This page is targeted at housing professionals. Our main site is at www.shelter.org.uk

Appealing housing benefit decisions

This content applies to England

Options available to claimants who wish to challenge a decision on housing benefit.

Person affected

Every decision about housing benefit must be notified to each 'person affected' by it. This means:[1]

  • the claimant
  • 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.

Options

If the claimant (or any other 'person affected') wishes to challenge a decision s/he (normally) has the option of:

  • asking the local authority to reconsider its decision
  • appealing to the First-tier tribunal.

If the first option is chosen, the claimant can then appeal if the local authority does not change its decision.

It should be noted that the local authority can be asked to reconsider any decision, but not all decisions are appealable to the First-tier tribunal. For details see the schedule to the regulations.[2]

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.[3]

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.[4] Otherwise, the authority must refer the appeal to the First-tier tribunal.[5] The rules governing the tribunal require appeals to be referred 'as soon as reasonably practicable'.[6] An Ombudsman decision has suggested that this should normally be done within four weeks.[7]

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.[8] The First-tier and Upper tribunals are independent of the local authority, and are administered by HM Courts and Tribunals Service.

Time limits for reconsideration request

General rule

A claimant (or any other affected person) must request a reconsideration within one month of the date on the decision letter. However, where the reasons for the decision were not provided by the local authority the claimant can request a written statement of reasons, and the one-month time limit will run from the date the authority provides the written statement.[9]

Out of time requests

The time limit to request a reconsideration can be extended up to 13 months where:[10]

  • a claimant requests an extension of time
  • a claimant gives reason for the late request
  • the request has merit
  • there were special circumstances which meant the claimant could not have requested the revision in time.

'Any time' revisions

A reconsideration of some decisions can be requested at any time, ie there is no time limit. The main grounds for an 'any time revision' include cases where:[11]

  • there has been an official error
  • a mistake about or ignorance of facts has led to a claimant being overpaid
  • another benefit has been awarded which affects the original claim
  • a rent officer’s redetermination resulted in an increase in the ‘maximum rent’ or local housing allowance rate.

Time limits for appeal

An appeal must normally be made within one calendar month of the date the decision was sent or given to the claimant. 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:[12]

  • 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.[13] 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.[14]

[1] reg 3(1) Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit (Decisions and Appeals) Regulations 2001 SI 2001/1002; Wirral MBC v Salisbury Independent Living Ltd [2012] EWCA Civ 84.

[2] reg 16(1) and Sch. Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit (Decisions and Appeals) Regulations 2001 SI 2001/1002.

[3] reg 4 Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit (Decisions and Appeals) Regulations 2001 SI 2001/1002.

[4] reg 4(1) Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit (Decisions and Appeals) Regulations 2001 SI 2001/1002.

[5] reg 20 Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit (Decisions and Appeals) Regulations 2001 SI 2001/1002.

[6] Tribunal Procedure (First-tier Tribunal)(Social Entitlement Chamber) Rules SI 2008/2685.

[7] Report 16 016 533 - City of Bradford MDC.

[8] s.14(1) Social Security Act 1998; reg 38 Tribunal Procedure (First-tier Tribunal)(Social Entitlement Chamber) Rules 2008 SI 2008/2685.

[9] regs 2, 4(1)(a) and 10A Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit (Decisions and Appeals) Regulations 2001 SI 2001/1002 as amended.

[10] reg 5 Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit (Decisions and Appeals) Regulations 2001 SI 2001/1002 as amended.

[11] regs 4(2)(a) and (b),(3) and (7B) Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit (Decisions and Appeals) Regulations 2001 SI 2001/1002 as amended.

[12] rules 12, 23 and Sch.1 Tribunal Procedure (First-tier Tribunal) (Social Entitlement Chamber) Rules 2008 SI 2008/2685, as amended.

[13] regs 4-5,18-20 Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit (Decisions and Appeals) Regulations 2001 SI 2001/1002.

[14] rule 23 Tribunal Procedure (First-tier Tribunal) (Social Entitlement Chamber) Rules 2008 SI 2008/2685, as amended by rule 3 Tribunal Procedure (Amendment No. 2) Rules 2009 SI 2009/1975.

Back to top