Housing benefit overpayment

Hello all, really looking for some help for my mum here if possible.

So she received a letter from the council saying she has an overpayment of just under £780. She was not given any other info relating to dates etc, so she called them to say she was unaware of this, and asked for more information. The council have emailed her with dates and turns out this is from a number of small periods throughout 2008 - 2011. At this time my mum had cancer, and was going through various treatments which lasted a few years. The overpayment relates to my siblings as they had moved out, then back in and they had a job, then didn't have a job etc. I guess with everything that was going on she had not advised the council of the change. This is in no way fraud, and the council have not alleged fraud either just as an FYI. 

The council say, in the email, they advised my mum in June 2011 of the overpayment, and again in January 2012. They started deducting from her housing benefit for this overpayment in Jan 2012. However in April 2012 they closed her HB claim and she moved out of the area. She never heard anything about this again until about 3 weeks ago, almost 10 years later. 

My mum did have a DRO in 2019. She owed a little bit of council tax from this council which was included in the DRO. At the time, she contacted the council to ask if there was anything else she owed, and they said no. So this overpayment was not included in her DRO (if they had said yes, she obviously would have included it). She has explained this to the Council but they have just said that they wrote to her in 2011 and so she knew the money was repayable, and that's that. 

The council did include this at the end of their email: "In accordance with the Limitation Act 1980, section 9(1) An action to recover any sun recoverable by virtue of any enactment shall not be brought after the expiration of six years from the date on which the cause of action accrued. In accordance with the Limitation Act 1980, section 38(1) In this Act, unless context otherwise requires 'action' includes any proceeding in a court of law" - So I think the council are telling her that it is statue barred. But obviously that just means they cannot take her to court for it. 

I tried speaking with national debt line but, honestly, they were really unhelpful. My mum is really worried. She's disabled, and doesn't work due to her mobility. She is on disability benefits, and has a carer so can't really afford this either. 

Does this seem like it may be statute barred? Shall I send a statue barred letter?

Is it worth complaining regarding the fact they said she owed nothing apart from the council tax, and so didn't include it in her DRO?

Any help would be greatly appreciated. And I'm sorry this was a long post. 

Replies

  • fatbellyfatbelly Forumite
    18.2K Posts
    Part of the Furniture 10,000 Posts Name Dropper Cashback Cashier
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    It sounds as if the council accept that they should not be trying to enforce it in the courts.

    Of course under England/wales law the debt still exists

    They are probably just writing in the hope that your mum may have a spare £780.

    I think if you wrote to point out that she cannot pay as she has no assets, has only benefit income and the situation is unlikely to change they will probably just leave it.

    But post again if they try anything like a DWP deduction 

    I'm sorry NDL were unhelpful
  • sourcratessourcrates Forumite
    26.3K Posts
    Part of the Furniture 10,000 Posts Name Dropper Photogenic
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    Reading between the lines I would agree with the above, however the DWP have a nasty habit of deducting any outstanding debt from an existing benefits claim, but I`d go along with fatbellys advice and see what happens, I wouldn`t worry too much about it to be honest.
    Ex MSE Board Guide.

    More than a third of IVA`s fail....fact.
    Could A Debt Relief Order help you ?
    Never pay a fee for a Debt Management Plan.
    For free non-judgemental debt advice, contact either : Stepchange, National Debtline, or CitizensAdviceBureaux.
  • Kel_belsKel_bels Forumite
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    Forumite
    Thanks both, really appreciate it. 
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