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Housing Benefit Overpayment - 3 years ago!

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Dear All,

 

Any advice anyone can give I would be extremely grateful. I've found myself in a worrying situatin completely out of the blue.

 

In January 2006 I was made redundent. I claimed JSA and Housing Benefit to get me through until I found another permanent job. I did so in June 2006, and immediately signed off JSA,and was told that any other benefits would automatically stop.

 

Last week, I received a letter from Ham & Fulham Council stating that they had paid me Housing Beneift from June - October 2006 and that I need to pay it back - the sum is just shy of £2000.

 

I did not notice the payments (my fault) but I am not in a situation to come up with such an amount of cash. I completely believed that all my benefits had ceased, I never signed on again etc and never heard a whisper from them untli now.

 

As this is the Council's error and not mine, do I have to pay this back, and why after over 3 years can they ask me to do this? They claim to have written to me a various times over this three years (which I never received) and moved out of the borough in 2007. If anyone has any advice as to how to approach this, I would be very grateful as I am extremely worried and recieving such a horrid letter out of the blue is making me feel rather sick!

 

Regards,

Bear.

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Hi,

As I see it (but willing to be overruled) the council are not at fault as it should state somewhere in your benefit letters that when a change of circumstances occurs, it is your responsibility to inform them. The benefits agency very rarely inform the council of any changes.

You do have a right of appeal but I can't see a way to do so at the moment.

 

sorry :(


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Did you tell the Council about the change in your circumstances? If not, then it will not be seen as a mistake by the Council.

 

Did you receive HB payments that either went into your bank account or were used by your landlord to pay your rent? Or are you saying that you left the property and payments were still made to your landlord (who accepted them without your knowledge) who was no longer entitled to them (whether you were entitled to HB or not)?

 

I think that companies can chase you for debt for up to six years without a Court order but that this deadline does not come into force for debts such as Benefit overpayments.

 

You can ask them to send you further information on how the overpayment occurred and for copies of the letters sent.

 

Usually if you can't pay all the money at once they will come to an arrangement to pay it back gradually.

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I had the exact same thing luckily only £750.

Unfortunately with about 2-3 months of arguing the toss I had to pay, albeit £50 p/month.

I do sympathise as one would expect when you tell one govt department it would be flagged elsewhere but it doesnt and also housing benefit dept are exceedingly slow at their job, lazy they mean, and even if they have been overpaying you for 2 years it is still your fault not theirs and you have to pay up.

 

You can appeal but seen as you appeal to the council and you owe them the money it's very unlikely you will win. As someone else said they have a clause that says it is up to you to sort out, which means they cant be bothered to do their job so you do it instead. (not that I'm bitter)

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Thank you all very much for your responses.

 

When i signed off JSA, I was told that this would automatically stop any other benefits I was receiving. Bizarrely, the Council Tax Benefit did stop straight away so it is odd that this one didn't either. I also changed bank accounts during this period, hence the oversight on my part.

 

I've asked for all the documentation from the Council. Looks like I will have to negotiate a reimbursement programme with them. Bummer!

 

xB

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