Challenging a Housing Benefit decision

This advice applies to Scotland. See advice for See advice for England, See advice for Northern Ireland, See advice for Wales

You can challenge your local council’s decision about your Housing Benefit decision if you think it’s wrong. This is known as appealing.

You usually need to appeal within 1 month of the council's decision. If the council are still checking whether you’re entitled to Housing Benefit, you’ll need to wait until they’ve decided. 

If you miss the 1 month deadline, it's still worth appealing if you couldn't do it sooner - for example because you or someone in your family was seriously ill. The council will still look at the decision if they agree you couldn’t appeal in time.

It’s free to appeal, and you don’t need a solicitor or other legal help.

You’ll need to:

  • tell the council why you’re appealing 

  • send evidence, if you have it

  • explain your reasons to an independent tribunal - if the council doesn't agree with you

You can ask your nearest Citizens Advice to help you write to the council or decide what evidence to send.


If your landlord is trying to evict you

Your landlord can’t make you move out straight away - they have to follow the right process.

Check what landlords have to do to evict you legally - or contact your nearest Citizens Advice if you:

  • live with your landlord (a resident landlord)

  • have a regulated tenancy

Make sure it's worth appealing

The council could decide to reduce or stop your Housing Benefit when they look at your claim again. 

If you're not sure you have a good chance of getting your Housing Benefit decision changed in your favour, contact your nearest Citizens Advice as soon as you get the decision letter.

Tell the council why you’re appealing

Check your council’s website or call them to find out how to appeal - they might ask you to fill in a form or write a letter. You can find your council’s website on

If they ask you to write a letter, write ‘Appeal’ at the top of your letter and include:

  • any reference numbers on your Housing Benefit letters

  • your full name and address

  • your National Insurance number

  • the date of the decision

  • why you think the decision is wrong

The most important part is explaining why the decision is wrong. Give the specific reasons why you disagree with it.

Look at your decision letter and list each of the statements you disagree with and why. Describe any evidence you’re sending to the council and how it supports your reasons for disagreeing with their decision.

Check what evidence to send

Get evidence to send with your appeal if you can - like payslips to show your income, or a letter from your doctor to show what medical condition you have. The council might be more likely to change their decision if you can prove they got something wrong. 

It’s fine to send copies - you don’t need to send the original paperwork.

If the council missed a change you reported

If you wrote to the council to report the change, send them a copy of the letter you sent. If you have proof of postage, send a copy of that too.

If you called the council to report the change, ask for an audio or written copy of the call. This is called a ‘subject access request’. Check the council’s website to find out how to request it - you can find your local council’s website on GOV.UK.

Write ‘For the attention of the Data Protection Officer’ on the envelope.

It can take 6 to 8 weeks for a subject access request to come through, so you might need to send it after you submit your appeal. Send the letter asking for the appeal within the 1-month deadline. Say in the letter that you’ve made a subject access request and will send the evidence to the council when you have it.

If you need to prove you live alone

Your Housing Benefit decision might be wrong if the council think you live with a partner when you don’t - for example if you’ve recently split up with someone.

If you’re in touch with the person the council think you live with, ask them for a copy of a recent bill or their tenancy agreement. A bill from another address will help prove they don’t live with you. As well as household bills, this could be an entertainment subscription - for example Sky or Netflix.

You should also send copies of one or more of the following:

  • a letter from your landlord confirming you’re the only person who lives there

  • your tenancy agreement - if it’s in just your name

  • council tax and utility bills in just your name

  • bank statements to show you've been paying all the bills yourself - for security, use a pen to cover your account number and sort code

If your child is 18 or older and can’t help pay the rent

The council shouldn’t reduce your Housing Benefit if your child is still in full-time education or training. Send a copy of a letter from the organisation showing your child’s course is full-time.

If your child isn’t in full-time education, send copies of their bank statements or payslips so the council can work out how much to take off your Housing Benefit. They might take off too much if you don’t show how much your child is earning. The council might not reduce your Housing Benefit as much if your child has a low income or isn’t working.

Sending the appeal

Keep a copy of the appeal letter in case it gets lost.

You can either post the letter, or take it to the council office yourself. The address will be on the decision letter - or you can ask your local council which department to send it to.

Either way, make sure you get a receipt to prove when you sent it.

Send the letter as soon as possible - it needs to reach the council within the 1-month deadline.

If you’ve missed the deadline

If you got the letter less than 13 months ago, you might still be able to appeal. You’ll need to have a good reason for the delay, for example:

  • you posted your appeal in time, but it was lost in the post

  • someone in your family was seriously ill

  • you made a mistake when working out the deadline 

  • you couldn’t get advice in time

  • you needed help doing it because your situation made it harder for you to do the appeal - for example, because of disability or illness

If the council won't look at your late appeal, they should send it to a tribunal called HM Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS). 

The tribunal will tell the council to look at your appeal if they think:

  • the council should have looked at it - even though it was late

  • your appeal should be heard for another reason - for example if the decision is stopping you claiming other benefits or has left you in a lot of debt 

The tribunal will write to tell you if you’ve been given more time.

If it was more than 13 months ago

You can ask the council to change their decision if they made a mistake – known as an ‘official error’. This includes if the council:

  • made a mistake when calculating your Housing Benefit 

  • overlooked a piece of evidence you sent them

  • misunderstood some evidence you sent 

You’ll need to write to the council to explain why you think they made an official error. Write ‘Request for official error revision’ at the top of your letter and include:

  • your full name

  • your National Insurance number, if you can

  • that you don’t agree you owe any debts for Housing Benefit (even if you have an overpayment)

  • what the official error was

Send it to the address on the decision letter.

If you don’t hear from the council

If you’re struggling to pay for things like food or rent, explain to the council that you don't have enough money to live on. They should decide more quickly if they know this.

You should also check if you can get any extra help while you're waiting.

If you don’t hear from the council for a month after you sent your appeal, write to the Monitoring Officer at Housing Benefits and say the delay in dealing with your case amounts to maladministration.

Find out how to complain about your council.

If the council don’t agree with your appeal

The council will look at your Housing Benefit decision again when they receive your appeal. They should automatically send your appeal to a tribunal if they:

  • didn't change the decision

  • changed the decision in a way that’s worse for you - like reducing your Housing Benefit even more

If the council send your appeal back to you, tell them you’ve already appealed so they should send the paperwork to the tribunal. The tribunal is called HM Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS).

HMCTS will write to tell you what happens next - find out what to do when you appeal to HMCTS.

If the council agree with part of your appeal

The council will close your appeal if their new decision is better for you than the old one - even if they haven’t done everything you asked them to. For example, they might cancel some of your overpayment but not all of it.

Check the letter that told you about the new decision - it will tell you what to do if you’re not happy.

Page last reviewed on 14 August 2019