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Overpayment of Housing Element

BHCAC
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Welfare Benefits Caseworker- Bosnia and Herzegovinia Community Advice Centre

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Following a review it was identified that the client was not living at the address that housing element was being paid for, she moved in 2019 and did not report Change of Circumstances.
So they have now issued an overpayment letter for all Housing Costs paid since then.
She is a vulnerable adult with complex health needs including mental health. Client’s family member sent a MR request before seeking assistance but highly doubt this will change anything.
Any grounds for appeal- Can we say she still had housing costs during this period ( even if it was for another address!) or is it best to accept liability and request DWP debt management to write off the debt?

Thanks

HB Anorak
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Benefits consultant/trainer - hbanorak.co.uk, East London

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If she had disclosed the change of address at the time, would the payment have been made to the same person as before?  From what you say it sounds as if the full UC amount was being paid to her and she was paying the rent herself, and she carried on doing that after the change of address.

If so, have a look at Reg 9 of the overpayment recovery regs here.  This gives DWP the discretionary power to offset the overpayment against the entitlement for the new address and call it quits.  Even if they don’t, I think all that means is that they still need to pay UC for the new address and recover the overpayment separately.  I don’t think they have discretion to say UC for address A has been overpaid and there is no entitlement for address B.

The only adverse consequences for her would be:

- if her entitlement for address B is higher, she won’t get the higher rate until the AP in which the change was reported and her entitlement for the intervening period will be limited to the amount paid for the old address
- if her entitlement for the new address is lower, there will be an overpayment of the difference between the two.

Charles
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HB Anorak - 02 May 2024 05:25 PM

If she had disclosed the change of address at the time, would the payment have been made to the same person as before?  From what you say it sounds as if the full UC amount was being paid to her and she was paying the rent herself, and she carried on doing that after the change of address.

If so, have a look at Reg 9 of the overpayment recovery regs here.  This gives DWP the discretionary power to offset the overpayment against the entitlement for the new address and call it quits.  Even if they don’t, I think all that means is that they still need to pay UC for the new address and recover the overpayment separately.  I don’t think they have discretion to say UC for address A has been overpaid and there is no entitlement for address B.

The only adverse consequences for her would be:

- if her entitlement for address B is higher, she won’t get the higher rate until the AP in which the change was reported and her entitlement for the intervening period will be limited to the amount paid for the old address
- if her entitlement for the new address is lower, there will be an overpayment of the difference between the two.

Reg 9 is the equivalent to Reg 104A of the HB Regs.

As you told me back in 2018, Reg 104A only really makes sense if you view an award of HB as being discrete to a particular property. However, it is commonly accepted, including by the DWP themselves, that a change of address within a single LA is simply a change of circumstances for HB.

You never did tell me if you had an answer to that seeming contradiction?

For UC, it is also presumably a change of circumstances, so again, why is Reg 9 of the Overpayments Regs needed?

And while we’re at it, is Reg 16(3), in its reference to Reg 9, simply a duplication of Reg 9(3)?

Elliot Kent
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I think it might be easier if you could give us some specifics as to what actually changed. We have basically no information about that so this is liable to be very a very abstract discussion otherwise.

E.g. for each property, who was the landlord - private/social, who was the tenant, what was the rent. Was the rent for the first property paid to the landlord direct? Was there more than one move? Were there gaps during which there was no liability for housing costs?

HB Anorak
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Charles - 02 May 2024 11:14 PM

As you told me back in 2018, Reg 104A only really makes sense if you view an award of HB as being discrete to a particular property. However, it is commonly accepted, including by the DWP themselves, that a change of address within a single LA is simply a change of circumstances for HB.

You never did tell me if you had an answer to that seeming contradiction?

No, it still makes my brain hurt

And while we’re at it, is Reg 16(3), in its reference to Reg 9, simply a duplication of Reg 9(3)?

It seems to be doesn’t it.

Part of the justification for these rules is that they allow any recovery from a third party to proceed in isolation from, and without prejudice to, the claimant’s continued entitlement at the new address.  In HB, there was the additional policy objective of preventing local authorities from gaining subsidy windfalls in cases with the same payee before and after by determining an overpayment for address A and promptly recovering it in full from the arrears payable for address B, plus 40% subsidy ... nice!  But that is not an issue in UC, where the Secretary of State is paying out the money in the first place.

Sorry for the abstract diversion.

As Elliot says, we need to check whether the facts fall within Reg 9 before advising on tactics.  But the end result should be that there is not an artificially high overpayment recoverable from the claimant.