Once you have received your notification letter telling you how we have calculated your benefit, you can ask us to take another look at your claim if you disagree with the decision that has been made. You can request:
- A further explanation of the decision.
- A review of the decision, stating your grounds.
- An appeal against the decision, stating your grounds.
Any such request must be made in writing within 1-month from the date of notification. You must also clearly state the date of the decision(s) that you are disputing and sign your letter.
Grounds to dispute a decision
The most common grounds tend to be the following:
- A dispute over the start date of a claim.
- The Income or capital taken into account within the assessment.
- A dispute regarding overpaid Housing/Council Tax Benefit.
- You feel that a mistake has been made within your benefit calculation.
- A dispute regarding the refusal of a backdating request.
Are all decisions appealable?
No. In some cases, there is no right of appeal against a Housing/Council Tax Benefit decision that we make, and we will write and let you know whether this is the case. For example, there is no right of appeal to an Independent Tribunal (The Tribunals Service), regarding the Rent Officer's valuation of your accommodation or the Local Housing Allowance rate that has been applied in your benefit assessment.
How to appeal
All requests for either a "further explanation" of the decision, a “review of the decision", or an "appeal against the decision", Must be submitted in writing, within 1 calendar month of the date of the notification letter.
You Must state within your letter:
- The date of the benefit decision you are disputing
- The grounds for your appeal, (providing any supporting evidence that you feel is relevant)
- Sign and date your letter
In some cases we may be able to accept a late appeal, where it is being submitted outside of the 1-month dispute period. If you are lodging your written appeal outside this timeframe, you will need to include in your letter the reasons why you were unable to submit it within 1-month of you being notified of the decision. You should also outline the grounds for your appeal.
The absolute time limit in which a late appeal can be considered is 13 months after the date you were notified of the decision.
We will write and let you know if we can accept your appeal, as this will depend on whether or not you have special circumstances for submitting it late. If we are unable to accept it, we will write to you and explain why and also send it to "The Tribunals Service", who will make the final decision as to whether your appeal can be treated as made on time.
What happens next with my appeal?
Once we receive your letter, this will be passed to our "Appeals Section", and you will be sent an acknowledgement. Our Appeals Section will then send a reply to you, normally within 6 – 8 weeks, outlining the results of the reconsideration. You will be advised whether the original decision has stayed the same or changed, and the reasons behind the decision. If the decision which you disagree with does not carry the right of appeal to an Independent Tribunal you will be notified of this.
What happens if my appeal is unsuccessful?
Where you have appealed a decision, and we have been unable to amend it, in some instances, there is a further right of appeal to an Independent Tribunal, which is not part of the Council. You will be notified in writing whether your appeal is to be referred to "The Tribunals Service", (A Branch of the Department for Constitutional Affairs who now hear Housing/Council Tax Benefit Appeals). If this is the case, we will prepare a written submission, which outlines our reasons for disallowing your appeal, and this will be sent to both "The Tribunals Service", and to yourself, with further details of how to pursue your appeal.
Do I have to attend a Tribunal Hearing?
No. "The Tribunals Service" will write to you with further information about your appeal. You will have the opportunity to either attend an oral hearing of your appeal or you can opt for a paper hearing. You can also appoint a representative to act on your behalf in matters relating to your appeal.
What happens if I have been issued with a notice seeking possession from my landlord, and am awaiting a decision to be made regarding a Housing Benefit appeal?You should within your appeal outline the circumstances, and provide written confirmation from your landlord, that eviction proceedings have been instigated against you. We will then look at your appeal as soon as possible, upon receipt of this information, and let you know whether we can change the benefit decision you are disputing. Where we are unable to change it, we will prepare a written submission, which will be forwarded to both "The Tribunals Service" and to you. In these circumstances, we will ask "The Tribunals Service" to consider fast-tracking your appeal hearing.
What happens if my appeal succeeds at Tribunal?
Where the appeal is found in your favour at the Tribunal Hearing, the Local Authority will amend the original benefit decision accordingly. The only instance where this may not be possible is where the Local Authority feels that there may be grounds for challenging the legal basis of the decision.
Is there a further right of appeal against the Tribunal's decision?
If your appeal fails at the Tribunal Hearing, this is generally the end of the appeals process. However, if you or your representative considers that the decision is incorrect in law, there may be grounds for requesting a copy of the First Tier Tribunal's "Statement of Reasons", with a view to seeking "Leave to Appeal" to the Upper Tribunal. At the hearing, "The Tribunals Service" will provide details to you, explaining this process in more detail.
Other help and advice
You may wish to seek Independent legal advice to assist you with your appeal.
The Bedford Citizens Advice may be able to help/represent you with your appeal.