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HB o/p from 1995

MaggieB
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Dorchester CAB

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Client has o/p from 1995, he was told he had been sent letter in 2006 advising him of o/p - he did not challenge and has now received another letter saying he must repay.  He is still on HB so LA can recover from ongoing award
Can’t find anything in advisernet/DRH/CPAG to say this is past the statute of limitations or not
We’re not yet sure how the o/p arose

Paul_Treloar_AgeUK
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Information and advice resources - Age UK

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There is no statute of limitations for benefit overpayments, provided they’ve properly made recoverable overpayment decision and notified claimant accordingly.

SamW
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Lambeth Every Pound Counts

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Paul_Treloar_AgeUK - 03 December 2019 02:00 PM

There is no statute of limitations for benefit overpayments, provided they’ve properly made recoverable overpayment decision and notified claimant accordingly.

This was my understanding also - but I was just looking looking at the National Debtline website which seems to be suggesting that benefit overpayments can become statute barred after 6 years (although the right to recover from ongoing entitlements is not time-limited so this does not help the original poster’s client).

Link is here (the stuff re benefits overpayments is under “Other Debt Types”)

https://www.nationaldebtline.org/EW/factsheets/Pages/time-limits-for-recovering-debts/statute-barred-debt.aspx

Have I got the wrong end of the stick somehow? 

edit following further investigation -o ...

Just looking at the government’s HB overpayment guide at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/housing-benefit-overpayments-guide

From that it seems that a HB o/p can become statute-barred after 6 years, but only in the sense that after this period the LA can no longer attempt to recover the debt through the County Court (section 7.00 of the guidance). Part 4 (sections 4.30 - 4.230) of the guidance lists all of the other methods that an LA can use to recover the debt without needing to go to court (e.g. deductions from ongoing entitlements to HB/other DWP benefits, deductions from earnings) - as these methods do not require court proceedings they are not affected by the Limitation Act.

So my understanding is that in most circumstances the LA will have a way to recover. The clearest exception would be one where a person with an o/p is living entirely off their partners earnings (which cannot be subject to a DEA) and not in receipt of any benefits. In that situation the LA would have the 6 year period to apply for a CCJ. Even without this the LA could in theory wait until the couple retire before recovering from State Pension/Pension Credit!

 

[ Edited: 3 Dec 2019 at 07:36 pm by SamW ]
Jon (CHDCA)
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Welfare benefits - Craven CAB, North Yorkshire

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There was an odd case in 2009, R (Joseph) v Newham LBC, which suggested that “action” in the Limitation Act had a broad meaning, and that benefit authorities might become statute barred from taking all sorts of recovery action, not just court action. This was nullified (in the social security context at least) by s108 of the WRA, which clarifies that recovery of overpaid benefit by direct deductions does not become time-barred:

http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2012/5/section/108

MaggieB
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Dorchester CAB

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Thanks everyone, really helpful