UK Property Law
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It's difficult to answer your first question, sorry. The money was originally mine, as I overpaid my rent due to the housing association's endless letters with mistakes in how they calculated rent and maintenance charges. The housing association transferred the money to my solicitor for the completion statement.
The housing association then said after completion I had a credit on my account, and sent a cheque. I did not query this or check it against completion amount, as I believed the solicitor had sorted everything for completion, but the housing association had found money on their system owed to me.
It is about £900. I put the cheque into my bank account when they sent it a few months ago. I didn't realise it was an error, until a letter arrived from my solicitor today asking me to pay the housing association's solicitors via my solicitor. Because the housing association had paid me the same amount twice (one time at completion to return my rent overpayment, and one time in error by cheque months after).
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The first thing to establish is whether this is indeed anoverpayment. From the facts you have given me it would appear that it is and Iwill tell you the situation.
Obviously, if it is not an overpayment and it is money thatyou are due, they cannot chase you for it.
It seems most unlikely they would chase you for money thatyou are not due however stranger things have happened. Obviously, I cannot helpyou with whether the money is due to you or not and you will need to go throughyour various statements in that respect and even ask the housing associationfor a detailed analysis and breakdown of the monies so that you can establishthat it is indeed owed to them.
Assuming that it is an overpayment and you were not aware ofit being an overpayment then even if you have spent it, it cannot be theft. Ifyou were aware however that it was an overpayment it is theft and people havebeen prosecuted and indeed jailed (more than £900 I might add) for spending themoney in exactly the circumstances.
I appreciate that this is a housing association error/mistakebut they are allowed to rely on a mistake in court if it gets that far withregard to getting their money back and you are not entitled to rely on it tokeep it. The situation in this respect is well settled law.
I appreciate it is a bad time as you have just been maderedundant but that is not the fault of the housing association.
Under the circumstances however it is not at allunreasonable for you to pay them back in dribs and drabs and my suggestionwould be to offer them £50 or £100 per month. Expect them say that is notacceptable but keep sending them cheques anyway or better still send them onecurrent cheque and half a dozen post dated ones.
If you do indeed owed the money, and they take you to courtand they proved to the satisfaction of the court that you do owe the money, youwill lose am sorry to have to tell you.
Does that answer the question? Can I help you any further?
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