Disagreeing with a council tax support or housing benefit decision
The rules relating to housing benefit and council tax support are different. Any 'person affected' by a decision can ask us to look at that decision again if they don't agree with it or think it's wrong. They can also appeal against our decision to an independent tribunal. Please note that as part of any review the amount of housing benefit and/or council tax support can go down, up or stay the same.
Ask us for a more detailed explanation
We recognise that sometimes the decisions we make regarding council tax support and housing benefit are complex and can be difficult to understand. We've found that people often ask to challenge a decision without fully understanding the decision we've made.
If you ask us for a more detailed explanation, we can provide a written response or, if you prefer, we can phone you. Having more information and a better understanding will help you decide if you're happy with the decision we've made. If you're still unhappy with our decision you can ask for a reconsideration and/or an appeal.
Ask us to reconsider our decision
A request to reconsider a decision must be made in writing. You should say why you think our decision is wrong and provide any additional information and/or evidence to support what you're saying. We'll look at the information you've provided and review our decision.
If we can change the decision we'll write to you with the details - this new decision restarts the time limits you have to ask for a reconsideration and/or appeal. If our decision can't be changed, we'll send you a letter telling you that we can't change it, confirming why. The letter will also tell you if you can appeal.
Appeal against a decision
A request to appeal against a decision must be made in writing.
You should say why you think our decision is wrong and provide any additional information and/or evidence to support what you're saying. If you find it easier you can complete a form.
We'll review the decision, and if we change it we'll write to you with the details and ask if you still want your case to be sent for appeal (if you don't respond we'll assume that you want to proceed to appeal).
We'll register your appeal with Her Majesties Courts and Tribunal Service (HMCTS), sending them:
- Any documents you've provided as part of your appeal
- All the documents we hold on your claim
- A summary of the decision, including a legal submission giving the reasons why we believe the appeal should be refused
A tribunal hearing will be scheduled by HMCTS. The venue for this is normally at the nearest magistrates/county court building. Your appeal will be heard and considered by a judge. We always request that an oral hearing is convened, and send an officer to present evidence and argument on behalf of the authority.
It's expected that you'll attend the hearing and present your case before the judge. If you're unable to do so, you should notify HMCTS in advance of the hearing.
Council tax support
Appeals against council tax support decisions are heard by the Valuation Tribunal (VT).
Unlike with housing benefit, we don't register the appeal on your behalf. You must apply directly. You can complete the online appeal application or download a pdf version of the appeal application form from the VT website, or request a form by phone on 0300 123 2035.
A tribunal hearing will be scheduled by the VT, and your appeal will be heard and considered by a panel of judges. We always request that an oral hearing is convened, and send an officer to present evidence and argument on behalf of the authority.
It's expected that you'll attend the hearing and present your case before the panel. If you're unable to do so you should notify the VT in advance of the hearing.
Time limits for re-considerations and appeals
You have one calendar month from the date of the decision letter in which to ask for a reconsideration and/or appeal. If you ask for an explanation request within the month we'll extend the time limit by the number of days it takes us to respond. Similarly, if you ask for a reconsideration the time limit for requesting an appeal will be extended to one calendar month from the date of the reconsidered decision.
For example, if we write to you on 1 January you have until 1 February to ask for a reconsideration and/or appeal. On 10 January, if you ask for an explanation request and it takes two days for us to respond, this extends your time limit to ask for a reconsideration and/or appeal to 4 February.
On 20 January you ask for a reconsideration, and we write to you on 30 January advising you that we haven't changed our decision; this then extends the time limit for you to appeal to 28 February.
Late reconsiderations and appeals
If you've been unable to ask for a reconsideration or appeal within one calendar month of the decision, we can consider accepting a late request to reconsider and/or appeal the decision within 13 months. However, we need to know why you didn't ask to challenge the decision within the calendar month, and can refuse to accept your request if it's not reasonable.
Appeals outside of the absolute time limit of 13 months can be made, but it's up to Her Majesties Courts and Tribunal Service (HMCTS) whether or not they will hear them.
Council tax support
Unlike housing benefit there's no time limit to when you can ask us to reconsider a council tax support decision. However, it's recommended that any disputes are made as soon as possible, because we can ask for further information which could be difficult for you to obtain once a significant length of time has passed.
If you dispute our decision we have two calendar months to respond. If we respond within the two months and you're still unhappy with our decision, you have two calendar months from the date of the reconsideration to register an appeal with the Valuation Tribunal (VT).
If we fail to respond within two months you can register your appeal with the VT without waiting for the reconsidered decision.