Outstanding Invoice Reminder Letter

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					Harrow’s Strategy for reducing outstanding debt for Housing Benefit
Overpayments
Contents

1     Introduction

2     Recovery programme

3     Repayment programme

4     Overpayments created pre-June 1998

5     Overpayments created June 1998 to April 1999

6     Overpayments created May 1999 ongoing

7     Once debts have been written-off

8     Landlords
1   Introduction

    This strategy sets out the procedure that will enable Harrow to reduce the level and age of its
    outstanding Housing Benefit Overpayment debt. The average age of the overpayment debt
    will be reduced by 90 days by March 2005.

    Only overpayments in the sundry debtor system are considered here. Overpayments on the
    benefit system will be recovering from ongoing entitlement which is the most effective method
    of recovery in the majority of cases. Each case is considered individually to assess effective
    recovery before recovery ensues.

    The debt has been split initially by age and then again by amount. Within each category the
    different trace and recovery methods have been considered. The age division has been
    based on the introduction of new software systems.

    The procedure will be implemented through the introduction of performance management on
    the overpayment section. Details of this are given below.

    It is necessary to read this document in conjunction with other policies and procedures
    relating to Housing Benefit overpayments in Harrow. These are accessible to all staff and can
    be obtained on request for any other person reading this document.

    The relevant procedures regarding creation of a net overpayment will have been followed
    before the overpayment is considered under this strategy.

    It is important to remember that the procedures within this strategy are a guide and are not to
    be taken as a blanket policy. Each case will be considered on its own merits.

    As part of a step change programme in 2004/5 the level of overpayments outstanding will be
    reduced by at least 10% and the average number of days of debts outstanding by at least 90
    days. Recovery of debt created within year will be at least 50%.


2   Recovery programme

2.1 When an overpayment is created it will be automatically transferred to the debtors system and
    an invoice raised after 21 days. The exception is if the tenant has vacated in which case the
    debt is manually transferred immediately after creation.

    21 days allows the person affected to receive their decision notice(s) and appeal or reclaim if
    they wish. It is not practical to give more than 21 days as it would be too long a period
    between the debt’s creation and invoicing.

2.2 If there is no payment received a reminder is raised after a further 21 days.

2.3 Again, if no payment is received a final will then be raised another 21 days later.

2.4 21 days is also given for a debtor to respond to a pre-court letter.

2.5 The debtor is told they have 7 days to pay at each stage. Giving 21 days between each of
    the stages gives the debtor time to make a payment if they are going to do so.

2.6 If a case is to be taken to court it will be done so after a maximum of 84 days. This is the
    longest of the recovery procedures before a final decision is made regarding the debt if no
    payments have been received.
3   Repayment arrangements

3.1 To ensure debts do not remain outstanding for long periods the rate and frequency of
    repayments will be considered and monitored.

3.2 Repayment plans will be made with reference to the following:

            -    Size of debt and time taken to repay
            -    Reason for the overpayment
            -    Debtor’s financial status
            -    Government guidelines regarding recovery from ongoing entitlement
            -    Consideration will be given to any rent arrears the debtor may have to avoid
                 putting the debtor’s tenancy at risk
            -    Any other issues that need to be considered.

3.3 Repayments will be monitored to ensure prompt action if an instalment is missed. Regular
    reviews of arrangements will be made with the prospect of increasing the previously agreed
    amount.


4   Overpayments created pre-June 1998 (‘1000’ invoice numbers)

4.1 Under £500

    if any current Housing Benefit entitlement       begin immediate recovery and write to inform
                                                     debtor

    no contact in the last year                      submit for write-off



4.2 Over £500

    no file held and no details of debt              submit for write-off as do not know if debt is
                                                     recoverable

    If any current Housing Benefit or DWP            begin immediate recovery and write to inform
    benefit entitlement                              debtor
    No current benefits                              search for a current address and phone
                                                     number using iWorld, CIS and Experian or
                                                     any other appropriate
                                                     department/organisation.

