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What is an overpayment?

An overpayment is any amount of Housing Benefit which has been paid to you but which you are not entitled to. This could have happened because you did not inform the Council of a change in your circumstances. For example:

  • Your Income Support, Jobseeker's Allowance or Employment Support Allowance has ended;
  • There has been an increase in the earnings, private pension or other benefit award of you or anyone else in your home;
  • Someone has joined your household;
  • You are leaving the address for which Housing Benefit was being paid.

The amount you have been overpaid is the difference between the amount of benefit you actually received and the amount you should have received. For example, if you received £12 a week for two weeks (£24 in total) and as a result of a change in your circumstances you should only have received £10 for each week (£20 in total), then you have been overpaid by £4 (£24 -£20 = £4). This means you would have to pay back £4.

What to do if you receive an overpayment

In almost all cases overpaid benefit has to be repaid, even if it was paid because of an error on our part. However, you may not have to repay the overpayment if it was our error and we could not have reasonably expected you to know that you were getting an overpayment.

If you have been overpaid, we will write to you giving the reason for the overpayment and a statement of the dates and amount.

How to pay the money back

If you are a council tenant or private tenant and still receiving Housing Benefit, you can repay the overpayment from the benefit you are getting. This will mean you have to increase the amount you contribute to your rent.

If you are no longer receiving Housing Benefit you will get a bill and if you cannot repay the overpayment straight away you can pay it in instalments. You will need to contact us to make arrangements.

What if you disagree with the overpayment?

If, after reading our explanation, you disagree with our decision, you can request a more detailed explanation, or ask us to look at the decision again. You need to do this within one calendar month of the date on the decision letter.

The things you can challenge are:

  • if we can recover the overpayment or not 
  • who we can recover it from
  • how we have worked it out

Things you cannot challenge are:

  • if we should recover the overpayment from you
  • how we choose to recover the overpayment

Can an appeal be made?

If you still disagree with our decision, you can appeal. You must appeal in writing, and sign it, You must make it clear which decision you are appealing against and give your reasons for appealing. You have one month from the date of the original decision, or the outcome of the reconsideration, to submit an appeal.

Can the overpayment be reduced?

If you tell us about your correct circumstances throughout the period of the overpayment we may be able to reduce the amount we overpaid you. This is called 'underlying entitlement'.

Before we can work out whether you should get any underlying entitlement, we may ask you to fill out a new form to explain your circumstances, and give us documents as evidence of your actual income and capital for the period of the overpayment. You need to supply this information within one month of the notice of overpayment.

If we decide you should get some underlying entitlement, we can only reduce the amount of the overpayment, we cannot give you more benefit than the original amount of overpayment.

If you do not repay or appeal

If you do not repay, appeal or arrange to repay the money, we may take further action to get it back. This could lead to legal proceedings.

Independent financial advice can be found on the following websites:

Contact Details

Ipswich Borough Council,
Housing Services,
3E Grafton House, 
15-17 Russell Road,

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01473 432000