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Challenging a Housing Benefit decision

If you think a Housing Benefit decision is wrong, you may be able to: - Ask for an explanation - Have the decision looked at again - Appeal against the decision This guide takes you through these options for England, Scotland and Wales.

1. What are my options?

If you think a Housing Benefit decision is wrong, you may be able to:

  • Ask for an explanation
  • Have the decision looked at again
  • Appeal against the decision

This guide takes you through these options.

Applies to: England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales

Advice: If you need advice about a benefits or tax credits decision, you should contact a benefits adviser. You can use our Find an Adviser tool to find a local one.

2. Ask for an explanation

You should ask for an explanation of the reasons for the decision if you are unsure whether the decision is right or if you want more information to help you challenge the decision.

Action

England, Scotland and Wales: Contact Local Authority

Northern Ireland Tenant: Contact Housing Executive

Northern Ireland Homeowner: Contact Land and Property Services 

Use the contact details on your decision letter and ask them to explain the decision.

You should also tell them why you think the decision is wrong as they may be able to change it without needing to go any further.

If your first language isn't English, they should provide an interpreter to explain the decision.

Tip

If you telephone your local authority or Housing Executive / Land and Property Services (Northern Ireland), make a note of:

  • the date and time you call
  • who you speak to
  • what is said

This may come in useful if you want to try to get the decision changed.

Time limits

You should ask for an explanation of the reasons for the decision as soon as possible, as there are strict time limits if you want to go on to challenge the decision.

Important

If you request a written explanation of the reasons for the decision within one month of the date on the decision letter, the time limit to challenge the decision will be extended. The new limit will be:

  • One month and 14 days from the decision date (if the written reasons are provided within one month of the decision date); otherwise
  • 14 days from the date the written reasons are provided.

This only applies if the reasons were not provided in the decision letter you received. If you are in any doubt, stick to the usual time limits.

Possible outcomes

An explanation will usually be provided by telephone, but must be in writing if you requested a written explanation.

If you ask for a written explanation for the decision you will usually receive this within 14 days.

After hearing or receiving the explanation, you may agree with the decision, or you may think the decision is wrong.

If you think the decision is wrong, for example, because it was based on information that was wrong or they did not have all the information, you should tell them. They may be able to change the decision and send you a new decision letter without you needing to go any further, or they can explain what you can do next.

If you still think the decision is wrong

You can have the decision looked at again, or you may be able to appeal against the decision, see the next page for more details

3. Have the decision looked at again

You can ask the benefit office to look at the decision again if you think the decision is wrong. You may hear this referred to as a ‘reconsideration’, ‘revision’, or ‘review’ of the decision.  However, with Housing Benefit you are allowed to go straight to an appeal.

How do I ask for the decision to be looked at again?

Write to your local authority or the Housing Executive (Northern Ireland) using the contact details on your decision letter and ask them to look at the decision again.
 
You should tell them in detail why you think the decision is wrong including any relevant dates.

You should send the letter recorded delivery so there is a record of when it was sent and also keep a copy of the letter.
 
A different decision maker will look at the decision and decide whether it should be changed.

If you are asked for more information or evidence, you should provide this as soon as possible and let them know if there will be a delay.

Time limits

You have one month from the date on the decision letter to ask for the decision to be looked at again.

You may get longer if you ask for an explanation of the decision to be sent to you.

If you missed the deadline for reasons out of your control, such as illness or bereavement, you may still be able to have your decision looked at again.

If you have missed the time limit, you should explain why when you contact your local authority housing office.

Possible Outcomes

When the decision has been looked at again, if they decide that the decision is wrong the decision will be changed and you will be sent a new decision letter.

If they decide that they can’t change the decision, they will write to you to confirm this and tell you if you have a right to appeal.

If you still think the decision is wrong:

You may be able to appeal against the decision, find out more on the next page.

 

Updated December 2017

4. Appeal against the decision

An appeal is a way of telling your Local Authority or the Housing Executive (Northern Ireland) that you think a decision is wrong.

When you appeal a decision, it will be looked at by an independent tribunal, which is completely separate from your Local Authority or the Housing Executive (Northern Ireland).  You can appeal a Housing Benefit decision without having to ask for a reconsideration first.

Action

You must make your appeal in writing.

If you appeal on the official appeal form, this can help you to give all the information that is needed.

Your local authority or the Housing Executive (Northern Ireland) may have their own appeal form that you can use.

You should contact your local authority or the Housing Executive (Northern Ireland) to find out how to make an appeal in your area.
 
If you decide to appeal by writing to your local authority or Housing Executive (Northern Ireland) make sure you include the following details:

  • Your name and contact address
  • Your National Insurance number
  • The date of the decision you are appealing against
  • The decision you are appealing against
  • Why you think the decision is wrong
  • Your signature and the date.

If you don't include all these details your appeal may have to be returned to you.

Time limit

You have one calendar month from the date of the decision. The date will be shown at the top of your decision letter.

You may get longer if you ask for an explanation of the decision to be sent to you.

If you ask for the decision to be looked at again before you appeal, you have one month from the date of your most recent decision.

Late appeal

If you missed the appeal deadline for reasons out of your control, such as illness or bereavement, you may be given more time to appeal.

When you appeal, you should explain why it is late.

If your local authority or the Housing Executive (Northern Ireland) doesn’t think you have a good reason for appealing late, they will pass your request to the Tribunal Service or Appeals Service (Northern Ireland) who will decide if your appeal can be accepted or if it is too late to be heard.

 

Possible outcomes

Look again at the decision

 

If they haven’t already, a different decision maker will look at the decision and decide whether it should be changed.

If they decide that they can’t change the original decision, your appeal will carry on.

If they decide that the original decision is wrong, they will change the decision and send you a new decision letter:

  • If the new decision makes you better off your appeal will stop. You can appeal this new decision if you think it is wrong
  • If the new decision does not make you better off, your appeal will carry on, but now it will be against the new decision. 

Send appeal on to Tribunal Service or Appeals Service (Northern Ireland)

If your appeal carries on, your appeal form will be sent to HM Courts and Tribunals Service, who run the First Tier Tribunal. The benefit office will also include their response. This explains:

  • How they came to their decision
  • What information they used
  • What benefit law they based their decision on.

The First Tier Tribunal

The First Tier Tribunal will decide if you are legally entitled to a benefit and can change a decision if they think it is wrong.
 
The tribunal could make a decision that leaves you worse off so it is often best to seek advice before deciding whether to appeal.

The tribunal cannot:

  • Change the law
  • Deal with administrative complaints, like delay or poor service (see complaints about your claim)
  • Consider changes of circumstances which have taken place since the decision was made - you may be able to make a new benefit or tax credit claim.


For information about what happens when your appeal is received by the Tribunal Service (England, Scotland and Wales), or Appeals Service (Northern Ireland), see Turn2us information on First Tier Tribunal Appeals

 Updated: December 2017