for compensation is still ongoing at this time. At very short notice, we had to move into a new flat, where the rent was £800 per month. This is the borough I'm referring to. Their rent officer set our Housing Benefit at only £600, despite our rent being £800. Although we appealed, as we are only in receipt of JSA we couldn't afford to make up the shortfall, they wouldn't increase the HB. This meant we had to move again (twice in 6 months!), to our new flat in a new borough. Here, the rent is £900 a month. We do not have any problems with our current HB or JSA, our new council seems pretty well organised and competent.

 

Surprise, to answer your questions:

1. Yes, the letter I sent to the council was addressed to Council Tax Benefit and Housing Benefit: they seem to be the same department, although I assume different teams work on each. Certainly, we have received no further demands/notification regarding Council Tax, so the Council tax section at least seem to be aware we have moved.

2. No, there didn't seem to be any need to do this: one doesn't normally expect things to go wrong. Besides, my immediate priorities were to sort out the HB/CT benefits from my new borough, rather than worrying if my old borough were up to speed.

3. I haven't done this yet, for the simple reason that the Job Centre and the council already seemed to be linked. Certainly, a couple of times there has been a problem with my JSA, which meant a delay in payment. There would follow an automatic suspension of my HB until the JSA problem was sorted out. The council told me that they are automatically notified if JSA ceases, and they suspend HB when this happens. As I'm not currently in receipt of JSA from that borough, then they MUST have been notified automatically that such is the case. Therefore, I don't understand why they are continuing to pay HB. It clearly seems to be an error on their part, but I don't understand why their system hasn't highlighted it, if I'm not in receipt of JSA or Council Tax Benefit from them too.

 

I moved into my new flat on 2nd Sept. The letter to the Council was sent on Friday 24th August, the same day we received final confirmation we had got the new flat. I have a copy of the letter on my computer. Our JSA was transferred to our new borough as a 'live transfer', rather than closing down in one borough and re-opening it a new, which would have caused a delay. I don't know the exact date this occurred, but it seems to have gone through with no problem. We requested the live transfer on Monday 27th August.

 

To be completely honest, I guess what I was hoping for was a "Bank Error in your favour: collect £200" scenario:) Certainly, we don't have much money, a bit extra right before Xmas would have been most welcome! It would have been great if we could (without breaking the law, of course) have kept it. But I suppose we'll have to give it back after all:(

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My daughter's response. (May I just add that the advise she gave someone else on housing benefit has resulted in a cheque for six months housing benefit).

 

1. when you left your previous address you should have received a council tax bill showing you date the account was closed - should have read council tax liability for period 1/04/07 to 1/09/07 this would have been your bill period whilst living in property (council liability as nothing to do with council tax benefits)

 

2. I understand that you have notified the local authority prior to moving, it would suggest to me that they have not received your letter

 

a) if they have not actioned your letter but received it then you can appeal against any recovery

 

fingers crossed that they have got your letter and done nothing with it.

 

b) the reason why I asked about the date notification was sent to the local authority from the job centre it would again prove that the local authority have not acted on information received - this again would go in your favour

 

3. If you do have to pay back the money

 

a) if you're on JSA then the recovery is 9.00 per week however you can offer them 2.50 (or what ever amount you want)

b) or the old local authority can contact your new authority to recover the money (however not many authorities adopt this policy)

 

1. Contact the job centre to see when they sent through notification of your change of address

2. Contact the council tax section and ask them if your account is closed and what date did they action this

3. Contact housing benefits to see if your letter is there.

 

Do it in the order above - I know its a lot of work would but if you want to appeal then all this information will be needed for the appeal - you have to prove the local authority is at fault

 

Hope the above is of use. If and when you get a letter to say you owe them money contact me again and I will advise you again but i will need to know what authority

 

The reason I need to know the Authority is that cancellations are a priority and I've looked at the stats and some boroughs are way behind with their registrations which may be to your benefit.

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Many thanks for this, I really appreciate your help.

 

"you should have received a council tax bill showing you date the account was closed"

This rings a bell: I'll have to go through my papers and check, but I'm pretty sure we did get one of these.

 

The response indicates that there is a possibility that we don't have to repay it if the council can be proved to be at fault: is this correct? Or is it a question of having to repay it no matter what?

 

The authority is Sutton, in Surrey, Greater London.

