Tenancy Tribunal 

What does the Tenancy Tribunal do?

The Tenancy Tribunal helps resolve disputes between landlords and tenants, and makes decisions on things that landlords and tenants can’t agree upon, such as overdue payments or breaches of tenancy agreements. Both you and the other party get a chance to explain your situation to someone who will help you come to an agreement or a decision.

The Tenancy Tribunal can also formalise what has been agreed between landlord and tenant during mediation and help resolve disputes relating to unit title properties.

The Tenancy Tribunal does not deal with disputes between flatmates, or in private boarding situations - these are generally dealt with in the Disputes Tribunal. If you are not sure who can help with your renting-related dispute your local CAB can help you work it out..

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Is going to the Tenancy Tribunal the only way to resolve a dispute between me and my landlord?

No, the Tenancy Tribunal should be considered as the last step you take when other ways of solving the dispute – such as mediation - have failed. In fact if you apply to the Tribunal it is likely that you will be asked to go to mediation, if you haven’t already done so, before the case is referred to the Tribunal.

You can read about other ways of resolving your dispute on our Tenant & landlord issues page.

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Can the Tenancy Tribunal help resolve a dispute between a landlord and their property manager?

No, the Tenancy Tribunal can’t help with disputes between landlords and property managers, since this relationship is not covered by the Residential Tenancies Act.

If you are a landlord who is in dispute with someone acting as your property manager (e.g. you think they did not look after the rental property as agreed) you can apply to the Disputes Tribunal.

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How do I apply to the Tenancy Tribunal?

You can apply either online on the Tenancy Services website or by completing a printed form (you can pick one up from a Tenancy Services office or copies may be available from your local CAB or Community Law Centre.

There is a small application fee of around $20. It’s important to include as much supporting information as possible when you apply. This should include a copy of the tenancy agreement, documents that you have sent to the other party and any other supporting documentation eg rent records, any copies of any related correspondence between you and the other party.

More information about making an application to the Tenancy Tribunal is on the Tenancy website. If you need help with your application you can you can contact your local CAB or call Tenancy Services on 0800 TENANCY (0800 83 62 62). 

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What happens after I make an application to the Tenancy Tribunal?

Usually you and your landlord or tenant will be referred to mediation first.

If you are able to reach an agreement during mediation, the agreement is recorded as a mediated order and both parties will receive a copy. It will usually also be sent to the Tenancy Tribunal so that it can be made legally binding.

If the matter is not resolved through mediation, a hearing will be scheduled at a local courthouse. The other party (landlord, property manager or tenant) will receive a notification of the hearing.

In the meantime you can prepare for the hearing by getting copies of the supporting evidence and, if you would like one, finding a support person to accompany you to the hearing. 

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How long does it take to get mediation or a hearing scheduled?

Mediation usually takes place around eight working days from when an application for mediation is made. A Tenancy Tribunal hearing usually takes around 20 working days from the time an application is made, to when the hearing takes place.

More information about the timeframes is on the Tenancy Services website.

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I can’t make the Tenancy Tribunal hearing – can I get it postponed?

It depends on whether you are the applicant (the one who made the application to the Tenancy Tribunal) or the other party:

If you are the applicant
If you are the applicant, you can ask for the hearing to be postponed by contacting the case coordinator (the contact details will be on the letter you receive notifying you of the hearing date).

If you are the other party
If you are not the applicant then you will only be able to get a postponement of the hearing if the applicant agrees to it.

If the hearing date is more than five days away you can contact the case coordinator to make your request to postpone. If it is within five days of the hearing date you need to contact the court. The case coordinator or the court will ask the applicant if they agree to a new hearing date. If the applicant does not agree to postponement, you can write to the court to ask for a postponement, stressing that you fully intend to dispute the matter.

Other options
There are alternatives to getting a postponement - contact Tenancy Services about these:

  • If you will be out of the area on the day, you can ask to attend via teleconference.
  • You can have a representative attend the hearing on your behalf. 

