Understanding our decisionBack to top
When we have dealt with your claim for Housing Benefit and/or Council Tax Support, we will send you a decision letter. The letter shows the information we have used to work out your entitlement and you should check it carefully.
If you do not agree with our decision, then please refer to the information below. Please note that there are separate dispute processes for Housing Benefit and Council Tax Support.
Council Tax Support - what to do if you disagree with a decision Back to top
Write to us and ask for a detailed statement as to how we arrived at the decision.
Write to us asking for the decision to be reconsidered to take into account the reasons why you disagree with the decision.
We will look at your claim again and write to you within two months.
If we do not change the decision in your favour, or after two months, you can appeal online to the Valuation Tribunal.
You cannot appeal against our actual scheme, only on how we have applied our scheme to your circumstances.
Housing Benefit - what to do if you disagree with a decisionBack to top
Write to us and ask for a detailed statement as to how we arrived at the decision.
Write to us asking for the decision to be reconsidered to take into account the reasons why you disagree with our decision.
Write to us appealing against the decision on a Benefit appeals form explaining the reasons why you disagree with the decision. If we cannot change the decision, we will send details of the appeal to the Tribunals Service. The tribunal does not have to look at anything you do not mention.
You should complete the form and submit it within one calendar month of the date on that letter.
If you ask us for more information after this time, we will still explain the decision to you but we may not be able to look at the decision again if you later decide that it is wrong.
What is a Housing Benefit appeal tribunal and what do they look at?Back to top
A tribunal is an independent hearing heard by HM Courts & Tribunal Service. Your appeal will be heard by a Judge. You and your representative, if you have one, will have the option to attend so that you can explain your situation. There will usually be someone from the assessment team representing the Council.
What if I miss the deadline for a Housing Benefit appeal?Back to top
If you miss the deadline, the Tribunals Service may not be able to accept your appeal if it is received more than one calendar month after the date on the decision letter.
They can only accept a late appeal if there are special circumstances for the delay. This could be something like:
- A death
- A serious illness
- Absence abroad
- A postal strike; or some other special circumstance.
You should explain why you could not appeal in time on the benefit appeal form.
A legally qualified tribunal member will look at the reasons you have given for not appealing in time and will 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.
The Tribunals Service cannot accept a late appeal if the only reason is that you misunderstood the law, or interpretation of the law has changed since the decision was made.
Your appeal cannot be accepted if you appeal 13 months or more after the date on the decision letter.
What happens after I have made a Housing Benefit appeal?Back to top
We will also look at the decision again if we have not already done so.
- If, at this stage, we agree that the original decision is wrong and the new decision is to your advantage, we will send you a new decision and your appeal will stop.
- If you do not agree with the new decision, your appeal rights start all over again.
- If we agree that the original decision is wrong, but the new decision is not to your advantage, we will send you a new decision.
- Your appeal will continue against the new decision and you will have another calendar month to comment on the new decision
- If we do not change the decision, we will send your appeal, along with an explanation of the law and the facts used to make the decision, to the Tribunals Service.
We will also include any other relevant papers.
We will send a copy of the appeal papers to you and your representative (if you have one). You will also receive a form called 'TAS1'.
You must fill in the TAS1 form and send it to the Tribunals Service within 14 days of the date the form was sent to you. If you do not, your appeal will stop.
The form asks you questions about how you want your appeal to be looked at. You can choose between an oral hearing and a paper hearing.
If you choose to go to an oral hearing, you will be able to deal with any questions or issues that arise. People who go to their hearing usually do better than those who do not.
Read the appeal papers very carefully. If you do not understand something, ask us, or an advice centre or solicitor, to explain.
What is an oral hearing?Back to top
It's an appeal hearing which you can go to.
At the hearing:
- 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 there and he or she may ask you questions and call witnesses.
If you choose an oral hearing but find you cannot go, you must let the Tribunals Service know straightaway.
