Recovering overpayments

Whether we recover a housing benefit or council tax support overpayment depends on how it happened. If it we weren’t told about a change in circumstances or if there was a delay in processing a change, we can recover overpayments.

If an overpayment happens because of official error, we can recover it if you should have realised that you were being overpaid at the time.

See our repaying an overpayment page, or call the overpayments team on 01209 614337.

Each case is different. We will consider:

  • What caused the overpayment
  • Who knew about the benefit awarded
  • Who received payment
  • Who could have known the benefit was wrong

Generally:

  • If someone caused an overpayment to happen, we will ask that person to repay the money.
  • If the overpayment is official error, we will ask anyone who could have known they were being overpaid to repay the money.
  • Or we can ask either the claimant or the person who received the money to repay it.

We may reduce the amount you have to pay back if you tell us about your correct circumstances during the period of the overpayment. If it turns out you were actually entitled to receive some of the benefit you were overpaid, we will use this to reduce your overpayment.

This applies to housing benefit overpayments.  It doesn’t apply to council tax support overpayments unless you are over state pension age.

We may ask you to fill in a form to explain your circumstances and give us proof (such as details of your income and bank statements for this period) before we work out your entitlement. If we find that you’re entitled to any benefit for this period, we can only use this to reduce what we’ve overpaid you. We won’t award it to you as a housing benefit payment.

If you disagree with a decision we’ve made about an overpayment, you may be able to make an appeal.

We can recover an overpayment in one or more of these ways:

  • If you are getting housing benefit, we may reduce your benefit each week to recover the overpayment.
  • If you pay us rent and your rent account is in credit, we may use this credit to pay back the overpayment.
  • If we are not paying you housing benefit, we will send you a bill and you must make an arrangement to pay us. This can be done by completing the online benefit overpayment repayment plan form or by phoning the overpayments team on 01209 614337. When you complete the benefit overpayment repayment plan form please also complete an online financial statement form.
  • If we paid your landlord your benefit, we may ask the landlord, in certain circumstances, to repay the overpayment.
  • We can ask the Department for Work and Pensions to take the money out of your social security benefits to collect housing benefit overpayments. If you have moved out of Cornwall, they can take the money from any housing benefit paid to you by another council.
  • If we overpaid your council tax support, we will add the amount of the overpayment to your council tax bill. Our council tax team will collect the overpayment by increasing your monthly payments.

We won’t recover overpayments we have paid you for housing benefit from your council tax support or overpayments of council tax support from your housing benefit.

If you don't pay us back, make an arrangement to pay or keep making regular payments as set out in your agreed arrangement, we will either:

  • Ask your employer to make payments from your earnings directly to the Council.  Employers are able to download the Direct Earnings Attachment guidance from the DWP.
  • Pass your case to external debt collectors for recovery.
  • Obtain a County Court Judgement which will add extra cost onto your existing debt.   This will affect your credit rating.
  • If you are a Landlord and you have other tenants in receipt of housing benefit being paid directly to you we can recover the overpayment from future benefit payments in respect of any other tenant(s). If you would like to this happen straight away please advise the overpayments section on 01209 614337.