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Housing Benefit Overpayment Date In Court


NikkiJSon1986
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Hello,

 

Sorry if I have posted this incorrectly,

 

I'm at my wits end and so worried dont know what to do,

 

I was claiming housing benefit, and then my partner moved in, at this time we were both working part time. I re-applied for a joint claim, Apr 2013 and gave wageslips and bank statements and so on to which I was advised I would still be entitled to Housing Benefit.

 

In June my partner increased his hours from 20 to 37 and I went on my councils website in May to advise that there had been a change in circumstances and also that my rent had increased. A few weeks later I received a letter advising that I was not entitled to the full amount and was only entitled to around £28 a week. (I was under the impression that they had received my change in circumstances and acted upon it). Stupidly I didn't even check the amount in the paperwork as I just thought that we were still entitled to it as I was still part time and his wage hadn't increased by a large amount.

 

In Sept 2015 I was advised that I wasnt entitled to housing benefit anymore and then in In February 2016 I was interviewed under caution and advised that I had not advised them that my partners wage had increased and that it was going to be investigated.

 

I then received a letter advising that I had been overpaid by £5600, I was mortified and advised that I wanted to pay it back asap.

 

I sent in an appeal as my circumstances at the time were not good, i received nothing back from them to advise they had even acknowledged my appeal, then when i spoke to them the other day they advised that they had closed my appeal down and just withdrawn it by £100

 

I re-applied when i was on maternity allowance, they advised i was entitled to around £10 a week of which they would claim that back towards my debt, then when i went back to work they advised me i wasnt entitled so I set up a payment plan of £30 a month.

 

Now I have received a letter saying i need to go to court i am at my wits end. From the free legal advice that I have received they are saying if i plead guilty I will get a criminal record and fine but if i plead not guilty then it could be drawn out longer and court costs could go up more and i could be looking at prison.

 

I have never done anything wrong in my life i'm so worried im going to leave my children.

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Not much to be honest, as I dont think that we would be entitled to legal aid, spoke to a local solicitor who advised that fixed costs would be around £400 and just to basically speak to the on duty solicitor when i get there.

 

On the letter from court it states that I failed to advise that my partners hours had increased and was being done under section 111a

 

Im so worried about leaving my children and being in the local paper, i would be mortified if i was classed as a benefit cheat and got a criminal record, I would probably even lose my job :(

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Charge magistrates court 1720

 

between june 2013-aug 2015 you dishonestly failed to promptly notify the council in a prescribed manner of a change of circumstances. which you knew would affect your entitlement to housing benefit namely you partner received an increased income. Contrary to section 111a (1a) and (3) of the social security administration act 1992 (ss92039) :(

 

I know I owe the overpayment back but i really dont think that i did it fraudulently, but i dont want to plead guilty as i dont think that i am but i really dont want a criminal record or it have to go to a trial.

 

Cant stop thinking about it im so worried feel sick, started having chest pains as well with it all

Edited by NikkiJSon1986
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Hi

I would stop worrying about prison. For a first offence (if convicted) you are likely to receive a fine.

 

My gut reaction to the statement in your first post is that this 'could' be an administrative error by the council. If you have left anything out, say so but it appears to me that you contacted the council on every change of circumstances. The problem is proving it.

 

What I would do is contact the solicitor informing them that I will be denying the charge and that they provide all evidence that they intend to rely on in court including all data that may undermine their case.

At the same time, I would contact the council and state that as this matter is now pending legal action, you require them to disclose all communications that you have had with them via letter, email and telephone logs.

Get a hold of your phone bills and highlight where you have phoned the council.

 

Do you have a date to attend court yet?

 

While pleading not guilty will increase the costs, even if found guilty, you can apply to pay in instalments and the court will take your financial circumstances into account.

 

While ignorance is no excuse, it does seem to me that you have updated the council when required.

If you are asked to deal with any matter via private message, PLEASE report it.

Everything I say is opinion only. If you are unsure on any comment made, you should see a qualified solicitor

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Thank-you for your response Silverfox,

 

No nothing left out at all, only thing is I contacted the housing benefit the other day to check what information they had received from myself about updating my details. They say that have nothing from when I registered my partner living at my address with me up until Sept 15. Although she did say to me that they had received regular updates form the tax credits, (which i informed as well), when I asked why didnt they update my details from the tax credits, she just said they dont always rely on that info.