If you have questions before the hearing
Contact the Ministry of Justice to discuss anything to do with the hearing if 5 working days or less remain until it takes place. Contact Tenancy Servicesif you need help before that.

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What happens at a Tenancy Tribunal hearing?

A hearing takes place before an adjudicator (a person whose role is to hear both sides and make a final decision about your case). The hearing is usually open to the public. Both sides get a chance to tell their side of the story and answer any questions (lawyers can only attend in special circumstances).

Either party can offer witnesses and present evidence. You may be questioned by the adjudicator and the other party, so it is a good idea to write down all the facts so you can present them clearly and logically.

The adjudicator will write down their decision as a Tribunal order. Often you will get this decision straight away, otherwise it will be sent out afterwards. Their order is legally binding, and both sides have to obey it. If the order is not followed then it can be enforced through the District Court.

More about what to expect at a Tribunal hearing is on the Tenancy Services website.

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What types of decisions can the Tenancy Tribunal make?

The Tenancy Tribunal can order:

  • work to be done or money to be paid up to a value of $50,000; 
  • a tenancy to be ended;
  • either party to pay money to the other;
  • a party to fix damage, make repairs or carry out maintenance work;
  • how much bond someone should pay if the dispute is about a bond refund;
  • money to be deducted from the wages or benefit of someone who owes money
  • a landlord to claim expenses associated with recovering debt from a tenant, if it is debt that the Tribunal ordered the tenant to pay, and if it is provided for in the tenancy agreement .
  • compensation to be paid if one of the parties suffered loss due to something that other party did or didn’t do.

The Tribunal can also order both parties to go back to mediation.

You can find out more about decisions the Tribunal can make on the Tenancy Services website.

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What can I do if a Tenancy Tribunal order is not followed by the other party?

If a Tenancy Tribunal order is not carried out, you can try talking to the other party to resolve the problem. Otherwise you can apply to the Collections Unit of the Ministry of Justice to enforce the order. 

For example the District Court can make an enforcement order to help a landlord get back possession of their rental property, help a landlord or tenant get back money that is owed to them, or help a landlord seize the tenant’s possession and sell them to recover money owed to them.

For example, if you are a landlord whose tenant has not moved out despite a Tenancy Tribunal issuing a possession order, you can apply to the Court for an eviction warrant.

You generally have to pay a fee for an enforcement order and would have to know the current address of the other party. You might be able to recover any fees you pay in having the order enforced, when you apply to the Court.

More about this is on the Tenancy Services website.

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What can I do if I don’t agree with a Tenancy Tribunal decision?

If you disagree with the decision made at a Tenancy Tribunal hearing, you can: 

  • apply for a rehearing; or 
  • appeal at the District Court.

You can’t apply for a rehearing or appeal at the District Court simply because you don’t like the decision.

You can only apply for rehearing if you think the decision was substantially wrong or a miscarriage of justice has occurred or is likely to occur - for example if you did not get the letter notifying you of the hearing date, or you have new evidence. You need to apply for a rehearing within 5 working days after the decision was issued, at the District Court where the original hearing took place.

You can file an appeal at the District Court if you think the decision is wrong, based on the law. In some circumstances you won’t have the right to appeal, for example you can’t appeal a final order to pay less than $1000 or to do work worth less than $1000. You have to file your application for an appeal within 10 working days after the Tribunal decision was issued. You can have legal representation at the appeal hearing.

It’s important to remember that if you apply for a rehearing or an appeal, this does not stop the Tenancy Tribunal order from being enforced. If you want to stop the order from being enforced, you will need to apply to the Tenancy Tribunal or District Court for an order to suspend the enforcement process. 

More about this is on the Tenancy Services website and the Ministry of Justice website.

Are Tenancy Tribunal decisions made public?

Yes - most Tenancy Tribunal orders made are publicly available. Some are not made public due to legal or technical reasons, but it is very rare for the Tribunal to not publish a decision. You can search online for  a Tribunal order if it is no more than three years old; for an older order contact the court where the hearing was held.