The first thing to establish is whether this is indeed an
overpayment. From the facts you have given me it would appear that it is and I
will tell you the situation.
Obviously, if it is not an overpayment and it is money that
you are due, they cannot chase you for it.
It seems most unlikely they would chase you for money that
you are not due however stranger things have happened. Obviously, I cannot help
you with whether the money is due to you or not and you will need to go through
your various statements in that respect and even ask the housing association
for a detailed analysis and breakdown of the monies so that you can establish
that it is indeed owed to them.
Assuming that it is an overpayment and you were not aware of
it being an overpayment then even if you have spent it, it cannot be theft. If
you were aware however that it was an overpayment it is theft and people have
been prosecuted and indeed jailed (more than £900 I might add) for spending the
money in exactly the circumstances.
I appreciate that this is a housing association error/mistake
but they are allowed to rely on a mistake in court if it gets that far with
regard to getting their money back and you are not entitled to rely on it to
keep it. The situation in this respect is well settled law.
I appreciate it is a bad time as you have just been made
redundant but that is not the fault of the housing association.
Under the circumstances however it is not at all
unreasonable for you to pay them back in dribs and drabs and my suggestion
would be to offer them £50 or £100 per month. Expect them say that is not
acceptable but keep sending them cheques anyway or better still send them one
current cheque and half a dozen post dated ones.
If you do indeed owed the money, and they take you to court
and they proved to the satisfaction of the court that you do owe the money, you
will lose am sorry to have to tell you.
Does that answer the question? Can I help you any further?