- What is an overpayment?
- What can cause an overpayment?
- How will I know if I have an overpayment?
- What can I do if I disagree with the overpayment?
- How do I repay the overpayment?
- What further action will be taken if I do not make and maintain an offer to repay?
- Direct Earnings Attachment (DEA)
An overpayment is where you have been paid more Housing Benefit, Local Housing Allowance, and/or Council Tax Reduction than you are entitled to.
The majority of overpayments are caused due to changes in personal and/ or financial circumstances that are not notified immediately to the Local Authority. For example
- any change in income or capital. This includes starting work, changing jobs, increase in wages, state benefits, private pensions and Working and Child Tax Credits
- if the circumstances of other adults living with you as part of your household change
- if people move in and out of your home
- if you or your partner moves out
- if you get married, form a civil partnership or start living with someone as if you are married or civil partners
If your claim is found to be fraudulent, the Local Authority will prosecute where appropriate and will recover any overpaid benefit/reduction from you.
If you have been overpaid Housing Benefit, Local Housing Allowance, and/or Council Tax Reduction we will write to you and tell you the following:
- that there has been an overpayment
- the reason for the overpayment
- the dates and amount of the overpayment
- how we have calculated the overpayment
- what you do if you disagree with the overpayment
If we are making direct payments to your landlord we will write to both you and your landlord at the same time.
Please do not ignore any letters we send to you as the overpayment will not go away.
FOR HOUSING BENEFIT or LOCAL HOUSING ALLOWANCE:
If you want to know more about the decision or if you think it is wrong, you should get in touch with us within one month from the date of the notification letter or we may not be able to consider any dispute.
You can either ask for an explanation or:
- ask, in writing, for a written 'Statement of Reason'
- ask us to look again at the decision – 'Dispute the Decision'. This must be done in writing. If the decision can be changed we will send you a new decision. If we cannot change the decision we will tell you why. If you still disagree you have one month to appeal from the date of the new decision.
- 'Appeal' against the decision – this can only be done in writing. If you appeal against the decision your appeal will be referred to an Independent Tribunal administered by The Tribunal Service.
FOR COUNCIL TAX REDUCTION
If you require more details on any matter set out in the notice or the reasons for the decision you can within one month of the date of the letter request in writing a 'Written Statement of Reasons'.
If you are aggrieved by the decision you can within one month of the date of this letter serve a 'written notice' on the Council clearly stating the matter(s) by which, and the grounds on which, you are aggrieved. We will consider the matter(s) to which your notice relates and will notify you in writing of our decision with reasons. If following this letter you are still aggrieved you then have 2 months to appeal directly to the Valuation Tribunal for Wales (VTW).
Please note that you may also appeal directly to the VTW if we have failed to notify you of our decision within 2 months of you serving a 'written notice' on the Council.
Please see Appeals for more information.
If you have been overpaid Council Tax Reduction we will debit your Council Tax account with the overpayment and send you a new Council Tax bill.
If you are still receiving Housing Benefit or Local Housing Allowance, we will deduct an amount from your weekly entitlement to reduce the overpayment. If your landlord was paid direct we may ask the landlord to repay us in certain circumstances.
If you are no longer entitled to Housing Benefit /Local Housing Allowance we will send you an invoice which can be repaid:
- By cash/cheque/credit card at any Local District Office.
- By sending a cheque to Canolfan Rheidol, Rhodfa Padarn, Llanbadarn Fawr, Aberystwyth, Ceredigion, SY23 3UE – please enclose your invoice or write your invoice number on the reverse of the cheque
- By credit/debit card on telephone number 01970 633252
- Via the Internet.
If you are unable to repay the invoice in full you can make an arrangement to repay by instalments. Please download and complete an Agreement Form for Overpaid Housing Benefit outlining your repayment amount, frequency of repayment together with your chosen method of payment.
Please also download and complete a Standing Order Form if you have chosen this method of payment. If you wish to pay by Direct Debit you can telephone the Authority to set this up or you can download and complete a Direct Debit Mandate.
If your instalment proposal is accepted we will write to you to confirm the arrangement.
Please note – If you are having difficulty in paying the instalments or keeping to the arrangement agreed you should contact us immediately. We will try to help in any way we can.
The options available to the Local Authority to recover an overpayment are as follows:
- We can ask your employer to make deductions from your salary without taking court action. This is called a Direct Earnings Attachment (DEA).
- We may ask the Department for Work and Pensions to make deductions from a benefit that they pay you. If they are able to make deductions on behalf of the Local Authority this will mean that you will receive less state benefit. They will write to you if this happens.
- If you are a landlord that has not repaid an overpayment to the Local Authority and you continue to receive Housing Benefit/Local Housing Allowance direct in respect of other tenants, we will deduct the overpayment in full from future payments that are sent to you.
- We may register the debt in the County Court. The methods of enforcement after the overpayment has been registered enable us to:
- ask your employer to deduct the money directly from your earnings (Attachment of Earnings) or
- take money direct from your bank account or
- send a bailiff to your property to remove goods to the value of the debt or
- put a charging order against any property you own or
- apply for bankruptcy.
Please note: Your credit rating may be affected and in addition to the original amount of the overpayment, you will also be responsible for repaying any additional costs incurred.
Employers are required to make deductions from the salary of their employees and the amounts deducted are then paid over to Ceredigion County Council to reduce or clear the debt.
The Direct Earnings Attachment - Employers Guide provides advice on what an employer needs to do if they are asked to implement a Direct Earnings Attachment. It explains:
- How to operate a Direct Earnings Attachment
- How to work out how much should be deducted from the employees earnings
- How and when to make payments to us of the amount deducted
- Employer's responsibilities under the law
A Direct Earnings Attachment payment schedule must be completed by the employer each time a deduction is made and sent to us giving details of the amounts deducted from the employee's wages. You can e-mail an electronic copy of the schedule to us at firstname.lastname@example.org (please include ‘DEA Notice’ in the subject of your e-mail) or post the it to the address shown on the schedule.
The full procedure is explained in the Direct Earnings Attachment - Employers Guide.
The guide is intended to help an employer understand the main points about Direct Earnings Attachments but it is not intended to be a full description or statement of the law.
If you are an employer and have any questions not answered by the guide, please contact us on 01970 633252.