Rent corrections

Council tenants living in existing buildings (not new builds) who have become tenants since April 2014 may have been overcharged their rent. This page explains what happened and what we are doing to rectify this mistake.

Rent overpayments 2014-2021

If you are affected you will have received letters from the council in November 2021. These letters also explain what has happened and what the next steps are.

80 per cent of tenants are not affected. If you’re a tenant and haven’t received a letter, your rent is set at the correct level.

Refunds

If you have received a letter telling you the amount you are entitled to, you can request a refund of any balance owing to you. The Tenancy Services team will contact you to discuss your request.

You will need:

  • The letters we sent you - the Payment Reference is on the letter dated 3 November
  • A recent bank statement

Questions and answers

Refunds and tenancy-related issues

Who is affected? - 4/11/21

This error has only affected new tenancies in our older properties. Existing tenancies that started before April 2014 have not been affected and those rents are correct.
 
Tenancies that have started since 2014 which are not affected include tenancies in ‘new build’ properties, for example homes in Forge Wood, Bridgefield House, Lonsdale Court and John Brackpool Court, plus tenancies that started following a mutual exchange.

What happens now? - 4/11/21

The council will adjust all affected rents back to the start date of the tenancy and will calculate the overpayment of rent and any refund due going back to the start of your tenancy.  

A total of more than 1,700 current tenancies have been affected, which means it may take some time for officers to process refund requests. However, please be reassured that we will have designated staff to specifically work on processing refunds and will undertake this work as quickly as we possibly can.  
 
We apologise for this very unfortunate error and any distress or inconvenience this this may have caused you and reassure you that we are working as quickly as we can to resolve this issue.

What is the overcharge and how did this happen? - 4/11/21

You have been charged the amount that is set out in your Tenancy Agreement, however the level of rent for your property has been set too high. We sincerely apologise for this error. 

This occurred due to an administrative error in 2014 that we have only recently become aware of. Now that we are aware we are working to put this right, ensuring the correct level of rents moving forward, and providing a refund for the previous overcharge.

Since 2002 the government has issued guidance to try and prevent variations in rent across the country. It does this through what is called a ‘target rent’. When properties are re-let the council amends the rent on properties to this target rent in order to comply. 

In April 2014 the council decided to remove the ‘rent-free’ weeks and start charging rent over a 52-week year as opposed to 48 weeks of the year. The total amount payable over the year would have been exactly the same, but the weekly amount would have differed as did the number of payments each year.  

Unfortunately, new tenancies that commenced after April 2014 did not have the 48 to 52-week change applied to the ‘target rent’ due to an administrative error. This is how you have been overcharged on your weekly rent since your tenancy started.

How do I know that you’ve got it right this time? - 4/11/21     

We have been working with the Regulator of Social Housing, technical experts in our Finance Department and have sought legal advice and we are confident that once the agreed correction formula has been applied and robustly checked, that your new rent and credit on your account is accurate. 

I have had a new letting since 2014 but I have not had a letter to say I am affected - 4/11/21

Only those affected have been contacted by letter. If you are not contacted by letter or a Housing Officer, then the correct rent was charged. 

My tenancy started before 2014 and/or is a new build property and I have a query about the rent correction - 12/11/21

Unfortunately we will not be able to enter into a dialogue with tenancies that have not been affected by the target rent correction. We need to free up officers’ time to deal with tenants affected by this error.

How will I know how much I have been overcharged? - 19/11/21

For most tenants, the amount you have been overcharged will be stated in the letter we send to you during week commencing 15 November. For those tenants currently claiming Universal Credit we will be writing to you separately in due course.

How will this affect any benefits I receive toward my rent? - 4/11/21

We have worked closely with benefits colleagues and the Department for Work and Pensions so that there is clarity in advance of refunds being issued. We will be notifying them on your behalf about the new levels of rent. The refund you receive will already have any overpayment of benefit deducted from it. As a result:

  • If you receive Housing Benefit either now or at any time during your tenancy you do not need to do anything further
  • If you were on Universal Credit, but no longer are, then you do not need to do anything further
  • If you currently claim Universal Credit, we will be writing to you separately in due course

More details arounds benefits questions will be provided in a later iteration of these FAQs.
 

What date are you applying the correction/refund in my case? - 4/11/21

The rent adjustment will be backdated to your tenancy start date.

When can I request a refund of any money owed to me? - 4/11/21

Once you have received the adjustment letter telling you how much you have been overcharged you will be able to request a refund. We expect this to be in the week commencing 15 November for most tenants. This letter will also tell you how you can request a refund.

How long will it take to get my refund? - 19/11/21

Once you have received the details of the overcharge in the letter mentioned above, you will be able to request a refund of any balance owing to you. A Housing Officer will then be in touch to arrange this. Please note that this issue has affected more than 2,000 accounts, so it will take a little time to process all refund requests, and we will be doing so in date order of receiving the request. Please be assured we will endeavour to undertake this work as quickly as we possibly can.

