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What if I disagree with the way the council works out my benefit? Can I appeal?

What to do if you think the decision about your housing benefit or Local Council Tax Support is wrong.

If you think the decision about your housing benefit or Local Council Tax Support is wrong:

Ask for an explanation

Ask us to explain the decision in more detail and we will write to you in 10 days explaining the decision.

Dispute a decision about your benefit

If you disagree with the decision we will look again at the decision and put it right if it is wrong or, explain why it is correct.

Appeal against a decision about your benefit

If you wish to appeal to an independent tribunal, we will need to write a report and send you and the tribunal a copy. We will ask the tribunal to arrange a hearing to consider the case.

Do you want more information about a decision?

  • If you have received a letter telling you about a housing benefit or Local Council Tax Support decision and want more information about that decision, contact us about the decision straight away.
  • You must do this straight away because if you want us to look at the decision again, or if you want to appeal against it. There are time limits within which you must act.
  • You must do this in writing, in person at the Revenue and Payments Services counter or on the telephone. Contact details can be found below.

When you contact us

You have a choice:

  • You can ask us to explain the reasons for the decision verbally, or
  • You can ask us for a written statement of reasons for the decision if we have not already sent you one. You must do this within one month of the date on the decision letter. We will send the statement of reasons to you in 10 days.
  • If you still disagree with the decision, you can:
    • ask us to reconsider the decision, or
    • appeal against the decision
  • If you asked us for a written statement of reasons, the one month time limit that you have in order to ask us to look at a decision again, or to appeal against it will be extended by the time we took to send you the statement of reasons.

Do you want us to look at the decision again?

  • If you have received a letter telling you about a housing benefit and Local Council Tax Support decision or we have explained our decision either verbally or in writing and you still think it is wrong you can ask us to look at the decision again.
  • You must let the housing benefit section know in writing within one month of the date on the letter that you want us to reconsider the decision. If you asked for a verbal explanation first, the one month is still counted from the date of the decision letter. If you ask for a written statement of reasons you will have one month from the date of the decision letter, plus the time we took to send you the statement of reasons.
  • If there are special circumstances that mean you cannot contact us within one month, we may still be able to change the decision. You must tell us what the special circumstances are when you contact us.
  • If you ask us to look at a decision again, more than one month after the date of the decision letter, and you do not have special circumstances we may still be able to change the decision. However this will usually only be from the date you ask us to look at the decision again.

What happens next?

  • When you ask us to look at a decision again, we will check that the decision is correct.
  • Where possible, a different member of staff will usually do this.
  • If the decision is wrong we will change it.

If the decision can be changed

  • If you asked us to look at our decision again, within one month, or you had special circumstances that meant you could not, we will change the decision from the date of the original decision.
  • If you asked us to look at our decision again after one month and did not have special circumstances, the decision will usually be changed from the date on which you asked us to look at the decision again.
  • We will send you a letter telling you what the new decision is.
  • If you do not agree with the new decision, you can ask us to look at it again.

If the decision cannot be changed

  • If the decision cannot be changed, we will send you a letter telling you that we cannot change it. The letter will confirm and explain the original decision.
  • The letter will tell you whether you may be able to appeal against the original decision.

Do you want to appeal against the decision?

The In dependant Tribunal will decide your appeal at a tribunal hearing. The tribunal is made up of people who are not from the Council or Department for Work and Pensions.

For housing benefit

  • Complete all the relevant boxes on the form. You can get help from an advice centre or a solicitor. Details of where you can seek independent advice are listed at the end of this leaflet.
  • Write down the reasons for your appeal. This is important because the tribunal does not have to look at anything you do not mention. Make sure that you sign the form.
  • Send the form back to the Council within one month of the date on the decision letter.

For Local Council Tax Support

What the tribunal looks at

  • The tribunal can only look at the evidence, the law and the circumstances at the time we made the decision you are appealing against.
  • The tribunal cannot look at changes of circumstances that happened after we made the decision.

Late appeals

  • The Tribunals Service may not be able to accept the appeal if it is received more than one month after the date on the decision letter.
  • A late appeal cannot be accepted if you appeal 13 months or more after the date on the decision letter.

Appeal tribunals

  • Tribunals are made up of up of one or more members none of whom is from the local authority.

After you have made an appeal

For housing benefit

  • We will send your appeal with an explanation of the law and facts used to make the decision, to the Tribunals Service. We will also include any other relevant papers.
  • A copy of the appeal papers will be sent to you and your representative if you have one. You should read the appeal papers very carefully. If you do not understand something, ask us, an advice centre or solicitor to explain.
  • The Tribunals Service will also contact you regarding your appeal.
  • The form also asks you questions about how you want your appeal to be looked at. You can choose between a face to face and a paper hearing. If you choose to attend a face to face hearing you will be able to deal with any questions or issues that arise.

For Local Council Tax Support

  • There is a new type of appeal for the Valuation Tribunal and the process is being developed. More information will be available soon.

Expenses

  • The Tribunals Service may pay some of your expenses for going to the tribunal, for example travel costs. If you want more information about expenses, contact the Tribunals Service office handling your appeal.

The result

  • You will be given a decision notice explaining the tribunal's decision as soon as possible after the appeal hearing. A copy will also be sent to the office that made the original decision.

Other organisations that can help

You can get free independent advice from your local Citizens Advice Bureau. These advice centres can help you understand the reason for decisions about housing benefit and Local Council Tax Support. They can give independent advice, ask questions for you and help you fill in forms or to write a letter. They may be able to help you present your case to the tribunal that hears your appeal.

Guildford Citizens Advice Bureau
15-21 Haydon Place
Guildford
Surrey
GU1 4LL
Tel: 01483 506886 (appointment line)
Fax: 01483 450185
Citizens Advice Bureau - Guildford branch

Ash Citizens Advice Bureau
Ash Hill Road
Ash
Guildford
Surrey
GU12 5DP
Tel: 01252 315569
Fax: 01252 316612
Citizens Advice Bureau - Ash branch

Solicitors

You may be able to get advice from a solicitor under the Legal Advice and Assistance Scheme. If you decide to use a solicitor, the scheme does not cover the cost of a solicitor to assist you at a hearing. You cannot get any money for things like solicitor's fees from the council or the Tribunals Service.

Details of local solicitors are contained in the Community Legal Services Directory available at any of the above CAB offices or any local solicitor's office.