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Tenancy Tribunal

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

You can make an application for an Order of the Tenancy Tribunal online. If you apply, you’ll be charged an application fee of $20.44 (including GST).

Read our guides for landlords, property managers, and tenants that explain how to apply to the Tribunal and what information you need to provide when applying:

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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.

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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.

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 at a later date.

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What orders can Tribunal 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.)

Possession order

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.

Monetary order

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.

Work order

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.

Alternative orders

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.

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Appeals against decisions of the Tenancy 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 $1000.00 (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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More information