Can I have the credit paid to me? - 4/11/21

Yes you can and we will be writing to you to provide more information on this in future correspondence. 
 

I have arrears, can I request the refund to me and not to my rent account instead? - 4/11/21

The credit will automatically be sent to the rent account by the rent adjustment process. This will automatically offset any arrears balance. Any credit remaining after that may be requested by you for refund.

Does the adjustment affect the alarm charge, management charge or cleaning service charge part of the rent? - 4/11/21

No, the part of the rent that covers alarm charges, management charges or service charges is not included in the adjustment to target rent – just the basic rent charge has been adjusted (to which those additional charges are added to form the whole weekly rent).

If your basic weekly rent was £100 and the weekly cleaning charge is £2.68 then the total weekly rent due was £102.68. The adjustment calculation would only relate to the £100 rent because the cleaning charge has not been affected by the target rent calculation.

I have a joint tenancy – what happens to any credit? - 4/11/21

If you are joint tenants any refund must be paid into an account held in joint names, or you should both sign to agree that it should just be paid into one person’s account.

I was assigned the tenancy from a family member – from a joint to sole tenancy, or a sole-to-sole tenancy. What happens to any credit? - 4/11/21

The credit adjustment will be made to the rent account.  Any refund that may be due to you would be from the date the tenancy was assigned to you. Any credit due prior to the date it was assigned is due to the person that assigned the tenancy to you or shared between you and the ex-tenant if you were previously joint tenants. We will work with all parties to arrive at the right solution, but such complex cases will take more time to resolve.

I succeeded to my tenancy on the death of a family member since the tenancy started – what happens to any credit? - 4/11/21 

Any credit that is due to the tenancy will be adjusted to your rent account. Any of the credit which relates to the period before you succeeded the tenancy is due to the deceased’s estate. You are therefore advised that you are required to contact the Executor or Administrator of the estate to make them aware of the repayment prior to your succession. We will work with all parties to arrive at the right solution, but such complex cases will take more time to resolve.

I pay by Direct Debit and don’t know what rent is going to be taken for my next payment. How is this calculated? - 4/11/21

Your weekly or monthly Direct Debit will continue to take the previous amount until your account has been adjusted. Once the credit adjustment has been put on your account, your next Direct Debit will be adjusted. You will receive a letter notifying you of your future payment amounts. 

Can I keep my monthly Direct Debit and have a separate refund? - 4/11/21

If you request a refund, the Housing Officer will discuss this with you and you can indicate your preference. Remember Direct Debits are scheduled 14 days before they are due to be taken from your bank so the Direct Debit may already be adjusted automatically. 

Any refund would be made to the account from which the Direct Debit is paid.

Should I cancel my Direct Debit? - 12/11/21

We are not recommending that you cancel your Direct Debit as it will be automatically adjusted.

I have also had a tenancy of another property which also started after 2014, but before my current one. What will happen to the rent refund for the previous property? - 4/11/21

You will be written to separately regarding any closed, former rent accounts that are affected too. Those accounts are also being adjusted.

I have a possession order which was made during the period I was overcharged. Will this be set aside?  - 4/11/21

If the arrears on the account would not have arisen if the correct adjusted rent had been charged at the time of referral to court, then this may be considered on a case-by-case basis. We will discuss this with you.

I have a possession order which was made during the period I was overcharged. Will you reimburse my court costs? - 4/11/21

If the arrears on the account would not have arisen if the correct adjusted rent had been charged at the time of referral to court, then this may be considered on a case-by-case basis. We will discuss this with you.

Benefit-related issues

I am on Housing Benefit now and have been on Housing Benefit continuously since my tenancy started - 19/11/21

It is likely that if you have not paid anything towards your rent yourself, you may not receive a refund. Any refund you are entitled to will be set out in the letter you receive during week commencing 15 November. 

I get full Housing Benefit that covers all of my rent - 19/11/21

If your full rent has been paid by Housing Benefit you will not get any refund. This is because it is the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) that has been overcharged and not you. Your Housing Benefit will reduce to take into account the reduction in your rent and any amount that you have been overcharged will be paid back to the DWP.

I am on Housing Benefit but it does not cover all of my rent - 19/11/21

If you have had any Housing Benefit, it is unlikely that you will get a refund for the period that you were receiving Housing Benefit.

I have had a Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP) - 19/11/21

Your DHP will not be affected and will remain at the amount that they were paid.

I had bedroom tax - 19/11/21

If you had to contribute toward the bedroom tax you may get a refund when we calculate the reassessment.

I am benefit capped - 19/11/21

Depending on the level of your benefit cap and if you have made payments towards your rent, you may get a refund.

