When your claim has been dealt with a decision letter will be issued which advises your entitlement and how it has been calculated.
The rules for appealing the decision are different for Housing Benefit and Local Council Tax Reduction. There are also special rules for people in receipt of Pension Credit as you may need to make an appeal direct to The Pension Service.
Who can appeal?
The Claimant or any person affected by a relevant decision, for example a Landlord.
What if I disagree with a decision?
You should first ask for a written statement of reasons, which will explain the facts used to make the decision. You can request a statement of reasons online. This explanation should be requested within one month of the date on the decision letter and the request made in writing. The time that it takes for a statement of reasons to be issued to you will be added to the period of time that you have to appeal.
How do I appeal against a decision?
If you have received the statement of reasons and still disagree with the decision, you should complete the online appeals form. As part of the move to a digital service we now require all appeals to be made online. If you do not have access to the internet you can telephone us on 01785 619478 and one of our Customer Advisors will complete the form for you.
The time limit rules for Housing Benefit and Local Council Tax Reduction appeals are different. For Housing Benefit, the time limit is one month from the date on the decision letter. For Local Council Tax Reduction there is no time limit to appeal to a Local Authority.
As part of the appeal a different officer will check that the decision is correct. If the original decision is wrong, we will change it. Your original appeal rights will end and the revised decision will carry a new right of appeal.
What happens if the decision cannot be changed?
We will send you a letter explaining why we cannot change the decision. You then need to decide whether to appeal to a Tribunal.
If you appeal, for Housing Benefit the one-month time limit will start from the date of the letter confirming the decision. For Local Council Tax Reduction, you will need to contact the Valuation Tribunal Service (VTS) within two months of the date of the council’s reconsideration.
What happens next?
For Housing Benefit if we are unable to change the original decision and you still disagree with our decision you will need to write to us within one month of the date of the decision and request that the matter is passed to HM courts and Tribunal Service stating your reasons why you disagree with the decision. Your appeal and the Councils submission will be sent to the Tribunal Service within 28 days or as soon as is reasonably practicable thereafter. The Tribunal Service will contact you with further instructions and a hearing date.
For Local Council Tax Reduction, you will need to contact the VTS directly within two months of the date of the Councils reconsideration to make your appeal. These must be sent to the regional office of the Valuation Tribunal, not the Council:
Council Tax Reduction Team
Valuation Tribunals Service
120 Leman Street
London E1 8EU
Where are the VTS hearings held?
Housing Benefit hearings are held at North Staffs Justice Centre or remotely via video conferencing. Local Council Tax Reduction hearings are held at local venues or remotely via video conferencing.
What are Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS)?
HMCTS is an agency of the Ministry of Justice (MoJ). It is responsible for hearing appeals on all Social Security matters.
What is the Valuation Tribunals Service (VTS)?
VTS is an independent agency that hears appeals against Councils’ decisions on the amount of Council Tax payable.
Can I make a late appeal?
For Housing Benefit an appeal should usually be made within one month of the date of the decision, however the maximum period for accepting a late appeal is 13 months after the date of the original decision. A late Housing Benefit appeal may be accepted if there are special circumstances why you could not submit your appeal within one month or the absolute time limit of 13 months. If you submit a late appeal you should include an explanation why you could not appeal within one month or 13 months. A legally qualified panel member from HMCTS will decide whether your appeal can be accepted, but HMCTS will not accept a late appeal if the only reason is that you misunderstood the law.
A late Local Council Tax Reduction appeal can be made directly to the VTS, and the Tribunal President will decide whether it can be accepted.
What happens at the tribunal?
Housing Benefit appeals are heard by a legally qualified Judge of the First-tier Tribunal, and may include another person with financial qualifications. If you request an oral hearing, you will be asked to attend the hearing and may be asked questions. You will also be able to ask questions yourself. If you prefer, you can take someone with you to represent you.
Local Council Tax Reduction appeals are heard by a Valuation Tribunal, a three-person panel assisted by a clerk. A representative from the Council may also be present.
If you cannot attend your hearing, you must inform the Tribunals Service straight away. If you do not, your appeal may be heard in your absence. If you have asked for a paper hearing, you will not have to attend.
Tribunals look at the law that applies to your case and cannot deal with complaints against the Council.
How do I find out the outcome?
Whether you have an oral or paper hearing you will be sent a decision notice explaining the Tribunal’s decision. A copy will also be sent to the Council.
What if I disagree with the tribunal’s decision?
For Housing Benefit, you may be able to appeal to the Upper Tribunal, but only on a point of law. For Local Council Tax Reduction, further appeals are by judicial review in the High Court. Your decision letter from the Tribunal will tell you what to do if you are unhappy with the decision.