When we deal with your application for Housing Benefit and Council Tax reduction we will send you a decision letter, which will show the information we have used to work out your entitlement. You should check this letter carefully.
If you want to know more about why we have made the decision, or think that something may be incorrect, you should get in touch with us and ask us to explain it. You can contact us by phone, in writing or by making an appointment at one of our offices. We will send you a letter explaining how and why we made the decision on your claim. This is called a Statement of Reasons.
If you want to know more about our decision, please get in touch with us within one month of the date on your decision letter. If you ask us for more information after this time we will still explain the decision to you but we may not be able to look at the decision again if you think that it is wrong.
If you disagree with a decision we have made in the assessment of your award of Housing Benefit, you can challenge this in a number of ways.
- You can ask us to look at the decision again - this is called a reconsideration.
- You can submit an appeal, in writing, giving the reasons that you disagree with the decision - this is called an appeal.
There are some decisions that you cannot ask us to look at again and these would include the Local Housing Allowance rate that applies in the area you would like to live in.
Request a reconsideration
You can ask us to look again at a decision we have made about your application or award of Housing Benefit.
Your request for a reconsideration must be made in writing. We have an electronic form which you can complete online:
You can also visit any of our Council Offices and we can help you to make your request.
When you request a reconsideration, you must tell us what you think is wrong with the decision we have made on your application and it would be helpful if you could provide any additional evidence you think supports your request.
How to make an appeal
In some cases, you may feel that our decision is incorrect, even after we have reconsidered it. In these cases, the next stage is to ask for an independent body called the Tribunals Service to look at the decision and confirm whether it is correct or incorrect.
Your request for an appeal must be made in writing but this could be a letter from yourself, or someone like the Citizens Advice Bureau, on your behalf.
You can also visit any of our Council Offices and we can help you to write your appeal. We cannot write your appeal for you however, so you may wish to seek independent advice if you would like help or support with making your appeal.
Any appeal you make must be signed by you, or if someone is helping you with your appeal, we would need evidence that you had authorised them to deal with your appeal.
If, prior to your appeal, you have asked us to look again at our decision, you have one calendar month to make an appeal, from the date of our reconsideration letter to you, even if the decision has not changed.
If you have not asked us to look again at our decision but wish to appeal, you must make your appeal within a month of the date of the decision notification letter we have sent you.
The Tribunals Service may be able to consider an appeal made outside this time limit if there are special circumstances. They cannot consider an appeal if it is made more than 13 months from the date of the original decision notification letter. To find out more about this, visit the Tribunals Service website.
What happens at the Tribunals Service?
The Tribunals Service will decide your appeal at a tribunal hearing. The tribunal is independent of the Council. The tribunal judge will usually be an expert on the issues involved in your appeal and will be legally qualified.
If your case is passed to the Tribunals Service you will be sent a copy of the Council's case. The Tribunals Service will send you a form asking you whether you wish your case to be dealt with:
- in writing; or
- by attending in person.
You are allowed 14 days to return your form. If you do not return the form your appeal will stop.
If you choose to attend the tribunal you will be able to deal with any questions or issues that arise. People who go to their hearing usually do better than those who do not.
At the hearing, the Tribunals Service will look at the evidence, the law and the circumstances at the time we made the decision in order to decide whether the decision is correct. They will notify you in writing of their decision. Sometimes this is on the day but in complicated cases, they may put their decision in a letter to you.
Who can make an appeal?
Anyone who is affected by the decision may appeal, including:
- The person making the claim.
- Someone who is appointed by the courts to act on behalf of the person making the claim.
- Someone who the council agrees is appointed to act on behalf of the person making the claim.
- A landlord - but only about who benefit may be paid to.
- An agent - but only about who benefit may be paid to.
- Any person from whom an overpayment is to be recovered.
Council Tax Reduction Scheme
How do I ask for a Council Tax Reduction Scheme Appeal?
You cannot appeal to the Valuation Tribunal against your council tax reduction decision unless you have already contacted us about the same issue and asked us to look again at our decision. If you have asked for us to look again at the decision and we have not contacted you within 2 months or we tell you that we cannot change our decision you can then contact the Valuation Tribunal directly to appeal against the decision.
What happens at the Valuation Tribunal?
The Valuation Tribunal will offer you a hearing so that you can explain your point of view on the matter in question. Although the Tribunal is independent of the Council, it will use the Council's Reduction Scheme to make its decision.
The Valuation Tribunal Service will send you a form to ask you whether you want to attend a hearing. You will need to return this form to them for the hearing to go ahead.
What if I am unhappy with how my claim has been handled?
If you make a complaint to the Council in writing, by email, on the telephone or in person, someone will reply to you within 14 days. If you are not happy with this response you can ask for their manager to respond to you. If you are still unhappy, the Council's chief executive will look at your complaint and the responses that you have received and respond accordingly.
If you are still unhappy you can then refer your complaint to the Local Government Ombudsman. We can offer you more advice about this when you contact us.