Housing Benefit FAQs

Disputes and appeals

What are my options if I do not agree with the Council’s Housing Benefit decision?

If you have received a decision about Housing Benefit, there are three things you can do if you think the decision is wrong.

If you don’t understand our decision, you can ask for a more detailed explanation called a ‘written statement of reasons’. Your request must be made within one calendar month from date of the decision letter. The time limits for disputing a decision will be frozen until a ‘written statement of reasons’ is issued to you.

Alternatively, if you are unhappy or disagree with our decision, you can ask for it to be reconsidered. Your request must be made within one calendar month from date of the decision letter. We will send you a letter to confirm whether we have been able to change our decision or not.

If the information we have is correct but you think we have interpreted it incorrectly or if we are not able to change our decision after you have requested a reconsideration, you can formally appeal the decision. The formal appeal process involves HM Courts and Tribunal Service, an independent third party, who will hear the case and make a decision.

An appeal must be received within one calendar month of the date of the decision, or within one month from the date that we have informed you that the decision has not been changed, following an initial reconsideration request.

To ask for an explanation, dispute the decision or appeal the decision, you can either:

  • Complete our online appeals form
  • Write to us at Wigan Council, Customer Services, PO Box 100, Wigan, WN1 3DS.

What happens if I want you to look at the decision again?

When you ask us to look at a decision again, we will check that the decision is correct. A different member of staff will do this. This is called a ‘revision’.

You must ask us to look at the decision again within one month of the date of the letter notifying you of the original decision, however under certain circumstances the council may extend this time.

If the decision is wrong we will change it. We will send you a letter to tell you of the new decision.

If you have asked us to look at the decision within one month of the date of the decision letter, the change will be backdated to the date the original decision became effective.

If your request was outside the time limits and you did not have special circumstances, the decision will usually be changed from the date we received your request to look at the decision again.

If we consider the original decision is correct, we will send you a letter telling you that we cannot change it.

The letter will confirm whether or not you can appeal against the original decision and if so, you then have one calendar month from the date of the revised decision letter to appeal.

Who can query a decision?

Normally, it is the claimant who is the “person affected” by the decision however there are special rules if you are not claiming the benefit yourself.

For example, a landlord can query a decision about whether Housing Benefit is to be paid directly to them or they can query a decision that is made to recover an overpayment of Housing Benefit from them.

If you are an appointee for another person you can ask us to look again at a decision about their Housing Benefit and you may be able to appeal on their behalf. The letter telling you about the decision will tell you about the appeal process.

What if I am outside the time limits?

Decision time limits

Unless you have special circumstances, the council may not be able to accept your request for an explanation of a decision (with the intention to take further action), or for a revision of a decision (with the intention to appeal) if it is received more than one calendar month after the date of the decision letter.

You should tell us what the special circumstances are when you contact us.

Appeal time limits

Your appeal may not be accepted by the council if it is received more than one calendar month after the date of the decision letter.

A late appeal will be accepted if you have special circumstances that caused the delay. These could be a death, a serious illness, absence abroad, a postal strike or some other special circumstance. You should include an explanation of why you could not appeal within one month in your letter.

If the council decides you do not have a good reason for appealing late they will ask HM Courts and Tribunal Service to refuse to accept your appeal. A Tribunal Judge will look at the reasons you have given for not appealing in time and decide if your appeal can be accepted. They will look at:

  • Whether there were special circumstances for the delay
  • The length of time since you received the decision
  • Whether it is in the interest of justice that your appeal is accepted
  • Whether your appeal is reasonably likely to succeed

Your appeal cannot be accepted if it is made 13 months or more after the date of the decision letter.

Under what circumstances can I appeal against a Housing Benefit decision?

Before you can appeal against a decision you must have first received a letter from us notifying you of that decision or, a ‘written statement of reasons’ explaining the decision which states you have the right of appeal. You must also believe the decision is wrong and want to appeal to an independent tribunal.

When can I not appeal against a Housing Benefit decision?

You can ask us to look again at any decision you think is wrong but there are some decisions which do not carry a formal right of appeal and, therefore, the tribunal may chose not to hear the case. Examples include:

  • Any parts of the actual housing benefit set down in law
  • A decision over who to recover a recoverable overpayment from, once legitimate targets have been identified, as outlined in law
  • Any exercise of discretion to recover a recoverable overpayment
  • Any decisions to exercise discretionary powers
  • A decision to suspend a benefit claim pending further investigation
  • The method of recovery of an overpayment
  • Local Housing Allowance figures
  • An Assessed Income Figure from the DWP
  • When and how benefit is paid.

How do I make a Housing Benefit appeal?

Your appeal must be made and received by our office within one calendar month of the date of our decision letter. If you require help writing your formal appeal, please see section ‘Where do I go to get help or information?'

To make an appeal, you can either:

  • Complete our online appeals form
  • Write to us at Wigan Council, Customer Services, PO Box 100, Wigan, WN1 3DS.

In order for your appeal to be considered duly made, you must:

  • Sign it (if you are making your appeal by post instead of completing the online form)
  • Clearly indicate which decision you are appealing against
  • Explain why you think the decision is wrong
  • Include any extra information and evidence you believe should be considered.

Can I appeal as a landlord?

Landlords have limited rights of appeal if they do not agree with decisions relating to their tenants’ Housing Benefit.

  • Landlords can appeal if we decide not to pay their tenant's benefit direct to the landlord
  • Landlords can appeal if we ask them for a repayment when we have paid them too much benefit for one of their tenants
  • Landlords cannot appeal against how much benefit their tenant receives.

