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The Housing Benefit appeals tribunal process

This section tells you about the process for your HB claim. For appeals against Council Tax Support decisions made on or after 1st April 2013 please go to our Council Tax support appeals page.

If we look at your appeal and

  • we decide not to change our decision, or
  • our decision does not go in your favour,

we will send your appeal to an independent first-tier tribunal. The first-tier tribunal will take over the process from this point and will contact you to arrange the hearing.

If the first-tier tribunal rules that our decision is right you can appeal to the upper tribunal.

The Tribunal Service venue that deals with appeals for this borough is in Sutton. See the Tribunal Service website for details.

On this page

First-tier tribunal

  • First-tier Tribunals are made up of up to two members, neither of whom is from the council.
  • Tribunal members will be experts on the issues involved in your appeal.
  • All tribunals have a legally qualified member to help apply the law to your appeal.
  • Tribunals may also include someone with financial qualifications.

The First-tier Tribunal looks at

  • The First-tier 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 benefit or mean you could claim again, you should report it straight away.
  • Do not wait for the appeal hearing. Contact us using the details shown on your decision letter.

Late appeals

  • The First-tier Tribunal may not be able to accept your appeal if it is received more than one month after the date on the decision letter.
  • They can only accept a late appeal if there are 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 must include an explanation of why you could not appeal within one month
  • 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
  • it is in the interests of justice that your appeal is accepted and
  • your appeal is reasonably likely to succeed.

The First -tier Tribunal 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.

Oral hearing

This is an appeal hearing which you can go to.

The tribunal may ask you questions, and:

  • 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 the First-tier Tribunal know straight away. You must have a good reason why you cannot go, such as illness. You may be able to arrange another date.

If you do not let the First -tier Tribunal 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 First-tier Tribunal know you want to go to the hearing or want to send someone to represent you.

The First-tier Tribunal can 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, or
  • delayed until you are in Great Britain.


The First-tier Tribunal may pay some of your expenses for going to the tribunal, for example travel costs. If you want more information about expenses, contact the First-tier Tribunal handling your appeal. They are based at Copthall House, 9 The Pavement, Grove Road, Sutton, SM1 1DA .

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.

Paper hearing

This is an appeal hearing that you do not go to. If you go to an oral hearing, you will be able to deal with any questions or issues that arise.

You should use the form we will 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 First-tier Tribunal 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 the First-tier Tribunal, Copthall House, 9 The Pavement, Grove Road, Sutton, SM1 1DA straight away.

The result of the First-tier Tribunal hearing

Whether you have an oral or paper hearing, you will be given a decision notice explaining the tribunal's decision as soon as possible after the appeal hearing. A copy will also be sent to us.

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 Upper Tribunal.

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 First-tier Tribunal's decision. We may not put it right straight away if we appeal to the Upper Tribunal.

If you disagree with the tribunal's decision

If you do not agree with the First-tier Tribunal's decision, you may be able to appeal to the Upper Tribunal.

The Upper Tribunal

The Upper Tribunal are barristers, solicitors or advocates of not less than ten years' standing and are appointed by the Queen on the advice of the Lord Chancellor. They are independent of both the Department for Work and Pensions and the council.

Who can appeal to the Upper Tribunal?

Appeals can be made by:

  • anyone who has already appealed to the First-tier Tribunal
  • us, as the Local Authority
  • the Department for Work and Pensions

What you can appeal to the Upper Tribunal

You can only appeal to the Upper Tribunal on a point of law. You cannot appeal to the Upper Tribunal about: questions of facts, a tribunal's findings or conclusions.

How to appeal to the Upper Tribunal

Your decision letter from the First-tier Tribunal will tell you what to do if you are unhappy with the decision. Read this 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 Upper Tribunal. You must do this within one month of the date the statement of reasons was sent to you.

If you appeal to the Upper Tribunal, 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 Upper Tribunal or if the appeal 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.

Late applications

Late applications for a statement of reasons or for leave to appeal to the Upper Tribunal 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.

See also

Discretionary housing payment

Related websites

Tribunal Service

Contact us

Merton Benefits Service
PO Box 610
Merton Civic Centre
London Road

Telephone: 020 8274 4903
Fax: 020 8545 3960