Benefit Overpayments

What is an overpayment?

An overpayment is where you have been paid more benefit than you are entitled to.

This usually happens when we are not told of a change in circumstances such as an increase in income or someone moving into the property.

Further information about changes in circumstances.

What is a recoverable overpayment?

All overpayments not caused by official error are recoverable.

Overpayments caused by a mistake made by us, the Department for Work and Pensions or the Tax Credit office may be recoverable, if at the time the overpayment occurred you could reasonably have known you were being overpaid.

Who is the overpayment recoverable from?

If benefit has been paid directly to the claimant then the overpayment is always recoverable from the claimant.

If benefit has been paid to a landlord, then the overpayment can be recovered from either the claimant or the landlord.

The landlord will only be responsible for the overpayment if it can be shown that the reason the overpayment occurred was because the landlord did not tell us about a change in circumstances they were aware of, for example if their tenant has moved out.

How will you know if you have an overpayment?

We will write and tell you. The letter that you receive will explain:

  • What caused the overpayment
  • The dates of the overpayment
  • How much the overpayment is
  • How the amount has been calculated
  • Who is liable to repay the overpayment
  • The right to appeal against the decision
  • How we propose to recover the overpayment.

Can the overpayment be reduced?

We may be able to reduce the amount of the overpayment if you are still entitled to some benefit for the period of the overpayment. This is called awarding "Underlying Entitlement" this is not an award of benefit, but a calculation of what you would have been entitled to had your benefit been assessed on the correct information.

In other words, the amount you will have to pay back is reduced because the actual overpayment is the difference between the amount of benefit you actually received less any amount that, on review, it is decided you are entitled to based on your new circumstances.

What can you do if you disagree with the overpayment?

The first thing to do when you receive your overpayment letter is to read it carefully.

If you do not understand the overpayment you can e mail debtrecovery@staffordbc.gov.uk or call our overpayment helpline number on 01785 619478.

If you want us to look at your claim again or you want to appeal, please follow the advice here.

How can you pay the overpayment back?

If you are still entitled to housing benefit we will make a deduction from your benefit to recover the overpayment weekly. The amount we are entitled to deduct depends on your circumstances, we will write and tell you what this amount is.

If you are no longer entitled to Housing Benefit we will issue you with an invoice which can be paid in one of the following ways:

  • Online through the pay online option on the main page of our website.
  • By phone- call our automated payment line on 08455 053 729 to make a payment. All major credit and debit cards are accepted. 
  • By Cheque- please make cheques payable to Stafford Borough Council and make sure to write the invoice number on the back of the cheque.

Please note that cash payments are not accepted.

Instalment Facility

Both weekly and monthly instalment facilities are available and can be paid by Standing Order.

The amount to be paid will depend on the amount outstanding and your personal circumstances.

To find out more about instalment facilities e mail debtrecovery@staffordbc.gov.uk or call our overpayment helpline number on 01785 619478.

What happens if the overpayment is not paid back?

If the overpayment is not paid back or an instalment agreement not maintained, we are entitled to take further recovery proceedings.

These proceedings can include: 

  • Applying for deductions to be made from any Social Security benefits you may be entitled to such as Income Support, Employment Support Allowance, Job Seekers Allowance, Universal Credit, State Pension etc
  • Applying for an attachment to your earnings
  • Issuing proceedings against you in the County Court. If this is necessary, you will be liable to pay our costs and may find it difficult to obtain future credit.

Confidential Debt Advice

The Citizens Advice Bureau in addition to providing independent advice about overpayments also offers a confidential debt advice service.