When you apply for Housing Benefit, we will give you a decision in writing about your claim.
If you disagree with our decision, you can challenge it. You can do this with most types of decisions where you believe that the decision is wrong. This may be because of something we did wrong or did not know about.
There are different ways in which you can challenge our decision. You can:
- ask us to explain our decision
- ask for the decision to be looked at again
- ask for an independent Appeal tribunal to look at our decision
You will need to be clear about what you want us to do.
Explain our decision
You can ask us to give you a statement of reasons to explain how we made our decision. You will need to write to us requesting this and we will send you our reasons in writing.
What should you do if you want us to look at your decision again?
You must write to us within 1 month of the date on the decision letter. You must be clear about why we should reconsider our decision and provide any relevant supporting evidence that might help.
If there are special circumstances that mean you cannot write to us within 1 month, you must contact us to explain why. We may still be able to look at our decision again.
What happens when the Council looks at the decision again?
The decision will be checked by a different officer to the one who made the original decision.
We will then write to you and tell you if we have changed our original decision. If the decision cannot be changed our letter will confirm why.
If you still disagree, you can ask for your case to be considered by an independent tribunal.
You want to appeal, what should you do?
You have 1 month from the date of the letter telling you about the original decision - or the outcome of the reconsideration - to submit your appeal.
A late appeal may be accepted if you have special circumstances, such as a death in the family or serious illness. However it won't be accepted if more than 13 months have passed.
How should you appeal?
- be made in writing
- be signed by the “person affected”, usually the claimant
- include what part of the decision you think is wrong
- include the reasons why you think the decision is wrong
Who can appeal?
Any person affected can submit an appeal. A person affected can be either the claimant, their appointee or in some cases a landlord. All appeals must be made to the Council in writing.
What happens when you appeal?
An Appeals Officer ( but not the officer who made the original decision) will look at your case.
If the decision can be changed in your favour, it will be. If the Appeals Officer believes that the original decision is correct, your appeal will be forwarded to HM Courts & Tribunal Service for a Hearing.
What happens at the hearing?
The hearing will be before an independent tribunal – which is usually one person. They are normally a Barrister or Solicitor and are completely independent of the Council. You will have the opportunity to put your case. If you have supporting evidence it is a good idea to send these to the Tribunal Service beforehand. You can take a friend with you, or a representative who can speak for you, but there are no costs awarded. This is the case even if you win.
What happens after the hearing?
Both you and the Council will be notified of the Tribunal’s decision.
If the decision is in your favour, the Council will have the opportunity to challenge this at the Upper Tribunal. We will tell you if this is the case. If the Council decides not to challenge, your benefit will be reassessed and any benefit due will be paid to you as soon as possible.
If the decision is not in your favour you can ask the Tribunal Service for a statement of reasons. You must do this within 1 month of the decision.
If you do not agree with the Tribunal’s decision you may take your appeal to the Upper Tribunal and your notification from the Tribunal Service will tell you how to do this.
Council Tax Reduction Scheme
From 01 April 2013, the Local Council Tax Reduction Scheme replaced Council Tax Benefit. This is a reduction in the amount of Council Tax you have to pay and not a benefit payment. If you disagree with your Council Tax Reduction (CTR), you may start a challenge under section 16 of the Local Government Finance Act 1992. This needs to be done at any point after receiving confirmation of CTR.
Council Tax payers will be notified in writing of their reductions under the Council Tax Reduction Scheme.
What should you do if you are not happy with our decision?
A Council Tax payer may request the Council reconsider its decision at any point after receiving confirmation of CTR. You must advise the Council in writing, stating the reasons why you disagree with the Council's calculation. Council Tax payers can only appeal if the Council has:
- miscalculated their liability or
- misapplied the rules of the Council Tax Reduction Scheme
Your request for reconsideration must include:
- your full name and address
- the address that the reconsideration request relates to
- the name of the Council and the date on which you are requesting a reconsideration
- the date on which you were notified of the reduction decision by the Council
- why you disagree (wish to appeal against)
- the reasons why you consider that the decision or calculation made by the Council was incorrect
- where you have also made a Housing Benefit appeal to the Tribunal Service and the appeal raises common issues of fact, a statement to that effect
The Council will then look at your claim and write to you and tell you whether we have changed our original decision. If the decision cannot be changed our letter will confirm why. If the decision is not changed in your favour, you have a right to appeal to the Valuation Tribunal for England within 2 months of the date of the reconsideration.
The Council must respond to you within two months of receiving a challenge to the CTR calculation.
When can the taxpayer appeal to the Valuation Tribunal?
Before appealing to the Valuation Tribunal for England (VTE), you must have written to the Council explaining why you are challenging the calculation of CTR. This gives the Council an opportunity to resolve the matter.
If you still disagree with the Council’s decision, you can appeal to the VTE within 2 months of receiving a written response from the Council.
If the Council fails to respond to your challenge within 2 months, you can appeal directly to the VTE. This needs to be within 4 months of sending your challenge to the Council's decision.
The VTE cannot hear appeals about the design and contents of the Council Tax Reduction Scheme - only how the scheme applies to your circumstances.
If you believe that the scheme is unlawful then the remedy is to apply for judicial review in the High Court.
If you are not happy with the outcome of the Valuation Tribunal Appeal a further appeal can be made to the High Court. This must be within 4 weeks of the date the decision notice is given. Where written reasons have been requested, within 2 weeks of the provision of those reasons, if later.
Please note that there is no recourse to the Upper Tribunal with regards to Council Tax Reduction Scheme appeals.