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What is the Tenancy Tribunal? And How Does it Work?
1 November, 2022 | Duncan Lang
The Tenancy Tribunal is a decision-making body that has the exclusive right to hear and determine residential tenancy disputes between tenant and landlord, or between tenant/owner and body corporate. Generally, the Tribunal is less formal, faster, and more cost-effective than Court proceedings.
The Tribunal can hear and determine claims of up to $100,000.00, increased from $50,000.00 as of 11 February 2021. For unit titles disputes, the limit remains $50,000.00.
Who can file an application to the Tenancy Tribunal?
Both tenants and landlords of residential property can file an application to have their matter heard in the Tribunal.
For unit title disputes, most people who have an interest in a unit title property can apply, including owners, former owners, prospective owners, tenants, and the body corporate.
Tenants cannot file applications to the Tribunal against other tenants or against flatmates. This type of claim is appropriate for the Disputes Tribunal – Making a claim at the Disputes Tribunal – How a lawyer can help.
Disputes involving family members are usually excluded by the Tribunal, but depend on the circumstances.
Types of claims heard by the Tenancy Tribunal
The Tribunal can hear almost all aspects of residential tenancy disputes, including those related to:
- Rent payments;
- Bond money;
- Property damage/ repairs;
- Breaches of the tenancy agreement or the Residential Tenancies Act;
- Termination of a tenancy;
- Possession of a property;
- Compensation and exemplary damages.
If a claim involves more than $100,000.00 or is excluded by the Tribunal for another reason, it may be appropriate for the claim to be heard by the District Court, the High Court, or the Disputes Tribunal.
How a lawyer can assist when preparing a claim, cross-claim, or defence
A lawyer may assist you by providing guidance about the claims, cross-claims or defences available to you, and the likelihood of success. A lawyer can also assist in drafting documents to file with the Tribunal and advise you about the evidence you should obtain and submit to support your claim or your defence.
We can also prepare legal arguments on your behalf and may be able to represent you at the hearing. Even if a lawyer does not attend the hearing with you, they can help you prepare for it.
We recommend that you obtain advice before filing your claim or your defence, so that you advance the strongest claims available to you in the circumstances and include the necessary information. It is not always possible to add to a claim or cross-claim at a later time and have everything heard together. Additionally, some statements or information may detract from the strength of your claim/ defence and are better left out.
Typically, we assist clients by:
- Meeting with you to obtain information about the dispute and advising of your relevant rights and obligations as a tenant or a landlord, assessing the strength of available claims or defences, and making recommendations for next steps;
- Preparing and filing an application / response to an application with the Tribunal on clients behalf;
- Preparing arguments which outline your legal position based on the Residential Tenancies Act and similar cases that have been decided by the Tribunal or the Courts;
- Assisting with settlement discussions so that a hearing may not be necessary;
- Readying clients to attend the Tribunal hearing, or if applicable, representing clients at the hearing.
There is a $20.44 fee for filing an application to the Tribunal.
You may also incur fees for legal advice that you obtain in relation to the dispute.
Legal representation at a hearing
In some circumstances, lawyers can attend the hearing to represent you. This is allowed when the amount of the claim exceeds $6,000.000 or if the other party agrees. It may also be allowed if the issues involved are novel or complex.
If a lawyer represents you at the hearing, you can ask for an order that the other party pay a portion of your legal fees in the event you are successful. The Tribunal has wide discretion whether to grant such a request, and this decision will depend on a number of factors. If costs are awarded, it may be approximately 40% of what you actually spent on legal fees. The Tribunal does not make full costs awards.
If you have questions about the residential tenancy disputes process, or would like assistance regarding a Tenancy Tribunal claim, please contact Litigation Assistant, Mikayla Sagar to discuss how our tenancy dispute experts can help.