Housing benefit - overpayments
Overpayments are benefit payments that have been paid out to people who are not entitled to them. Commonly the cause for this is people failing to tell us about changes in their circumstances.
If we find that you have received an overpayment, we will write to you and give you details of the reason for the overpayment, when it occurred, the amount to be recovered and the method of recovery.
Please read your overpayment letter explained (PDF, 115kb).
We can impose civil penalties on households which fail without reasonable excuse to inform the council of a change in circumstance that results in an overpayment of housing benefit. For more information see our civil penalties webpage.
How to reduce your overpayment (Underlying Entitlement)
If you did not inform us of a change in your circumstances and an overpayment is made, we can look back over the period you have been overpaid and review your entitlement.
To do this you will need to provide evidence of all your income and savings for the period of the overpayment. We can then assess the amount of benefit that you would have been entitled to if we had known your correct circumstances at the time.
For example, if you started work but didn’t tell us, we would cancel your benefit back to when you started work and an overpayment would be created. If you then provided evidence of your wages and were still entitled to benefit, the amount you would qualify for would then be deducted from your overpayment.
We can only use Underlying Entitlement to reduce an overpayment. We cannot use it to pay you any extra benefit. You will then be notified of the remaining overpayment balance that you will need to pay back.
Please note that without sufficient evidence of income and savings, it will not be possible to assess a claim for Underlying Entitlement and your overpayment will remain recoverable. You normally need to provide evidence of your income and savings within 1 month of the overpayment being notified to you.
How do we recover overpayments?
Reducing weekly benefit paymentsIf you still have an entitlement to housing benefit, the overpayment is recovered by reducing the weekly benefit, and offsetting the overpayment by the amount that has been deducted from the benefit entitlement.
Setting up a debtor account
This method of recovery involves setting up a debtor account and sending you an invoice that you will be responsible for paying
Benefit overpayments - payment methods
Repayment amounts are advised on the invoice and there are a number of ways payments can be made:
Cash - by using the Handi-till located in Time Square.
Cheque or postal order - in person as above or by post addressed to Time Square. Cheques and postal orders should be crossed and made payable to Bracknell Forest council. It is not council policy to accept post dated cheques.
Credit/debit card - you can pay in full using your debit/credit card. Please use our online payments system to do this. Alternatively, please call 01344 351309.
Standing order - this facility is much the same as a direct debit. Each month, an agreed amount is paid directly from your bank account into the debtor account. Please contact us to arrange this.
Through a bank - the back of the remittance slip that is attached to the invoice should be completed and used when paying through a bank.
What if I am unable to repay?
If you are unable to repay at the requested rate we may be able to reduce the amount of the instalments. This can be arranged by contacting us.
If you make no contact or offer of repayment (PDF, 83kb), it is the council's policy to then seek recovery through either a debt recovery agent or through the county court.
This will result in further costs being incurred, and these will be added to the already outstanding debt. This action will also result in a County Court Judgement.