The Tenancy Tribunal is part of the Ministry of Justice so hearings are held at the local court. An adjudicator will make a decision about the matters the landlord and tenant have been unable to settle themselves.
On this page:
Applying to the Tenancy Tribunal
If you have a dispute with your landlord or tenant that you need help to resolve, or if you have reached an agreement with your landlord or tenant and would like to formalise the agreement, you can apply to the Tenancy Tribunal online.
Once an application is made, if appropriate, we may offer mediation, or we may schedule a Tribunal hearing and send a Notice of Hearing. The notice will include details about the dispute and the hearing date, time, and location.
Save time and apply online
You can apply online and pay the $20.44 application fee with your Visa or Mastercard.
You can also complete a paper form and send it by mail to PO Box 50546 Porirua 5240, fax it to 04 237 1058, or email it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can pay the application fee:
- at any Westpac bank by eftpos, cash or cheque (payable to Tenancy Services).
- by eftpos at selected Auckland, Manukau, Hamilton, Wellington or Christchurch offices.
Read our guides to find out how to make an application and what information you need to provide when applying:
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What happens if things are sorted out before the hearing?
Please contact us on 0800 TENANCY (0800 83 62 62) immediately if your dispute gets resolved, so that we can use the hearing time for someone else.
However, if the tenancy hearing is within the next 5 days, please contact the relevant District Court to advise them.
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Who can go to the Tribunal hearing
The hearing is a public hearing and either party can take support people with them.
Normally, you’ll represent yourself. Parties normally represent themselves and may only have a lawyer or a representative appear on their behalf in special cases. These are where:
- the dispute is for more than $6,000
- the other party agrees or the Tribunal allows it
- the other party has a lawyer representing them.
The Tribunal may also allow you to use a lawyer if it considers it appropriate due to:
- the nature and complexity of the issue involved
- any significant disparity between the parties, which can affect their ability to represent their case.
In some cases, a representative can appear for a party.
Contact Tenancy Services if you think you may need a representative, to talk this over before the hearing.
Do I have to attend the hearing?
You must attend the hearing.
If you’re the applicant and don’t appear, the application may still be heard in your absence, adjourned or even dismissed.
If you’re the other party and don’t appear, your view will not be heard and the Tribunal will still be able to make an order. This means the tenancy may be terminated in your absence or you may have to pay money to the other party.
If neither party appears, the Tribunal would only determine the matter if it was satisfied it has all the written information needed to do so.
If you want to attend the hearing but will be out of the area, call Tenancy Services on 0800 TENANCY (0800 83 62 62) to discuss the possibility of attendance via a phone conference.
What to bring to the Tribunal hearing
You need to present any evidence that supports your claim. It’s a good idea to have two extra copies of all evidence ready for the adjudicator and the other party. If you’re the applicant, you should have provided copies of relevant documents (such as the tenancy agreement, rent summary, 14 days’ notices or other correspondence) with your application. Take your original documents and any supporting evidence to the hearing.
Other supporting evidence may include such things as tradesperson quotes, bank statements, accounts, inspection reports, rent book, photographs or letters.
If you’re planning to bring any witnesses, make sure you call Tenancy Services on 0800 TENANCY (0800 83 62 62) in advance, so they can advise the court. Your witnesses will need to wait outside the courtroom until they’re called to give their evidence. If someone refuses to come, you can ask the Ministry of Justice for a Witness Summons so they have to come. You can have a friend or family member with you for support, but if they are in the courtroom with you, they can’t be a witness or say anything.
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What happens at the Tribunal hearing
A tenancy adjudicator listens to each person, hears any witnesses and evidence either party wants considered, and then makes a decision according to the Residential Tenancies Act.
Both landlord and tenant tell their story. The applicant will be asked to explain their story first. You may find it useful to write down all the facts so you can present them briefly and clearly. You may be questioned by the adjudicator and the other party.
If you have witnesses, they can be called to give evidence. If your witnesses are unable to attend, call Tenancy Services on 0800 TENANCY (0800 83 62 62) to discuss whether there may be any other options available. Affidavits, unsworn statements or letters from witnesses might be admitted as evidence but may not carry as much weight.
The adjudicator will listen to the witnesses, analyse the evidence presented, and then make a decision.
The adjudicator produces their decision as a Tribunal order. The landlord and the tenant are each given a copy. The adjudicator’s decision is a Court order that both parties have to obey.
These orders are public information and are published on the Ministry of Justice website and available from the District Court where the hearing took place.
In most cases, if the decision is simple and straightforward, the parties will receive the decision immediately after the hearing. Otherwise, the decision has to be written up by an adjudicator and posted out later.
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Orders the Tribunal can make
The Tribunal can award compensation or order work to be done up to a value of $50,000. Where claims are for more than this, they can be filed through the District Court.
The Tribunal can make a range of orders, but the most common are possession orders, monetary orders, and work orders. (Any order the Tribunal can make can also be made in mediation.)
This involves the termination of the tenancy. If the tenant doesn’t meet their legal obligations and the situation is serious enough, the landlord can apply to have the tenant evicted from the property. This can happen if the tenant is:
- more than 21 days behind in the rent
- substantially damaging the property or threatening to do so
- assaulting the landlord or the landlord’s family or agent, other tenants or neighbours, or threatening assault
- breaking the tenancy agreement, when the landlord has given at least 14 days’ notice to put matters right and the tenant has not.
A matter will be treated as a serious breach:
- if a landlord has given a tenant a 14-day Notice to remedy to get rent paid up to date
- by the time the case is heard in mediation or by the Tribunal the rent is 21 days or more in arrears.
This is an order that a landlord or tenant must pay money to the other party. Examples include:
- payment of rent arrears or refund of overpaid rent
- payment for damage, cleaning, gardening or rubbish removal
- reimbursement of costs, such as urgent repairs
- payment of exemplary damages (this is something like a fine) for legal breaches such as not paying the bond to Tenancy Services, seizing a tenant’s goods or denying legal access
- payment of compensation for loss of goods or loss of use through poor repair.
Orders may be agreed to, or made by the Tribunal, that a person must do work to remedy damage, lack of repair or maintenance. If the person doesn’t comply with the work order, then they may be ordered to pay money instead.
An agreement or order can say what will happen if the order isn’t complied with. For example, an order for the return of goods can require monetary payment if the goods aren’t returned. The person in whose favour the order is made decides whether it will be enforced.
Agreed attachment order
If the Tribunal hearing is about money owed, a landlord and tenant can agree (at the Tribunal hearing) that the debt can be enforced by an attachment order. An attachment order is where payments are deducted directly from the wages or benefit of the person who owes the money.
This agreed attachment order is recorded in the Tribunal Order.
What happens if people don’t obey the Tribunal Order?
Bailiffs can enforce Tenancy Tribunal orders. If you need help enforcing an order, contact the Collections Unit of the Ministry of Justice or read about your options in the brochure Enforcing a sealed mediator’s order or Tenancy Tribunal order.
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Appeals against decisions of the Tribunal
Any party to proceedings before the Tribunal and who is dissatisfied with the decision can appeal to the District Court.
There are some cases where there will be no right to appeal, for example if the amount of the claim is less than $1,000 (s117(2) of the Residential Tenancies Act 1986).
The District Courts Fees Regulations have been amended and from 1 July 2013 filing fees ($200) and hearing fees ($900 after the first half day) are now payable for appeals from the Tribunal to the District Court.
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