Timescales for appeals and disputes

Updated: 23 Feb 2018
If you are not happy with our decision you have three dispute options
HB1 Housing Benefit claim form
If you want to know more about a decision regarding your Housing Benefit award, or if you think the decision is wrong, there are 3 dispute options available to you. Please note however that some of these options have time limits.

One month rule

If your first contact with us is more than one month after a Housing Benefit decision is sent to you, this may prevent you from exercising some of the rights that are set out below. There are occasions however when the law may allow the one month rule to be extended, if exceptional circumstances existed that delayed you in taking action within the one month time period.

Date of decision

In the advice that follows where we ask you to confirm the “date of a Housing Benefit decision”, please tell us the date at the top of the Housing Benefit notification letter that contains the Housing Benefit decision you wish to dispute.

Option 1: Getting more information about a Housing Benefit decision

This is commonly known as a query. You can query a Housing Benefit decision and ask us to explain an issue arising from that decision. To help us identify the correct decision, please confirm the date at the top of the letter containing the Housing Benefit decision you wish to query.
You can make a query by telephone, in writing or by calling in to your local office and there is no time limit on when you can do this.
If however you make a query more than one month after we tell you about a decision, you may already be outside the time period of one month within which to pursue the action set out in the two further options that follow.
A more detailed explanation of our decision, known as a written statement of reasons, can also be provided but you must request this in writing and within one calendar month of the date on the top of the letter containing the decision that was sent to you.
If you query a decision or request a written statement of reasons in respect of a decision within one month of the date that decision was notified to you, we will tell you how much time you have left to dispute or appeal that decision.

Option 2: Disputing a decision and having the decision looked at again

If you would like us to look at our decision again (commonly known as a dispute) you must request this in writing within one month of the date on the top of the letter containing the decision that was sent to you. You can dispute a decision as your first option (without going through the query or written statement of reasons option set out above)
When you dispute a decision you must tell us which decision you are disputing (confirm the date on the top of the letter telling you about the decision) and tell us why you are not happy with that decision.
We will look at the disputed decision again and:
  • check that the decision is correct
  • change the decision if it is found to be wrong and issue a new decision
If you ask us to look at our decision within one month of the decision being sent to you and we do not change that decision, you will be advised of this in writing and the law allows you a further calendar month within which to make an appeal (see section below on making an appeal).
If you ask us to look at a decision again more than one month after the decision was sent to you, we will still look at the decision again to ensure it was correct. If we do not change that decision you will be notified of this but you will not be offered a right of appeal.
We may be able to accept a late dispute if there were exceptional circumstances that delayed you making a dispute within one month. Please set out these circumstances in your correspondence when you submit your dispute.
Please note that the law prevents us accepting a late dispute made more than 13 months after a decision is notified.

Option 3: Appealing against a decision

If you wish to make an appeal against a Housing Benefit decision you must do so in writing within one month of the date on the top of your notification letter. You do not have to go through Option One or Option Two above before you make an appeal.
When you make an appeal you must include the date of the decision you wish to appeal against (the date on the top of the notification letter) and give your reason(s) for making the appeal. If you are making your appeal outside the one month time limit you must say why your appeal is late.
When we receive your appeal we will:
  • look at the decision again to see if it is correct
  • change the decision if it is found to be wrong and issue a new decision
In some cases where we change a decision in your favour your appeal will lapse, but we will write to you and tell you if this is the case.
If we change a decision and this is not in your favour, we will tell you about this and your appeal will proceed to the Appeals Service.
If we do not change the decision you will be advised accordingly and your appeal will be forwarded to the Appeals Service.

What happens next?

When we are unable to resolve an appeal made against a Housing Benefit decision, the appeal is forwarded to the Appeals Service.
The Appeals Service is an independent organisation that rules on all the benefit appeal cases for the various authorities in Northern Ireland (Housing Benefit appeals, DLA appeals etc.)
The Appeals Service will:
  • send you a copy of your appeal papers (with details of the facts and evidence used to make the Housing Benefit decision)
  • invite you to choose from an oral hearing or a paper hearing (for a paper hearing, the person deciding the appeal sits in private and considers the appeal using only the paper evidence presented).
  • arrange an appeal hearing convenient to where you live and send an invitation to you and to NIHE to attend the hearing where an oral hearing is arranged
In the case of an oral hearing, you can ask someone such as a benefit advice worker or a solicitor etc. to represent you at the hearing or bring a friend or family member with you for support. You can also ask witnesses to attend the hearing to give evidence on your behalf.
A member of the legal profession appointed by the Appeals Service (usually a solicitor) will then decide your appeal.
You will be given a ‘summary decision letter’ explaining the tribunal’s decision as soon as possible after the appeal hearing has taken place. If you do not agree with the appeal tribunal’s decision you may be able to appeal to the Social Security CommissionerOpens link in a new browser window.