 

They have nothing registered that I sent a change of circumstance in, because I actually did this through my councils website, I have no proof that I did this. And as I received a letter a few weeks after to advise that my claim had changed, I just assumed that this was because of the change that I reported.

 

Would it be the person from the housing benefit that I would inform that i would be denying the charge?

 

Yes my court date is the 14th March :(

Edited by NikkiJSon1986
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If there is no name of a solicitor on the summons then if you have a name on the summons, write to them. If there is no named person then I would assume the Legal Deparment. If you can, deliver he letter by hand ang get a receipt.

Nothing will be decided on the first hearing as it is likely to be adjourned to a later date for you to get your defence filed. The Only defence you have at the moment is your statement that you did inform the council via its website. Did you not get an acknowledgement email from them?

 

I would be asking the council to withdraw the summons. It can be done. I have done so and then begin the complaints progress. I have to say that it has been a few years (at least 9) since I last had contact with my council so procedures may have changed since then. You don't have a lot of time so I would suggest you get onto this ASAP.

 

There is nothing stopping the council doing another review of the account but the summons needs to be withdrawn first. Apart from moral support, there is not much we can do this end.

 

One thing I would mention if it comes to court. The fact that you have acknowledged there was an overpayment and you had agreed to pay this back in instalments so why the need to take court action. This case isn't about the overpayment but the councils assertions that this was a deliberate act to defraud them. This is what you have to defend. Prior notices of changes should be brought up as well. Why tell the council about changes at all if it was your intention to defraud?

If you are asked to deal with any matter via private message, PLEASE report it.

Everything I say is opinion only. If you are unsure on any comment made, you should see a qualified solicitor

Please help CAG. Order this ebook. Now available on Amazon. Please click HERE

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Thank-you Silverfox,

 

Yes I did receive an acknowledgement when I submitted the change of circumstances, but stupidly I didn't save it because i just thought that as they had my new details they would just amend them accordingly. And then I received a letter from them a few weeks later advising that it had decreased, from this I thought they had acted on the information that I had provided.

 

I am going to contact the housing benefit tomorrow, what do you think would be best to say to them to try and get this stopped from going to court?

 

Also going to draft a letter, as there is a name of a person that the charge has been authorised by, is that who I would write directly to?. (Specialist Fraud Division Crown Prosecution Division)

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Yes, write to them.

 

As for the acknowledgement, that should be in their system somewhere and your email address. A simple check on their systems should reveal something.

 

When contacting the benefits section, stress that you did submit a change of circumstances via email. Stick to facts with one exception. I would think that the interview under caution was a stressful time and may have given them the impression you were trying to hide something. This was not the case. As you had previously notified them of a change AND after, why would you suddenly not do this one.

 

If this doesn't raise concerns with them I don't know what will. As this is going to be a long letter, stick to the points in brief on the first page and expand further into the letter.

 

See if you can find a local solicitor that does a free half hour and get an opinion. Also see if there is a Community Legal Service available in your area.

If you are asked to deal with any matter via private message, PLEASE report it.

Everything I say is opinion only. If you are unsure on any comment made, you should see a qualified solicitor

Please help CAG. Order this ebook. Now available on Amazon. Please click HERE

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You can always send in a Subject Acess Request (SAR) it costs £10. It would be best to hand it in and get a receipt for it. You can use the document scanning desk that most Councils have at reception.

 

The request can take up to 40 days to fulfil. If your case is before you get the bundle then ask for an adjournment as the information may help your defence.

 

A prison sentence is possible and often this is suspended. There are many cases listed in a site that many regular posters know about. See here >> (lacef) one such story from there is below.

 

http://www.waverley.gov.uk/news/article/194/suspended_sentence_for_benefit_cheat

 

Also there are new sentencing guidelines comin out soon. Also you may want to have a read here as well >> https://www.gov.uk/community-sentences/overview

 

Please don't think I am judging you I am not. I am just informing you what the possible outcomes COULD be.

 

Secondly if caught a second time you can be sanctioned for a significant period of time.

 

You may also ask to speak to the duty Solicitor on duty in Court the day of your hearing. Please do so as soon as you arrive. Then make sure you inform the Prosecution you are represented.

If I have been of any help, please click on my star and leave a note to let me know, thank you.

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