OP recovery – who to recover from??

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    I have a revision request from a tenant who has approx £11k OP for Housing Benefit…can someone advise on recovery please???!!

    Mr & Mrs sign for LA property in 2006 and no claim is made for HB/CTB. Mr leaves the property some months later and Mrs makes a claim in her own right and is passported benefit. Mr is never removed from rent account or CTax account, therefore remains jointly liable.

    In 2007, Mr appears back and Mrs leaves the property, signs it over to Mr and is outwith our area from that date. We are never notified by Mrs or our housing department when she leaves/ the tenancy is signed over. The HB/CTB miraculously continues until April 2011, when Mr makes a claim in his own right and Mrs claim is suspended. (Please note, Mr did not qualify for HB/CTB due to excess income.) The claim is referred to fraud and we locate Mrs and terminate the claim back to 2007 when she left. Mrs is now disputing HB & CTB OP.

    From 2007, Mrs has no liability for rent as she was removed from the rent account. Mr was not on the claim therefore OP appears not recoverable from him. He remained in the property and was solely liable for the rent, which he did not pay until April 2011, when Mrs claim was suspended and he was pursued for rent arrears.

    Can we recover this OP from the rent account on the basis that payments of HB were made to the rent account which is held in his name? Any views on whether this would be regarded as official error?


    No…the overpayment was made to Mrs so you camnot recover an overpayment from Mr rent account. Whether you can merely “cancel” the HB claim from the date Mrs terminated her tenancy is a very different point.

    Technically the overpayment must be an official error I think. The Council is the landord and has a responsibility. It is a long time for the housing dept not to notice or do anything…if a social or private landlord did something similar most LA’s would say it was partly their fault (see many previous threads on here LOL). Mrs could not have known anything was amiss because she would not have been sent rent statements after she left. No interventions either?

    So can the LA claim there could be no entitlement after the rent account for Mrs was closed? Any thoughts?


    Part of the problem is that the rent account was originally in Mr & Mrs name jointly, only for Mrs to be removed from the account…this is why the payments were able to continue into Mr rent account as it was all the same account.

    Mrs failed to notify HB/CTB of her move and so the argument has been raised that she did contribute to the OP and therefore would be liable for recovery. But I agree that she could not have know of the issue.

    No….there were no interventions. The first point we become aware is April 2011, when Mr makes a claim. He effectively lives their ‘rent free’ from Mrs HB payments.


    Yes but the trouble is that she did tell the Council and gave up all her rights as a Council tenant. The Housing Dept amended the tenancy yet for years did nothing. Meanwhile, HB did not even do an intervention to check the claim over many years. What did Mrs gain from this overpayment? Nothing at all. No cash, no rights, no accommodation. Nothing. She gave up all her rights and moved away. The Council could reasonably be expected to sort out the closing of an account; send a final bil and so on.

    Why did housing not close the account and start a new one in the name of a different tenant. Yes I know…easier just to leave it all there and HB is getting paid too. As I said, if another landlord had been so lax. We cannot have one rule for one landlord and one for council stock.

    I agree that Mr gained..lucky him. But he did not cause the overpayment and was not involved in it. Nor are housing dept going to accept 11K dumped on his account very easily.


    Peter, Lisa is on leave this afternoon however has discussed this case with me. It appears that you are of the view that this overpayment has occured as a result of official error, in light of the fact that the LA knew she had moved out ie Housing Dept. Could it be argued that there is no official error per se as the Housing Dept did not notify the Benefits Section of this change, in other words o/p recoverable from the LL (LA) as would have been the case had this award of HB been paid to private LL in similar circumstances.


    Trouble is the Council is the landlord so it comes to the same thing. Remember the definition of an official error is not an eror by the HB Service but

    In paragraph (2), “overpayment which arose in consequence of an official error” means an overpayment caused by a mistake made whether in the form of an act or omission by—
    (a) the relevant authority;
    (b) an officer or person acting for that authority;
    (c) an officer of—
    (i) the Department for Work and Pensions; or
    (ii) Revenue and Customs, acting as such; or
    (d) a person providing services to the Department for Work and Pensions or to the Commissioners for Her Majesty´s Revenue and Customs,

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