Civil penalties are imposed on households that do not, without reasonable excuse, tell us when their circumstances change, resulting in an overpayment.
Any overpayment of £250 or more may be subject to a £50 civil penalty.
There are a variety of different scenarios where a civil penalty can be imposed. The sort of changes that claimants should inform the council about are:
- failure to correctly declare circumstances on a new claim application
- changes in income and entitlement to state benefits
- an increase in capital
- changes where a young person or child ceases to be a member of the household
- changes in rent charged
- changes affecting the residence or income of any non-dependent
- absences exceeding or likely to exceed 13 weeks
- changes affecting any child living with the claimant (for example if child benefit ends)
Ignorance of the law is not a reasonable excuse for not complying with your claim responsibilities. Simply saying 'I didn't know' will not be considered as a reasonable excuse.
Recovery of a housing benefit civil penalty
If you have had a civil penalty imposed on you, this will be recovered by:
- reducing any ongoing entitlement to housing benefit
- deductions from ongoing benefits
- the direct earnings attachment provisions in the Welfare Reform Act 2012
- going through the courts
The civil penalty will be recovered before any existing or new overpayment. A civil penalty can be considered again for repeated overpayments. For example, if an overpayment is generated in May and a civil penalty is imposed, a second civil penalty can be imposed if you cause another overpayment in October.
If you disagree with the decision to impose a civil penalty
If you disagree with the decision to impose a civil penalty on you, you can ask for:
- an explanation of the decision
- a reconsideration of the decision
You can also appeal against the decision which must be received within one calendar month from the date the civil penalty was imposed.
You must appeal by:
- email: email@example.com
- writing to: Benefits Service, Bracknell Forest Council, Time Square, Market Street, PO Box 3781, Bracknell, RG12 1HJ
In asking for a reconsideration or appealing, you will need to state and provide evidence, for why you feel the decision is wrong.