Changes in Circumstances
What should I do if my circumstances change?
You have a duty to report a change in your circumstances that could affect your entitlement. You must notify the Council immediately. Examples of the types of changes that must be notified are:
- Changes in the income and capital of anyone living in your household
- Changes in the number of persons living in your home
- Changes in your rent (unless you are a council tenant)
- Any other changes that might affect your entitlement to benefit such as ceasing or starting work (if in doubt – inform the council anyway)
You can report a change in your circumstances by using the Council's change of circumstances online form (see below) or by letter.
If you have changed your address please also complete our change of address online form, which will allow you to inform different areas within the Council.
Change of Circumstances online form
Change of Address online form
A delay in report a change in your circumstances may result in an overpayment of benefit occurring, or a reduction in your Council Tax Support.
Failure to report a change of circumstances is a criminal offence. If you do not tell us about changes to your circumstances we may apply a penalty to your account. If you delay reporting a change of circumstances you could lose benefit/ end up overpaid, and therefore be required to repay the Council the money you have been overpaid. You may even face prosecution. For further information please see below section Civic Penalties - Duty to Notify Changes in Circumstances.
Is there a time limit for reporting a change in my circumstances?
If you are getting Council Tax Support, or a Council Tax discount, failure to report any relevant change within 21 days of that change is a criminal offence, however the Council will normally allow you one month to report any change in your circumstances that could affect your entitlement. Provided you notify any change within the one month time limit the change will be calculated from the date the change occurred.
What happens if I am late notifying a change?
If you do not notify the Council within the one month time limit, and the effect of the change would be to increase your entitlement, the change will be calculated from the Monday following the date you notify the Council.
However, if the effect of the change would be a decrease in your entitlement the change will be calculated from the date the change occurred and monies overpaid may be recovered from you and you may face a penalty of at least Â£50 for Housing Benefit and Â£70 per Council Tax offence.
A person has a wage increase of Â£20.00 per week but does not notify the Council until 6 weeks later. The Benefit Section amends the person’s benefit from the date the change occurred because the effect would be a decrease in their entitlement. The claimant's Housing Benefit is reduced by Â£13.00 per week and their Council Tax Support by Â£4.00 per week.
A person advises the Council that a grown-up son (a non-dependent for whom the highest non-dependent deduction is made) left the household 5 weeks previously. As the effect of the change is an increase in entitlement, the Benefit Section amends the person’s benefit from the Monday following the date the change was reported.
The person would have been entitled to additional Â£469 in Housing Benefit for the 5 week period prior to the date the change was reported, however as the change was reported late, the person misses out on this extra entitlement.
This is based on non-dependant deductions of Â£93.80 per week for the highest non dependant deduction.
Can the one month time limit be extended?
If you can show good reason for failing to notify a change in your circumstances within the one month time limit, and the effect of the change would be an increase in your entitlement, the Council may extend the one month time limit. You must put your reasons for late notification of a change in circumstances in writing.
Civil Penalties - Duty to Notify Changes in Circumstances
These rules apply to Housing Benefit (and where appropriate Council Tax Benefit - they are not applicable to Council Tax Support but a linked duty to notify changes exists for CTS and you may be liable for more than one penalty charge if you do not tell us about changes in circumstances)
A civil penalty of Â£50 can be added to the amount of a recoverable overpayment of benefit of more than Â£65 where the claimant is viewed as being at fault.
This penalty applies to overpayments wholly arising on or after 1 October 2012. The Â£50 penalty may be applied to an overpayment in three different circumstances:
- Where a person has been overpaid as a result of negligently making an incorrect statement or representation, or negligently giving incorrect information or evidence.
The DWP says that ‘negligently’ means ‘acting carelessly, not paying sufficient attention to the task in hand, or disregarding the importance of what is required to be done in relation to the claim or an award.’
- Where a person has been overpaid as a result of failing, without reasonable excuse, to provide information or evidence required in connection with a claim for or award of benefit.
The DWP says that ‘reasonable excuse’ means a ‘credible reason or justification’ and might include being in a situation of significant stress or suffering ill health;
- Where a person has been overpaid as a result of failing, without reasonable excuse (see above), to notify a relevant change of circumstances.
Where a change of circumstances we become aware of causes an overpayment of more than Â£65 we can apply a Â£50 penalty.
A civil penalty cannot be applied where the claimant has, in respect of the overpayment, been charged with an offence, been cautioned or been subject to a penalty as an alternative to prosecution under section 115A of the Social Security Administration Act 1992.
There is the right of appeal against the imposition of a civil penalty. You will be notified of the civil penalty in the overpayment decision letter.