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It is possible but it depends on the information you obtain from the job centre, local authority - that's why I asked you to find out dates -if you can prove it is the error of the local authority then it is possible not to repay the money however if your appeal is only based on "I sent a letter in and told you of my change of circumstances" then I would say you would not win - however that is my own personal opinion - for you to get this money "written off" then you have to prove the local authority made mistakes

 

When you receive notification that your claim has been cancelled you have a month from this date to "dispute" the overpayment of housing benefit if you are unsuccessful and they still want their money back you then have another month to request "you wish to appeal" against the local authority to recover the money - an appeal is then sent to a tribunal - this is why you need to obtain the information requested.

 

If you find your council tax bill what date was it issued and was it forwarded on to you new address?

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20 questions? Well, I'm not certain if my old council is animal, vegetable, or mineral!:)

 

I'll get onto the JC first thing tomorrow and see what I can find out.

 

I've had a look through my papers, but can't find the 'end of liabilty' form for Council Tax. I'm pretty certain we got one, in a bunch of mail that was forwarded to us by our old landlord, but it's possible we may not have kept it.

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Have now contacted them, and the resposes were:

JobCentre fully aware of change of address. Preparing a letter for me to confirm that they were made aware of change of address on stated date, and that they did notify council.

Council Tax section unaware of change of address. They have now been informed (via my phone call yesterday) and are preparing a 'closed account' statement to be sent out to my new address.

Housing Benefit section not contacted yet. Thought I'd wait until i received the above two letters before proceeding.

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when you receive your amended council tax bill, cancellation of housing benefit should be received, as the council tax section should notify the housing benefit section that you are no longer residing at your old address let me know when you have all the documentations from all 3 sections

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Hi Surprise,

I have now received the letters from all 3 sections.

The letter from JobCentrePlus is dated 27th Nov, and confirms that i and my wife have been receipt of JSA since 01/04/07. Unfortunately, they seem to have got a little muddled, and the letter then says merely that the housing authority (not named) has been informed of this, when what I actually requested was confirmation that Sutton Housing Authority had been informed of my leaving my old address.

I have today received 2 letters from Sutton, the first from the Council Tax section which is a 'closed account' statement, with nothing to pay.

The second is from the Housing Benefits section, stating there has been an overpayment of £1500, and demanding repayment. Several times throughout the letter, they state that this is because I "failed to inform them that I was not living at my old address".

 

After checking our bank records, I realise that we did not receive 4 payments of £600, as stated in my original post, but only 3. This means that, after leaving, we received a total of £1800. I was told by the JobCentre, prior to us leaving, that, as we were paid HB in arrears, we would receive a final one months HB of £600 one month after we left (this would be the Sept payment). There then was 2 further payments for Oct and Nov. According to this, this means that the overpayment is only £1200 (Oct and Nov), not £1500 as they are claiming.

 

It seems clear that Housing Benefit are disputing, or will dispute, that they received my letter informing them of our move. So, what do I do now?

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reply

 

The overpayment of housing benefit should tell you somewhere in the overpayment letter the dates that this overpayment period covers? also if you are paid in arrears the money for end of August cover you for 1st August to 31st August (if you are paid monthly in arrears) therefore the Local Authority would only owe you 2 days - so I am confused to why you thing you should be paid in September when you vacated 2nd.

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Yes, the letter states the overpayment runs for 10 weeks, from 03/09/07 to 11/11/07, at £150.00 per week, therefore £1500.00.

As to the the confusion, I'm only repeating what we were told at interview. I don't think I have this in writing. We were informed that we were paid a month in arrears. We were further informed that when we left, we would receive a further payment of 4 weeks rent, that would cover the month previously. So we therefore assumed that the HB payment we received in September was, in effect, a repayment of the rent we'd already paid to our landlord in August.

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I am a little surpise that the benefit section didnt not receive your letter or the notification from the job centre can you find out what date the job centre sent the information to the local authority - the letter they have sent you only states that you are in receipt of Job seekers allowance.

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I have now received confirmation from the JobCentre that they actioned my report of moving on 6th September. Which means that they would have received my letter several days earlier and only then got round to putting the details on the system. They do say however, that they don't automatically notify the council about a move, although the council has access to the file. This sounds slightly different to what I've come across before, so maybe they have a different system in place?

I've since received a further 2 demands for repayment from Sutton Council.

So what's my next step?

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