If you think your benefit is wrong, you can contact the office by telephone, write to us or call into customer services.
You can ask us to explain the reasons for the decision and/or
If you want more information to help you decide what to do, you can ask us for a written statement of reasons for the decision if we have not already sent you one
You ask for a written statement of reasons within one month of the date of the decision letter, not the date you contact the office.
We will send the written statement of reasons to you as soon as possible.
If you still disagree with the decision, you can:
Ask us to look at our decision again, or
Appeal against the decision
If you asked for a written statement of reasons the one month time limit which you have to ask us to look at your claim again or to appeal against a decision will be extended by the time we took to send the written statement of reasons.
The Appeals Service may not be able to accept your appeal if it is received more than one month after the date on the decision letter.
They can only accept a late appeal if there are special circumstances that caused the delay.
These could be death of a member of your family, a serious illness, absence from abroad, a postal strike or some other special circumstance.
You should include an explanation of why you could not appeal within one month.
A legally qualified tribunal member will look at the reasons you have given for not appealing in time and will decide if your appeal can be accepted.
They look at:
Whether there were special circumstances for the delay
The length of time since you received the decision
Whether it is in the interests of justice that your appeal is accepted, and
Whether your appeal is reasonably likely to succeed
The Appeals Service cannot accept a late appeal if the only reason is that you misunderstood the law, or interpretation of the law has changed since the decision was made.
Your appeal cannot be accepted if you appeal 13 months or more after the date on the decision letter.
What can I appeal against?
You can appeal against any decision about housing and council tax benefit made by the council.
This includes the level of benefit being paid and how the benefit was calculated (the assessment of income, capital, the income of the non dependants).
What does the tribunal look at?
The tribunal can only look at the evidence, the law and the circumstance at the time we made the decision that you are appealing against.
The tribunal cannot look at changes of circumstances that happened after we made the decision.
If a change of circumstances could affect your benefit or means you could claim again, you should report the change straight away. Do not wait for the appeal tribunal hearing. Contact us using the details shown on your decision letter.
What happens at a tribunal hearing?
Tribunals are made up of at least two members neither of whom is from the local authority
Tribunal members will be experts on the issues involved in your appeal
All tribunals have a legally qualified member to help the tribunal apply the law correctly
Tribunals may also include someone with financial qualifications
The tribunal will listen to the facts of the case from both the claimant and the council.
The tribunal will either uphold the council's original decision or make a new decision.
All decisions are made in accordance with housing/council tax benefit law.
What happens next?
A local taxation officer will check your claim thoroughly, taking into account anything you have said in your letter, and may contact you for more details.
This process is known as an internal review.
This will not be the person who made the original decision on your case.
The officer will then either:
Work out your benefit again (if the decision is wrong we will change it and we will send you a letter telling you what the new decision is), or
Write and confirm the original decision explaining their reasons and how the rules apply in your case
If the decision cannot be changed, we will send you a letter telling you that we cannot change it. The letter will confirm the original decision.
The letter will also tell you if you can appeal against the original decision.
If you can appeal, the one month time limit starts again from the date of the letter confirming the decision.
What if I want to appeal against a decision?
If you are still unhappy with the outcome of the internal review you appeal to the Appeal Service. The Appeals Service is an independent tribunal.
The letter telling you the outcome of the internal review will tell you if you can appeal.
To appeal you must write to the office telling us about anything you want the independent tribunal to consider.
Your request must be made in writing and must be made within one month of the date printed on the letter you receive from the local taxation officer.
If you wish to appeal you should complete an appeal form or write to the office giving your reasons for your appeal and provide any evidence to support your appeal.
What happens next?
The Appeal Service will write to you to arrange a date for your appeal to be heard.
You will be invited to attend the hearing so that you can explain the details of your appeal.
A senior local taxation officer may also be present.
You will be sent copies of the papers that the tribunal will look at.
You can speak to the tribunal yourself, or you can ask a friend or adviser to speak for you.
You must reply to all letters you receive from the Appeals Service or your appeal will be struck out (closed).
You must explain why you think your benefit is wrong. This is known as "asking for a revision of the local authorities decision".
You must contact the office within one month of the date of the decision letter.
The letter must be signed and received at the housing/council tax benefits office within the time limits specified.
If an appeal is received outside the time limits there is no further right of appeal unless there are special circumstance.
When can a landlord appeal?
A landlord can appeal:
Against any matter which is connected to the council paying housing benefit direct to him/her
Where a claimant has been overpaid and the authority wants to recover the money from the landlord
In these cases the landlord has the right to appeal in their own right as a landlord.
If the landlord employs an agent to collect his rent then the agent can appeal in the above circumstances.
The landlord/agent can also appeal about:
Whether there is an overpayment
Whether the overpayment should be recovered
A landlord is not entitled to appeal about whether a recoverable overpayment should be recovered by making deductions from the tenant's housing benefit entitlement, how much benefit is paid, dates of payments or calculation of benefit.
Who can appeal?
The following people can appeal:
The benefit claimant
An appointee dealing with a claim on the claimant's behalf if the claimant is unable to manage their affairs
A landlord or landlord's agent in certain circumstances
Any other person from whom the authority intends to recover an overpayment
If the claimant is appealing against the decision the request must be signed by the claimant.
If the representative is appealing against the decision the request must be signed by the claimant and the representative.
If the landlord is making the appeal the request must be signed by the landlord.