When everyone has a home

Housing advice for Northern Ireland

Challenging a housing benefit decision

You may be able to challenge or appeal a housing benefit decision if you think it is wrong or unfair.  An advice agency may be able to help you. You can ask the Housing Executive to review most housing benefit decisions. You might want them to look again at a decision about:

  • whether you get housing benefit;
  • the amount of housing benefit you get;
  • the date your housing benefit starts.

Getting the reasons for the decision

If you want to challenge the decision, you should first ask the Housing Executive to provide you with a written statement of reasons, explaining their decision in more details. You need to request this statement within a month of the date on your decision letter.

Send the letter to the Housing Executive District Office dealing with your application. The Housing Executive should reply explaining the reasons within 14 days. If you disagree with the reasons in the statement, you can ask the Housing Executive to review your application within a month of the decision. Write a letter asking for a review and keep a copy.

The Housing Executive will notify you of the outcome in writing within 14 days. The Housing Executive will either:

  • confirm the decision;
  • change the decision.

If the Housing Executive decides to change the decision your housing benefit will usually be backdated to the date of the original decision. If the Housing Executive decides that the decision was correct, but you feel they are wrong, you may be able to appeal.

Appealing a decision

You can challenge a decision within one month of the date of your original notification letter or the date of the reviewed decision.  Speak to an advice agency if you’re going to appeal a decision at an independent tribunal.  Advisers have lots of experience going to tribunals and can help you with your case.

To challenge a decision, you must write to the Housing Executive explaining which decisions you are challenging and why you are doing so. You can’t challenge certain decisions:

  • decisions about the level of eligible rent
  • decisions based on local reference rent or local housing allowance rates
  • decisions about an interim payment
  • decisions about a discretionary housing payment
  • decisions about whether a school or college is a recognised educational establishment.

Get advice if the Housing Executive has told you that you are not allowed to challenge the decision.

Getting an independent appeal

Once you send a letter to the Housing Executive, the Appeals Service will arrange for a hearing by an independent tribunal. The independent appeal tribunal is made up of people not connected to the Housing Executive. Before the appeal takes place, you will be asked if you want to give any more information to help your appeal. Make sure that you include all relevant information on the appeal request form, as the tribunal doesn't have to consider facts you raise at the hearing.

Your appeal can be either a paper hearing or an oral hearing. You can ask for an oral hearing. An oral hearing can give you a better chance to answer questions and explain your case.

At a paper hearing you do not have to attend the appeal. Your appeal is decided on the basis of the written information that you and the Housing Executive have submitted. At an oral hearing you have the chance to explain your case in person. You can also have a relative, friend or representative with you.

I still don't agree with the decision

If you are still unhappy with the appeal decision, you may be able to appeal further. You may be able to:

  • appeal to the Social Security Commissioner
  • ask for a judicial review
  • use the Housing Executive internal complaints procedure.

The rules on when you can appeal are complicated. Get advice if you want to appeal further.