If you do not let the Tribunals 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 Tribunals Service know you want to go to the hearing or want to send someone to represent you.
The Tribunals Service can then arrange for your appeal hearing to be:
- As near as possible to the place you arrive in Great Britain.
- As near as possible to your representative, if you have one.
- Delayed until you are in Great Britain.
Will my expenses be paid if I go to my appeal hearing?Back to top
The Tribunals Service may pay some of your expenses for going to the hearing, for example, travel costs.
If you want more information about expenses, please contact the Tribunals Service office that is handling your appeal.
If you live abroad, you will have to pay your own fares to and from Great Britain. You may be able to get expenses while you are in Great Britain and the appeal hearing is going on.
What is a paper hearing?Back to top
This is an appeal hearing that you do not go to.
You should use the form we send you with the appeal papers 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 Tribunals 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. You should write to the Tribunals Service straightaway.
Please remember that it might be in your interests to go to an oral hearing because you will be able to deal with any questions or issues that arise.
How will I know what the result of my appeal is?Back to top
Whether you have an oral or a paper hearing, you will be told of the result the same way.
- You will be given a decision notice explaining the tribunal's decision as soon as possible after the appeal hearing.
The Tribunals Service will send a copy 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 appeal to the Social Security Commissioners.
- If you want a record of the appeal hearing, you can get a copy of the record of proceedings up to six 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 straightaway if we are not happy with the tribunal's decision and decide to appeal to the Social Security Commissioners.
What if I disagree with the tribunal's decision?Back to top
You can appeal to the Social Security Commissioners. The Commissioners are barristers, solicitors or advocates with at least 10 years' experience and are appointed by the Queen on the advice of the Lord Chancellor. They are independent of both us and the Department for Work and Pensions.
Who can appeal to the Commissioners?
Appeals can be made by:
- anyone who has already appealed to the Tribunals Service.
- Trafford Council.
- The Department for Work and Pensions.
What can I appeal to the Commissioners about?
You can only appeal to the Commissioners on a point of law. You cannot appeal to the Commissioners about:
- A question of fact.
- A tribunal's findings or conclusions.
How do I appeal to the Commissioners?
- Your decision letter from the Tribunals Service will tell you what to do if you are not happy with the decision and how to appeal to the Commissioners. Read it carefully - it tells you important time limits for your appeal.
- You cannot appeal unless you first get the statement of reasons for the tribunal's decision.
- You should read the statement of reasons carefully.
- If you think the tribunal did not apply the law correctly, you can apply for leave to appeal to the Commissioners. You must do this within one month of the date the statement of reasons was sent to you.
- If you appeal to the Commissioners, you must send the statement of reasons with your application.
- If you do not, your application may not be looked at.
- A legally qualified tribunal member will decide if your appeal can be sent to the Commissioners or whether it should be looked at again by a different tribunal.
- You can ask an advice centre, solicitor or another suitable person or organisation to help with your application.
What if my application for a statement of reasons or my application for leave to appeal to the Commissioners is late?
If your application for a statement of reasons, or for leave to appeal to the Commissioners, is late, it can only be accepted if there are special circumstances or special reasons that caused the delay.
You will need to show why you were not able to make your request on time.
Where can I get more help and information?Back to top
You can get help from the following places:
They 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, and 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. Sometimes, 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 can check your local phone book or library for details of all the above organisations.
You may be able to get advice from a solicitor, but check with them whether you can get any help with your costs or whether you'll have to pay. You cannot get any money for things like solicitors' fees from us or the Tribunals Service. If you do decide to use a solicitor, you may not get any help towards their costs if they represent you at a hearing.
For details of solicitors you should contact Civil Legal Advice on 0345 345 4345.
What if I live abroad?Back to top
You can ask someone in Great Britain to act for you. They may be able to get help from a solicitor under the Legal Advice and Assistance Scheme, but the scheme does not cover the cost of a solicitor to help you at a hearing.