Housing Systems: Combating poverty and sustaining tenancies.
Challenging Decisions: Appeals
HB Office Good Practice
In January 2020 the Local Government Ombudsman published a "Focus on HB" report detailing some cases of maladministration; and made recommendations to how LA HB Offices should deal with revisions and appeals.
The said that Councils must:

•    identify challenges to housing benefit decisions as revision or appeal requests, even if they don’t include the words “review request” or “appeal"

•    give clear advice to staff on how to respond to such requests. Those responses must say if the council has treated the challenge as a review or appeal request

•    tell claimants about further appeal rights, for example when the council does not change its decision or finds only partly in the claimant’s favour

•    if they decide the complaint is too vague to treat it as a review or appeal request, and so require further information to do so, write to claimants to explain how they have reached this view and set out what further information they want them to provide

•    not ask for further information unnecessarily or waste time repeatedly asking the claimant for information they say they cannot provide

•    be able to identify valid appeals against overpayments, including circumstances where they make recovery from landlords

•    embed knowledge of dealing with housing benefit appeals within all teams dealing with customer enquiries. Teams should, as a minimum, be capable of recognising where appeals have not been properly processed and understand a landlord’s power to recover rent arrears from tenants – and the threat of homelessness which can ensue

•    forward appeals to the tribunal service, which they believe are not within the tribunal’s jurisdiction. These are ultimately decisions for the tribunal service

•    pass cases, which they have already reviewed and have not resulted in a more favourable outcome for the claimant, to a tribunal to hear an appeal

•    allocate appropriate personnel and resources to manage appeal requests, and aim to consider them, or pass onto tribunal, within four weeks

•    have sufficient oversight of housing benefit appeals to identify any delays. Regular reporting of the appeal volumes and the processing speeds may help

•    introduce plans for tackling any backlogs. These should include systems to identify particularly urgent cases; for example, where a claimant faces imminent eviction and a successful appeal could remove that risk

•    have a system to identify outstanding appeals older than four weeks, even if they are an exception to the norm

•    tell people who raise concerns of their right to go to the Ombudsman for an independent review of their complaint

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