The Housing Benefit and Council Tax (Decision and Appeals) Regulations 2001 state that:
- any 'person affected' by a relevant decision can ask the Council to revise its decision
- a person affected can appeal against the Council's decision to an independent appeal tribunal
A relevant decision is any matter concerning a claim for benefit, e.g.
- the amount of benefit payable
- the rent eligible for benefit
- the calculation of a claimant's income
- the recovery of an overpayment
Some decisions, mainly administrative decisions, do not carry a right of appeal. You will be notified if the matter you are disputing does not carry the right of appeal.
An appeal means that a Tribunal, independent of the Council and the Department of Work and Pensions, will consider the Council's decision.
Who is a "person affected"?
A "person affected" is:
- A claimant
- Someone acting on behalf of the claimant who is appointed by the Courts.
- Someone who the Council agrees is appointed to act on behalf of the claimant.
- A landlord - but only in matters relating to whom payment of benefit is to be made.
- An agent - but only in matters relating to whom payment of benefit is to be made.
- Any person from whom, it is determined, an overpayment is to be recovered.
This means that only the claimant can ask the Council to revise a decision concerning the calculation of a claimant's entitlement; and that the landlord or agent can only ask the Council to revise a decision about whether payment should be made to a landlord and whether the decision to recover an overpayment from a landlord or agent has been correctly made.
What should someone do if they are not happy with the Council's decision?
You can query the Council's decision and request further information about the decision. The Council will give an explanation, sometimes over the phone. If you are still not happy then you can appeal or request a revision of the Council's decision.
How to ask for a reconsideration?
The person affected must write to the Council within one calendar month of the date on the notification letter.
In exceptional circumstances the Council will extend the time limit for requesting a decision to be revised. The person affected must write to the Council giving reasons for not requesting a revision at the appropriate time. The Council will not consider a late request for a revision where the request is made 13 months after the decision notice was first issued.
Will the council notify the person of the outcome of a request for a reconsideration?
After reconsidering its decision the Council will put in writing whether the decision has been changed or whether it will stay the same. The Council may request further information before it makes a final decision. The information must be provided within one month of the request.
Statement of reasons
You can ask the Council to provide a written Statement of Reasons. The Statement of Reasons does not affect your right of appeal. The statement will explain how the Council reached its decision. The time taken for the Council to provide the Statement may extend the time limit for requesting a revision or seeking an appeal to the Tribunal.
Asking the Tribunals Service to look at the Council's decision
You may request that a First Tier Tribunal consider the Council's decision. The request must be in writing and must be received by the Council within one month of the date on the decision notification letter.
In exceptional circumstances the time limit for requesting an appeal can be extended. The person affected must write to the Council giving grounds for not appealing at the appropriate time. A request for an extension of the time limit will not be considered if it is made 13 months after the notice of decision was issued.
Who attends the Tribunal?
The Tribunals Service will write to inform of the date, time and place of the hearing. You will also be asked if you want to attend or whether you would prefer the Tribunal to consider your case without you being present, this is called a 'paper hearing'. Current waiting times for first tier tribunals are up to ten months.
In most cases the Tribunal will consist of a Tribunal Judge who is a legally qualified person. If, however, complicated financial matters are to be considered a financially qualified person will also be present. The Clerk to the Tribunal and the Council's representative may also be present.
What if I am not happy with the Tribunal's decision?
If the Council or the person affected feels that the decision of the Tribunal is wrong in law they can seek leave to appeal to the Upper Tribunal.
- The amount of benefit payable is a matter between the Council and the claimant.
- Only the claimant can ask the Council to reconsider the amount of benefit payable.
- If the Council reduces a claimant's benefit to recover an overpayment in respect of a previous address, the current landlord cannot appeal against the determination to recover that overpayment.