The general rule is that your entitlement to benefit will start the Monday following the day your claim was received by the council. There are regulations which allow us to award benefit before this date and one of these is known as backdating.
What is backdating?
Backdating is a rule which allows the council to award Housing Benefit and/or Council Tax Reduction up to 6 months before a claim was received. In order to be awarded backdated benefit you must:
- ask for backdating in writing
- demonstrate that you have had 'continuous good cause' for the period you wish to claim for
It is possible for there to be 'continuous good cause' for Housing Benefit, but not Council Tax Reduction and vice versa.
What is good cause for backdating?
There is no exact legal definition of what is good cause. The council will make a decision after considering the facts in each application.
The Court of Appeal has recommended a general test which the council should apply when considering good cause:
"some fact which, having regard to all the circumstances (including the claimant's health and the information which he had received and that which he might have obtained) would probably have caused a reasonable person of his age and experience to act (or fail to act) as the claimant did."
Some factors which the council will take into account when applying this test are:
- Your physical health. Whether you were unable to complete and send a claim form, or ask someone to do it on your behalf, due to being physically incapacitated.
- Your mental capacity. If you have learning or mental difficulties, the council will take these into account when assessing your ability to complete and send a form, or ask someone to do it for you.
- The effect of psychological and psychiatric problems which may cause you to act unreasonably.
- If you were misled by official or unofficial information. If you were given the wrong information by the council, or the Department for Work and Pensions, it could amount to good cause. Wrong information given by unofficial bodies e.g. Citizens Advice Bureaux, trade union officials, doctors and solicitors, may be good cause in some circumstances.
- Postal delays, e.g. due to strike action.
- Difficulty with the English language and reading and writing are not considered good cause in their own right (you would be expected to seek help if you fall under any of these categories), but may be contributory towards showing good cause.
Good cause for backdating is not:
- Ignorance of what benefits were available. You would be expected to make enquiries as to what benefit was available to you if you were having difficulties paying your rent or Council Tax.
- If you deliberately do not claim.
- Thoughtlessness, carelessness or indifference. For example, if you obtain a claim form and then lose it, or if you delay in returning your form because you went on holiday.
These are only a few of the more common factors the council will look at when deciding if good cause is shown. Remember you must show good cause for the whole period you wish your benefit backdated for. Any gap in good cause will mean your benefit will not be backdated.
How to apply for backdating
You must apply in writing to the council to have your benefit backdated and your request should include the following:
- The date you wish your benefit backdated from.
- The reasons you believe you have good cause for the period in question.
If you have any documents which will help confirm your claim for good cause, it would be very helpful if you could send them with your request. Some examples of helpful documents include:
- Letters from your doctor or another medical practitioner.
- Letters from Social Services.
- Police incident notices or letters from the Court.
- Confirmation from the Post Office of any difficulties with your mail.
Remember, the council will only backdate your benefit up to 6 months from the date you ask for backdating, not necessarily from the date you put your claim form in. There is a section on the claim form which asks if you would like your benefit backdated, so you should fill that in if you do. Alternatively, write a letter and send it along with the claim form.
What if I disagree with the council's decision?
If you disagree with the council's decision not to award backdating, or you do not agree with the period it has been granted, you can appeal against it to the independent Appeals Service for Housing Benefit and the Valuation Tribunal for England for Council Tax Reduction Scheme. This must be in writing and received within one calendar month of the date of the letter informing you of the decision.
Last reviewed: 28 - 03 - 2013