    Phone number held                                contact debtor by phone for a
                                                     repayment/repayment plan
    Current address held                             send a manual reminder giving details of the
                                                     reason and period of the overpayment
    No current address or phone number               submit for write-off
    available
4.3 No response to reminder but believe debtor to be resident



    Under £3,500 and not fraud                      consider out of hours debt team for phone
                                                    contact; send final and submit for write-off; if
                                                    payment made re-create debt from write-off
    Over £3,500 or fraud                            send final with pre-Court letter recorded
                                                    delivery

    no response to pre-Court letter                 consider referring to court or submit for write-
                                                    off.


5   Overpayments created June 1998 to April 1999 (‘2000’ invoice numbers)

5.1 Under £100

    if any current Housing Benefit entitlement      begin immediate recovery and write to inform
                                                    debtor

    no contact in the last year                     submit for write-off



5.2 Over £100

    no file held and no details of debt             submit for write-off as do not know if debt is
                                                    recoverable

    If any current Housing Benefit or DWP           begin immediate recovery and write to inform
    benefit entitlement                             debtor
    No current benefits                             search for a current address and phone
                                                    number using iWorld, CIS and Experian or
                                                    any other appropriate
                                                    department/organisation
    Phone number held                               contact debtor by phone for a
                                                    repayment/repayment plan.
    Current address held                            send a manual invoice or reminder if invoice
                                                    previously issued giving details of the reason
                                                    and period of the overpayment
    No current address or phone number              submit for write-off
    available


5.3 No response to invoice/reminder but believe debtor to be resident

    Under £3,500 and not fraud                      consider out of hours debt team for phone
                                                    contact; send final and submit for write-off; if
                                                    payment made re-create debt from write-off
    Over £3,500 or fraud                            send final with pre-Court letter recorded
                                                    delivery
    no response to pre-Court letter                 consider referring to court or submit for write-
                                                    off
6   Overpayments created May 1999 ongoing (‘3000’ invoice numbers)

6.1 Under £10

    current Housing Benefit in Harrow                recover from ongoing entitlement
    no current Housing Benefit                       submit for write-off


6.2 £10 - £50

    any current Housing Benefit or DWP benefit       recover from ongoing entitlement
    (from CIS)
    no current benefits                              send invoice

    when reminder created if no response to          submit for write-off
    invoice


6.3 Over £50

            -   automatically send invoice to all debtors when debt initially raised

    at reminder stage:

    any current Housing Benefit or DWP benefit       recover from ongoing entitlement
    (from CIS)
    No current benefits                              search for a current address and phone
                                                     number using iWorld, CIS and Experian or
                                                     any other appropriate
                                                     department/organisation.
    Phone number held                                contact debtor by phone for a
                                                     repayment/repayment plan. Consider
                                                     referring to evening debt team for out of
                                                     hours phone contact
    Current address held                             send reminder


            At final stage

    - make checks for ongoing benefit and residency again where appropriate

    if under £200 and no fraud                       send final and use Business Objects report to
                                                     identify and write-off those cases where no
                                                     response received
    If over £200 or fraud                            send final with pre-Court letter recorded
                                                     delivery
    If no response to pre-Court letter               where appropriate refer to Court. If Court
                                                     action is not appropriate submit debt to be
                                                     written-off. These cases will be identified
                                                     after the final demand has been issued by
                                                     using Business Objects reports and Excel
                                                     spreadsheets.
7   Once debts have been written-off

7.1 If any new information is obtained regarding debtors whose overpayments have been written-
    off then consideration will be given to how economically viable it is to recreate and recover the
    debt with respect to this new information.

7.2 If any new Housing Benefit entitlement is awarded in Harrow the debt will be recreated and
    recovered from ongoing entitlement.

7.3 For all debts with a value of over £3,500 and less than 6 years old, an annual check will be
    made to determine whether any DWP benefits are in payment. Recovery will then be made
    accordingly.

8   Landlords

8.1 Landlord debts will be amalgamated before recovery is instigated. If they do not make a
    repayment by reminder stage they will be informed that the outstanding debt could be
    recovered using composite recovery.

				
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