What happens when you receive my letter of appeal?

If we have not already done so, we will offer you an explanation of our decision.

We will reconsider our decision by looking at it again, if we have not already done so.

If we agree the decision is wrong and the revised decision is to your advantage, we will send you a new decision and your appeal will stop. You have the right to appeal against the new decision if you do not agree with it.

If we agree that the original decision is wrong but the new decision is not to your advantage, we will send you a letter confirming the new decision. Your appeal will continue against the new decision and you will have a further month to comment on the new decision.

If we do not change the decision, we will send your appeal and an explanation of the law and facts used to make our decision to the HM Courts and Tribunal Service. We will also include any other relevant papers. This is called the response.

A copy of the response will be sent to you and to your representative, if you have one.

HM Courts and Tribunal Service will then send you a form that must be completed and returned to them within 14 days of the date the form was sent to you. If you do not, your appeal will stop.

What does the tribunal look 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.

If a change of circumstances could affect your Housing Benefit or mean you could claim again, you should report it straight away.

Do not wait for the appeal hearing. Details on how to contact us are shown on your decision letter.

Who will decide?

HM Courts and Tribunal Service will decide your appeal at a tribunal hearing. The tribunal is made up of one or two members who do not work for us. They will be experts on the issues involved in your appeal and are legally qualified.

What happens at a paper hearing?

A paper hearing is an appeal hearing that you do not go to.

You should use the form HM Courts and Tribunal Service will send you to add any more information that you think will help your case.

Do not delay sending information as you will not be told the date of a paper hearing.

The appeal will be heard and the HM Courts and Tribunal Service will send you the decision.

If the tribunal think they need you to go to an oral hearing they can refuse your request for a paper hearing.

If you choose a paper hearing but change your mind, you can choose to have an oral hearing. Write to HM Courts and Tribunal Service at: The Tribunal Service, 36 Dale Street, Liverpool, L2 5UZ.

What happens at an oral hearing?

This is an appeal hearing that you attend.

  • The tribunal may ask you questions
  • You can ask questions
  • You can take someone with you to represent you
  • You can call witnesses to give evidence to the tribunal
  • One of our representatives may be at the hearing. They may ask you questions and call witnesses.
  • If you choose an oral hearing but find you cannot go, you must let HM Courts and Tribunal Service know straight away. You must have a good reason for not attending, such as illness. You may be able to arrange another date. If you do not let the HM Courts and Tribunal Service know you cannot go to the hearing, the tribunal may hear your appeal without you.

Oral hearings are usually open to the public, but anyone who goes to the hearing will usually be involved in the appeal. You can ask to have your appeal heard in private.

If you live abroad and want an oral hearing, let the HM Courts and Tribunal Service know you want to attend the hearing or would like to send someone to represent you. The HM Courts and Tribunal Service can arrange for your appeal hearing to be:

  • As near as possible to where you're arrive to in the UK
  • As near as possible to your representative if you have one
  • Delayed until you are in the UK.

The HM Courts and Tribunal 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 HM Courts and Tribunal Service office handling your appeal.

If you live abroad you will have to pay your own fares to and from the UK. You may be able to get expenses when you are in the UK, while the appeal hearing is going on.

When will I know the result of my appeal?

You will be given a decision notice explaining the tribunal's decision, whether you have an oral or paper hearing, as soon as possible after the appeal hearing. A copy will be sent to the office that made the original decision.

You can also ask for a ‘statement of reasons’. This gives an explanation of the tribunal's decision including the facts and the law used. You must ask for a ‘statement of reasons’ within one month of the date you are given or sent the decision notice.

You must have a copy of the ‘statement of reasons’ if you want to appeal further to the Upper Tribunal.

If you want a record of the appeal hearing, you can get a copy of the record of proceedings up to 6 months from the date of the hearing.

If your appeal is successful, we will usually put the decision right as soon as we receive our copy of the tribunal's decision. We may not put it right straight away if we appeal to the Upper Tribunal.

If the tribunal finds you have been overpaid housing benefit, then your benefit will be reduced.

Where do I go to get more help or information?

The Welfare Rights Unit, Citizens Advice Bureau and law centres, can represent you and help you understand the reasons for decisions about Housing Benefit. They can also help you to fill in forms or to write a letter.

They will sometimes go with you to the tribunal that hears your appeal.

It will help if you show them any letters you have about the decision that you think is wrong. Trade Unions may also offer free advice to their members. They may also be able to speak for you at the tribunal that hears your appeal.

You may be able to get advice from a solicitor under the Legal Advice and Assistance Scheme. You can find out about this from a solicitor.

If you decide to use a solicitor, the scheme does not cover the cost of a solicitor to help you at a hearing. You cannot get any money for things like solicitor's fees from us or from the HM Courts and Tribunal Service.

For details of solicitors and advice centres, contact:

  • The Legal Aid Board, Franchise Development Group, 85 Grays Inn Road, London, WC1X 8AA
  • UK Freephone 0500 282 3000

For general information and advice regarding your Housing Benefit:

What if I live abroad?

If you live abroad, you can ask someone in the UK to act on your behalf. They may be able to get help from a solicitor under the Legal Advice and Assistance Scheme. The scheme does not cover the cost of a solicitor to help you at a hearing - see ‘Where do I go to get more help or information?’

HM Courts and Tribunal Service contact details:

  • The Tribunal Service, 36 Dale Street, Liverpool, L2 5UZ
  • Telephone 0300 123 1142
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