Overpayment Classification

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    Any thoughts on how an overpayment should be classified in the following circumstances?

    The claimant enters a nursing home on a trial basis on 8th October 2009 with the full knowledge of our Social Services Department. The admission was made permanent on 10th December 2009.

    The Social Services Department inform our Revenues Department (containing both the Council Tax section and the Benefits section) on 25th February 2010.

    The Council Tax section fail to pass the information on to the Benefits section.

    Ths landlord (an RSL) send a voids list to the Benefits section on 5th May 2010 and the claim is subsequently terminated creating a significant overpayment.

    Our application form provides details of designated offices where application forms and notification of change of circumstances can be accepted.

    How would you classify the overpayment from the date of termination to the date that the Council Tax section receive the notification of the permanent move (bearing in mind that the address of the Council Tax section is the same as the Benefits section)? Does te delay in Social Services informing us amount to an official error?

    Does the failure of the Council Tax section to pass the information to the Benefits section constitute an official error?

    Thanks in advance for any advice.


    I think it may well be an official error when CTAX knew – the address is the same and I am guessing you all work together or nearby in the same office. The Social Services delay may be an official error; lots of varied case law on this and Tribunals tend to take differing opinions. Was the claimant still responsible for their affairs etc. may sway things. Then there is the RSL. What did they know and from when? If they knew of the permanent move in December then why wait 6 months til the void? So if the RSL knew the position all along then it can be argued that the main reason for the overpayment was their failure to disclose.

    I dont think you can make a “wrong” decision on this for classification. Whether you try to recover from the landlord is another matter …its a long time to leave a property empty.

    A real can of worms!

    nick dearnley

    If I recall correctly there is caselaw which might help you – CH/2321/2002, CH/2567/2007 and R(H)10/08. Essentially it would depend on where you told claimants that they needed to go to notify you of a change, and whether they could expect that information given to one part of the council would be passed on to another if necessary. For example, if you said “You must tell the Council” that is wider than if you said “You must tell the Benefits Office”. If you have a designated office for dealing with benefits work then that is who must be told; even telling your own council tax section might not be enough if they are not part of the designated office. So I’d be wary of jumping straight to an LA Error decision, although some officers of other departments can count as ‘officers of the relevent authority’.

    Otherwise, did you pay the RSL? If so they become a potential recovery target by being the payee and failing to tell you about a change in time, as Peter says. That at least might save you trying to recover from a vulnerable person, and I think you could apply it even if you did decide there was official error – CH/1172/2002.


    Thanks both – much appreciated


    I agree and should be official error from when the Council Tax section was informed about it i.e. 25.02.10. I think you should be able to recover the overpayment from the RSL if paid to them directly in the first place.

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