This can’t be right? I’ve been a told that I have to pay back a benefit overpayment that wasn’t my fault?!


01 Feb
01Feb

Lucinda Dore Legal Services hears this regularly.  Many clients contact us for help having received a demand to pay back benefits from the DWP, Local Authority or HMRC but it was caused by no fault or theirs – if the benefit agency paid the money into a claimants account incorrectly surely it can’t be right that the claimant has to pay it back?! Claimants aren’t benefit experts – surely they can rely on the benefit agencies expertise to decide whether to pay benefits?

Wrong!

The Benefit Regulations are strict.  Whilst there are slight variations in the law according to the particular benefit being claimed the general rule is that an overpayment must be paid back (referred to in law as ‘Recoverable’) if the overpayment was caused by:-

  • A misrepresentation;
  • A failure to disclose a material fact.

This means that it is a claimant’s obligation to ensure that the relevant benefit agency has the correct facts required to ensure that the correct amount of benefits is claimed – a claimant cannot rely on the benefit agency misunderstanding information for example or perhaps not taking down the correct details.  If you are aware that the benefit agency has made a mistake it is your obligation to correct them.  Furthermore it is not for the benefit agency to ask you if any of your circumstances have changed – you must tell them straightaway.

BUT.....There is some hope – There ARE some circumstances (depending on the particular benefit claimed) where it can be argued that the overpayment was not caused by a misrepresentation OR a failure to disclose a material fact but was CAUSED by an ‘official error’ of a representative of the benefit agency. LD Legal Services can help you make this argument if appropriate.

When deciding whether the overpayment is Recoverable it is a question of causation – the following needs to be considered:-

  • Why was the overpayment caused?
  • If caused by a misrepresentation or failure to disclose a material fact – it is recoverable?
  • If however the overpayment was caused by an official error of the benefit agency it is not recoverable.
  • But....
  • If correct misrepresentation or disclosure would have prevented the overpayment it IS recoverable.

Benefit Law and Regulations can be complicated but we can help you – contact us today for assistance on 01273030339 or email lucinda@ldlegalservices.co.uk



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