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Benefit appeals

How to appeal housing benefit and council tax reduction awards

There are three options to the appeals process. The council deals with some of the options and the Tribunals Service (TS) deals with the rest. The TS is part of Ministry of Justice and already hears appeals for other DWP benefits.

Benefit appeals 

Please read the letter we sent you which explains how your benefit has been worked out. The letter will tell you:

  • How much you qualify for.
  • What income and savings figures we used when working it out.
  • Your weekly rent or council tax charge.
  • Any reduction made in your housing or council tax reduction because there are other adults living with you.

If any of the details are wrong let us know immediately by emailing benefits@tandridge.gov.uk or calling 0183 72200. If you phone or visit us we can explain your benefit to you. If you are still unsure about any aspect of your claim, you can make an appointment for a private interview with us. These enquiries to us are not part of any appeals process and do not extend the time limits that apply to your appeal options.

You have three appeal options.

Option 1 – written explanation

You can write to us to ask for more information on how your benefit was worked out.

Deadline – you must do this within one calendar month of the date on the letter we sent you telling you how your benefit was worked out. If you ask for a written explanation it will extend the time allowed to take up other appeal options, by the number of days it takes us to reply. 

Option 2 – reconsidering your benefit

You can ask for your case to be reconsidered. You must:

  • Put your request in writing, asking for a reconsideration
  • Tell us which decision(s) you do not agree with and why.

Deadline - you must do this within one calendar month of the date of the letter we sent you telling you how your benefit was worked out – unless the time limit has been extended while you waited for a written explanation (see Option 1). 

We do not have to reconsider your case if you fail to write to us in time. But we may do so if you have a good reason for any delay, which you explain to us in writing. 

We aim to deal with your request within 10 working days and will write to you to tell you the outcome. If your benefit is changed in your favour, you will get a new benefit decision letter and the appeals process starts again. 

If your benefit is unchanged or is not in your favour you can appeal to the Independent Tribunal (see Option 3)  

Option 3 – Independent Tribunal

You can ask for an Independent tribunal to look at your case. You must:

  • Request this by writing to the Head of Benefits, Tandridge District Council, Station Road East, Oxted, Surrey RH8 0BT within one calendar month from the date of the letter telling you the outcome of your case being reconsidered or from the original decision letter if you chose not to use option 2.
  • State the decision you disagree with and give your reasons.
  • Sign the letter and include your name and address in it.  

At this point we must reconsider your claim. If we change our decision we will write to you with our decision and will not forward your letter to the Tribunal Service. 

If we do not change our decision, we will forward your letter to the Tribunals Service, which will send you a pre-hearing enquiry form. You must complete and return this to the Tribunals Service within 14 days from the date on the covering letter. 

On receipt of the completed pre-hearing enquiry form, the Tribunals Service will decide whether to hold a hearing and if so, advise you of the hearing date, which is usually at least 14 weeks after your appeal is lodged. 

In exceptional cases a late appeal can be made, in writing explaining the reason for the delay, but never more than 13 months after the original decision. The Tribunals Service decides whether to accept the appeal. 

At the tribunal

The tribunal is informal and is not a court hearing. A chairperson (usually a solicitor) employed by the Tribunals Service will hear your case. If the appeal is about how your income has been worked out if you are self-employed, the chairperson may be an accountant.   

Tribunals are held in Sutton, Maidstone or Horsham, depending on your postcode, and last around 45 minutes but always long enough to give you a fair hearing. The chairperson decides the procedure at the hearing and will explain this. The chairperson will also introduce everyone in the room. You will be given the chance to outline your case and to ask questions. Someone not previously involved in your case will usually represent the Council at the hearing and can advise the chairperson on your case.

You are more likely to succeed if you are present at the hearing and able to put your points forward in person, although you do not have to attend if you prefer to outline your case by letter. All points made, in person or by letter, will be considered. 

You can claim travel expenses. If you need a translator the Tribunals Service will arrange one. 

After the tribunal

You will usually be given the chairperson’s decision at the end of the tribunal and the decision will be sent to you by post. If you still disagree, you will be told whether you have any further right of appeal. This will be detailed in the decision letter. 

Council Tax Support Appeals

Council Tax support is a reduction made to a council tax account. It is not a benefit.

Step 1 – ask for an explanation of our decision

If you disagree with our decision regarding Council Tax support you can ask us to explain our decision in more detail. You can write to us requesting a written explanation of all or any part of the assessment.

Deadline – you must do this within one calendar month of the date of the letter we sent you telling you about the decision. 

Step 2 – challenge the decision

If you want to challenge a decision affecting your Council Tax Support, write to our benefits team explaining why you think it is wrong. You can challenge our decision regarding your entitlement to a Council Tax Support or the amount of the reduction. This must be done within one calendar month of the date of the letter we sent you telling you about the decision. 

We will review your claim and write to you with our decision.

Step 3 – appeal to the Valuation Tribunal

If we do not respond or you are not happy with our decision, you can appeal to the Valuation Tribunal within 2 months of our decision. Complete the Valuation Tribunal appeal form carefully following the instructions on it. Return the completed form to the address printed on it.

For more information on the appeal process and what to expect visit the Valuation Tribunal’s appeal process page.

Help and advice

You can visit the Council Offices or phone 01883 732900 Monday to Thursday 8.30am to 5pm and Friday 8:30am to 4.30pm or e-mail benefits@tandridge.gov.uk.

Free independent advice is available from your local Citizens Advice Bureau:

  • Caterham: 01883 344777 

  • Oxted: 01883 715525 

  • East Grinstead: 01342 321638