Overpayment of Housing Benefit - Transition to UC - Which tribunal?
I am looking for comments/ advice regarding the following scenario.
A client was receiving housing benefit and in 2021 her partner moved in and this fact was reported to the local authority. The client was that they needed make a joint claim for UC which they did. UC was awarded.
There were other changes of circumstance which occurred - including increases in rent - which were also reported.
As well as the UC, housing benefit continued to be paid. (The assumption was that as they previously were being paid separately, then as a couple, that was the reason the payments continued.)
Belatedly, in 2023, the local authority made enquiries and realised that they ought to have stopped their payments. And a recoverable overpayment decision was made.
They accept that they received the notice from UC but did not act to end their payments. They did not claim that there was any failure to disclose or misrepresentation on the part of the client, just that the client ought to have known they were being overpaid.
An appeal was lodged.
Now, the local authority say that regulation 10 of Universal Credit (Transitional Provisions) Regulations 2014 allows for an overpayment of existing benefits (including housing benefit) paid when there is no entitlement but was entitled to UC to be recovered by deducting it as unearned income in calculating UC.
Long and short, the local authority is required to refer the matter to the DWP. And the HB appeal cannot go ahead as Housing Benefit regulations 2006 cannot be applied as these decisions are “out of jurisdiction”.
This is new experience so I would be grateful for comments/ advice especially if anyone else has had a similar experience.
ELC[ Edited: 10 Nov 2023 at 02:10 pm by shawn mach ]
Sorry but not sure I follow this. Have they lodged an appeal against the Housing Benefit overpayment? The HB overpayment arose because it was being paid erroneously in a situation whereby your clients had also claimed and been paid UC for housing costs. If that is correct, then I think you’d struggle to win the HB appeal to be honest.
You cannot normally be required to repay an overpayment if (1) it was caused by ‘official error’ and (2) you could not reasonably be expected to have known you were being overpaid at the time and (3) you did not contribute to the error.
Arguably there is official error but your clients appear to be aware that they were being paid in duplicate and they’ve also arguably contributed to the error by not informing or enquiring with the local authority as to why the HB award continued in payment once they’d made the UC claim. However, they can still pursue the appeal if they want to and argue why points 2 and/or 3 don’t apply to them.
The other stuff you’ve quoted is about recovery of the HB overpayment from UC - that is outside of the jurisdiction of the HB 2006 Regs as it’s a UC decision.
I think the LA are correct. Reg 10 of the UC (TP) Regs means that the overpaid HB was treated as unearned income for the UC award. It also then means that recovery of the overpaid HB is not via the HB regs, so those recoverability rules do not apply
All your client can do is request that the UC op is not recovered.
Was the HB paid to your client or the landlord? Might there be a credit on their rent account if UC and HB were both being paid?
I agree it isn’t an HB overpayment appeal. The effect of UC(TP) Reg 10 is that the Council has not decided that there is a recoverable overpayment of HB. The only thing the Council has decided is that the HB claimant is no longer entitled to HB from a certain date.
That means there is one thing that the claimant possibly might want to appeal: whether HB has terminated from the correct date. If the incoming partner was already on UC, HB should have terminated from the beginning of the AP in which they formed a couple, and no 2w transitional payment. But if neither of them was already on UC and they decided to claim UC (whether that was good bad or neutral advice is all water under the bridge now), HB should have continued until 2w after the date of the UC claim. If their HB termination date is too early, that could be appealed.
But the overpayment is a UC matter, with very little scope for appeal - except perhaps around the amount of HB to be used as income, which would in turn depend on whether the HB decision is correct, so both appeals could be joined and heard together.
Well you learn something new every day.
Thank you all for your very helpful comments.