Appealing housing benefit decisions
Options available to claimants who wish to challenge a decision on housing benefit.
Every decision about housing benefit must be notified to each 'person affected' by it. This means:
an appointee when the claimant is unable to act on her/his own behalf
the landlord or agent in relation to a decision not to make direct payments
anyone, including the landlord, from whom the authority decides to recover an overpayment.
Only a 'person affected' can ask the local authority to reconsider its decision, and/or request an appeal.
Reconsideration of a decision
When the local authority receives a request for reconsideration, it must reconsider the decision in question and notify the person affected of the outcome. If s/he is dissatisfied with this, s/he has one further month in which to make an application for an appeal. This period can be extended if there are special circumstances.
Appeal against a decision
When the local authority receives an application for an appeal, it first reconsiders the decision in question (unless it has already done so). If it is able to alter the decision in the applicant's favour, the appeal 'lapses' (does not go ahead) - even if the applicant has not received everything s/he asked for in the appeal. Otherwise, the authority sends the appeal to the First-tier tribunal. There may be an oral hearing, in which case the applicant and/or her/his representative can attend, or a paper hearing, where the decision will be made on the documentation alone. The tribunal's decision is issued in writing and is binding. If either the person affected or the authority is dissatisfied with the outcome, either can make a further appeal to the Upper tribunal, but such an appeal can be only on a point of law. The First-tier and Upper tribunals are independent of the local authority, and are administered by HM Courts and Tribunals Service.
The tribunal rules incorporate a duty on all parties to co-operate with the First-tier Tribunal generally. The overriding objective of the rules is to enable the Tribunal to deal with cases 'justly and fairly'; other overriding objectives include ensuring, as far as practicable, that the parties are able to participate fully in the proceedings, and the avoidance of delay. In a case where an agrophobic claimant could not attend a hearing, it was held that it was not in the interests of justice to hear the case in his absence even though his representative was present and the rules allow for a case to go ahead in the absence of a party.
Where the Tribunal directs that a person attend a hearing then that party is under a duty to obey that direction and must attend the hearing. If this is not possible, the party should apply to the Tribunal as soon as possible to amend, suspend or set aside its direction as appropriate. Failure to comply with a direction by the Tribunal could result in the Tribunal taking such action as it considers appropriate, which may include striking out the party's case.
An appeal must normally be made within one calendar month of the date of notification of the decision. If no written explanation was provided with the decision then the applicant has one month from the date of notification of that decision to request a written 'statement of reasons'. If a statement of reasons is requested, the applicant has 14 days to appeal after:
the expiry of the month from the original date of notification, or
the date the written statement of reasons is provided if this is later.
Late appeals may be accepted if there are special circumstances and/or if it is in the interests of justice to do so. However, applications outside the absolute time limit of 13 months from the date of notification of the decision cannot be allowed. The First-tier tribunal has no power to extend this time limit.
reg.90(2), reg.90(3) and reg.90(4) The Housing Benefit Regulations 2006 SI 2006/213; reg.71(2), reg.71(3) and reg.71(4) The Housing Benefit (Persons who have attained the qualifying age for state pension credit) Regulations 2006 SI 2006/214
The Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit (Decisions and Appeals) Regulations 2001 SI 2001/1002 as amended
Decision of the Social Security Commissioner CH/0507/2006
See HB/CTB Circular A21/2008 and HB/CTB Bulletin G23/2008 Appendix 2 for further information on the new appeals system.
s.11(1) Tribunals, Courts and Enforcement Act 2007
rules 38 and 39 The Tribunal Procedure (First-tier Tribunal) (Social Entitlement Chamber) Rules 2008 SI 2008/2685
rule 21(2) The Tribunal Procedure (Upper Tribunal) Rules 2008 SI 2008/2698
reg.11 The Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit (Decisions and Appeals) Regulations 2001 SI 2001/1002, amended by The Social Security (Miscellaneous Amendments) (No 5) Regulations 2008 SI 2008/2667