Disputing your Housing Benefit award
What to do if you think your Housing Benefit decision might be wrong?
When we have processed your claim for Housing Benefit we will send you a written benefit decision letter. This letter will show the information that we have used to work out your benefit. You should check this letter carefully.
If you think the decision is wrong, or if you have been refused benefit when you think you are entitled to it, there are a number of things you can do.
What do I need to do if I do not understand the decision and want it explained?
- You can contact us on 01506 280000 and ask for an explanation of the decision we have made or ask us to send you a written explanation. You may also ask us to provide you with a full "statement of reasons" for our decision. You should do this as soon as possible after you receive your decision letter and certainly within 1 month.
- You can also get in touch with us by letter; email; or by visiting our offices.
What do I need to do if I do not agree with the decision or think it is wrong?
- You can ask us to look at it again and reconsider our decision.
- You can appeal and have your claim considered by an independent Tribunal. If you appeal, we will be required to carry out a mandatory reconsideration of our original decision before passing it to the Tribunal.
- You must make your request in writing.
- It must be made within one month of the date on your decision letter.
- If there are reasons why you cannot write to us in that first month, you must contact us and explain why.
Housing Benefit overpayment decisions
You may ask us to review
- The decision which caused the overpayment
- Whether an overpayment is recoverable
- The amount of the overpayment
- Who an overpayment can be recovered from
You may not ask us to review
- The method chosen to recover the overpayment
- The rate of recovery
What happens when we reconsider our decision?
- The decision we made will be looked at and checked by another decision-maker or a senior member of staff.
- We will take into consideration any additional information you give us and we may even contact you if we need to know anything else.
- If, after this we feel the decision is wrong, we will change it.
- We may change the decision and pay you more benefit, but it's also possible that the change in the decision will mean you will receive less benefit.
- We will write to you as quickly as possible and let you know what we have decided.
- If we decide not to change the decision, as we think it is correct, we will send you a letter explaining why and we will always explain what you should do if you are still unhappy.
You can still appeal against the decision we have made and ask us to pass your case to an independent Tribunal. This is run by Her Majesty's Courts and Tribunals Service. You can do this after we have reconsidered our decision and sent a letter to you explaining our reasons or immediately after you receive a decision notice from us.
- Must be made in writing.
- Must be signed by you, even if a representative is appealing on your behalf.
- Must be made within one month of the date on your decision letter.
- Must always give details of the decision that you wish to appeal against and explain why you think it is wrong.
- If your appeal was late, the Tribunal may not be able to accept it. They will consider whether they can accept it or not so you must explain why it is late.
Please note that it is not acceptable to simply say "I do not agree with the decision" or "the amount of benefit I have been awarded is not enough". You need to say why and give facts. Sometimes it will be helpful to support your appeal with evidence.
You should send your appeal to the Benefits Manager, West Lothian Civic Centre, Howden South Road, Livingston, West Lothian, EH54 6FF.
This is what happens when you appeal.
- We will check your claim again
- If your appeal is incomplete or we need additional information, we will write to you.
- If we change the decision we will write and tell you and explain what you can do next.
- If the decision is not going to be changed, we will send your appeal to HM Courts and Tribunals Service.
- A copy of our appeal response, which is sent to the Tribunal, will also be sent to you. An explanation of the facts that we used when making our decision will be included.
- HM Courts and Tribunals Service will contact you directly and advise you what you need to do to proceed with your appeal. They will ask you to complete a form, called a TAS1, which must be returned to them within 14 days.
The Appeal Tribunal
HM Courts and Tribunals Service runs independently of West Lothian Council and hears all Social Security appeals including housing benefit. You will get the opportunity to present your case to the Tribunal and you can choose to ask for an oral hearing, where you can submit written additional evidence to support your appeal and you can present your case by talking to the tribunal. It may be helpful to be represented by someone who understands the laws relating to benefits, for example the Citizens Advice Bureau. However this is not essential. Most West Lothian Council hearings take place in Edinburgh; however the Tribunals Service has many other venues throughout Scotland. A council officer will normally represent the Council at an oral hearing and they will present the council's case. Alternatively you can request a paper hearing without you attending. In such cases there will be no representative from West Lothian Council in attendance and the Tribunal will make a decision based on the written evidence and information provided by both parties. Once the Tribunal has reached a decision, they will notify all parties, in writing. They ensure that benefit is awarded fairly and in accordance with the Law and ensure that council's apply the Law fairly and reasonably.
Can I appeal against the Tribunal's decision?
Yes, but only on a point of Law. You may be able to appeal to the Upper Tribunal and from there to the Court of Session.
It is important to ensure that the Revenues Unit has been provided with all the facts that they need to make the correct assessment of your benefit entitlement. If it turns out that your benefit was wrongly assessed because some relevant fact was not known by the decision-maker at the time, it is quite possible that, by law, they will not be able backdate any additional payments that may have been due to you. The decision-maker will do their best to assess your benefit correctly and will make the new assessment from the date they receive the additional information.
Where it appears that the assessment is wrong because of some unknown fact, you should not have to go through the appeals process and the decision-maker will normally be able to reconsider the matter once they have been given all the relevant facts.
What if I want to withdraw my appeal?
If we have not yet sent your appeal to the Tribunal Service you must write to us and tell us that you want to stop your appeal. If your appeal has been sent to the Tribunal service you must write to them to ask them to stop your appeal. The TAS1 form has a section on it where you can put that you want to withdraw your appeal, if you decide to do so.
If my appeal also concerns Council Tax Reduction, will HM Courts and Tribunals Service also consider this?
No, there is a separate disputes process for Council Tax Reduction
Where an individual is dissatisfied with the council tax reduction decision made by their council, they can, provided it is done within two months of that decision, seek a review of the decision by writing to the Revenues Unit requesting a review. If after receiving the review decision, the customer remains dissatisfied then they can seek an independent ruling from the Council Tax Reduction Review Panel who will conduct a further review.
If you are elderly or disabled or for any reason you would have difficulty in attending a council office for interview, arrangements can be made for a benefit representative to visit you at your home to discuss matters.