I am on Housing Benefit now, but I have not always been - 19/11/21

It is likely that you will receive a refund based on the period you were not receiving Housing Benefit.

I was on Housing Benefit and now I am on Universal Credit - 19/11/21

We will calculate the amount of Housing Benefit that has been overpaid. If you are currently a Universal Credit claimant then we will upload your new rent for you and you will receive a journal message to confirm this. Once this has been completed we will be writing to you once again to set out the detail of your overcharge and next steps in terms of any refund.

Non-dependent deductions - 19/11/21

The non-dependent will – not be changed when the rent is recalculated. 
 
 

Why has the Housing Benefit not gone down by the same percentage as the rent? - 19/11/21

When we calculate your Housing Benefit we compare your weekly income to the amount that the government thinks that someone with your household needs to live on each week (known as the applicable amount). If your income is more than your applicable amount you are expected to pay 65p in every £1 towards your rent. Your Housing Benefit is then the difference between the amount that you need to pay and your full rent. So if your full rent changes the amount that you need to pay generally stays the same and just the amount of Housing Benefit changes.  
 
For example: 
Jenny’s rent is £90 per week and she is assessed as needing to pay £70 per week towards her rent, this means that she gets £20 per week in Housing Benefit.  
 
If her rent changes to £80 per week. As there is no change to her income and the only change has been the rent, she still needs to pay £70 per week towards her rent but her Housing Benefit will reduce to £10 per week and she may have been overpaid by £10. However, if her rent has also gone down by £10 from £90 to £80 the £10 reduction in her rent and the overpayment of £10 should cancel each other out.  
 
If Jenny’s rent was to reduce to £68 per week, she would still be assessed for Housing Benefit as able to afford £70 per week but would no longer get any Housing Benefit as her rent charge or liability is less than what she needs to pay each week.

Will I get a refund? - 19/11/21

If you have had any Housing Benefit, it is unlikely that you will get a refund for the period that you were receiving Housing Benefit.

I am on Universal Credit with a managed payment to my landlord. What do I need to do? - 19/11/21

At this time, you do not need to do anything. We have written to inform you of your new rent level and we are working with the Department for Work and Pensions to upload this to your Universal Credit account. Once this has been done, you will receive a journal message to confirm this. We will then be writing to you once again to set out the detail of your overcharge and next steps in terms of any refund.

I am on Universal Credit and the housing element is paid to me. What do I need to do? - 19/11/21

At this time, you do not need to do anything. We have written to inform you of your new rent level and we are working with the Department for Work and Pensions to upload this to your Universal Credit account. Once this has been done, you will receive a journal message to confirm this. We will then be writing to you once again to set out the detail of your overcharge and next steps in terms of any refund.

I have a friend who is not getting a refund. Why is that? - 19/11/21

It is possible that their tenancy started before 2014, was a mutual exchange or a new tenancy that has been calculated correctly. 

What if I don’t agree with the way that the Housing Benefit has been recalculated? - 19/11/21

If you want to know more about this decision, you should get in touch with us within one month of the date of your letter. You can ask for a full explanation of the decision or you can ask us to reconsider the decision. If we do not change the decision, you will then have the opportunity to appeal against the decision. 
 
Should you disagree with this decision you may appeal against it in writing. You must do this within one month of the date of your letter, giving your reasons in full. You will be notified of the outcome in writing. An independent tribunal administered by the Tribunals Service will hear your appeal.  
 
If you would like to get independent advice about your claim, contact your local Citizens Advice. If they cannot help you they should be able to advise you of other sources of help.

Do I need to tell the DWP if I get a lump sum refund? - 19/11/21

It is possible that if you receive a refund of overcharged rent, that this may increase your capital and savings to a level that puts you over a savings threshold for either a Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) benefit or Housing Benefit or Council Tax Reduction. The thresholds work in two ways.  
 
There is the first threshold where the DWP or the council ignores the savings and treats it as if it does not exist. (This is generally £6,000 if you are working age and £10,000 if you are over pension age). 
 
The second threshold is the maximum that you are allowed to have before your benefit is stopped. This is usually £16,000 for most income-related benefits (although this is unlimited if you get Pension Credit Guarantee Credit).  
 
If the refund amount will bring your total savings over one of the thresholds you must contact the DWP or the council’s Benefits Team to let them know. 

What if I had a previous overpayment that I have repaid? - 19/11/21

If you have a previous Housing Benefit overpayment that you have paid back in full you may get a refund.

I have a credit on my rent account but I have always been on full benefit - 19/11/21

If you have had a Housing Benefit overpayment account raised, this credit will be transferred to that account. This is because you did not pay your rent, it was paid by Crawley Borough Council on behalf of the Department for Work and Pensions. The work we have been doing correcting the rent account and applying benefits has resulted in a temporary credit on your rent account.  This credit therefore needs to be transferred to your overpayment in order to reduce the amount that is owed to us.