Housing Benefit overpayments

How do Housing Benefit overpayments happen?

An overpayment can happen when:

  • You didn't tell us about changes in your circumstances straight away
  • It takes us a little while to process a change in your circumstances; or
  • We make a mistake or another organisation gave us the wrong information.

If we’ve paid you too much housing benefit, we will usually ask you to pay back the amount we’ve overpaid.  You can find out more about recovery of overpayments on the pages below:

Change of circumstances

You must tell us about any change in your circumstances that may affect the amount of benefit you receive. These are some examples of changes you must tell us about:

  • You stop receiving income support or Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA), Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) or Universal Credit (UC)
  • Your income changes
  • Someone leaves or joins your household
  • Your rent changes
  • Your tenancy agreement terms change
  • You move to another address
  • Your child leaves school or full time education

Incorrect payment

If you’re not sure the payment you’ve received is correct, you can check by signing up for our online services.

Who has to repay the overpayment?

Whether you have to pay back a Housing Benefit overpayment depends on how it happened. If we weren’t told about a change in your circumstances or if there was a delay in processing a change, you will have to pay the money back.

If an overpayment happens because we made a mistake, you may still have to pay it back.

This will depend on whether you should have realised that you were being overpaid at the time.

Each case is different. We will consider:

  • What caused the overpayment
  • Who knew about the benefit award
  • Who received the payment
  • Who should have known the benefit was wrong


  • If someone caused an overpayment, we will ask that person to repay the money.
  • If the overpayment is our mistake, we will ask anyone who should have known they were being overpaid to repay the money.

How are overpayments recovered

If your Housing Benefit has been overpaid, you can pay us back in one or more of these ways:

  • we may reduce your housing benefit each week to repay the overpayment.
  • if you rent your home from Cornwall Housing and your rent account is in credit, we may take this credit to pay back the overpayment.
  • if we paid Housing Benefit to your landlord, in certain circumstances, we may ask them, to pay us back.
  • if we are no longer paying you Housing Benefit, we will send you a bill.

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

If you want to find out more about how we collect Housing Benefit Overpayments you can read our Corporate Debt Policy. 

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