Judge's hand with a hammer

Tenancy Tribunal in NZ

Are you looking for information about the NZ Tenancy Tribunal? You have come to the right place!

What is Tenancy Tribunal?

The Tenancy Tribunal is a type of court that deals with disputes between tenants and landlords. Hearings are held to settle these disputes with legally binding tribunal orders.

Which problems can the NZ Tenancy Tribunal solve?

The NZ Tenancy Tribunal can resolve various types of problems, such as tenancy disputes regarding:

  • Overdue rent
  • Unlawful entry by a landlord
  • Damage to a rental property
  • Harassment by tenant/landlord
  • Breach of privacy by a landlord

Before for the hearing

1. Read the Residential Tenancies Act

The Residential Tenancies Act is a law governing landlord and tenant relations, setting out legal requirements and obligations that both parties must adhere to during residential tenancies.

To read the Residential Tenancies Act online, head to www.legislation.govt.nz.

Knowing the contents of the Residential Tenancies Act can help you understand your case and the claims against you better, which will allow you to represent yourself with confidence on the day of the hearing.

2. Study precedents

It is a good idea to have a look at past Tenancy Tribunal orders online to study previous cases that are similar to yours. Familiarising yourself with the various outcomes of different cases will help you prepare yourself for any unexpected questions directed at you at the hearing.

Tribunal order

A tribunal order is a ruling issued by an adjudicator to settle a dispute, normally on the day of the hearing. The order, a copy of which is received by both the landlord and the tenant, must be obeyed.

Tribunal orders are public information. They are published on the Ministry of Justice website, which means you can find other people’s tribunal orders there. The process is very simple and you don’t need to fill in all the fields – just select “Type” in the “Damages and Compensation” section, push the “Search” button, and download the PDF file.

It is not recommended to mention precedents during the hearing, since it is only the issues in a particular case and tribunal application that are considered and included in the decision.

3. Make a cross-application

A cross-application is an application filed when you already have a rental tribunal application made against you but also want to discuss other issues at the same time in one hearing.

Filing a cross-application means you get to paint an overall picture of your tenancy at a hearing and voice any other issues you may have had, which allows you to set the record straight when it comes to false accusations against you.

4. Resolve all questions in advance

People who apply to the Tenancy Tribunal for the first time usually have all sorts of questions about the hearing, ranging from what they should bring with them and what they should wear to what is considered supporting evidence.

In order to improve your chances of representing yourself efficiently and with confidence on the day of the hearing, it is advisable to resolve any questions you may have about it in reasonable advance:

5. Prepare your story in advance

  • The tenant is supposed to tell the Tribunal their story related to the issue at hand, briefly and clearly.

  • The landlord will also tell the dispute tribunal their story related to the issue at hand. If they are the applicant, they will explain their side first.

Your statement should be brief, offering a summary of the facts that lasts no longer than a couple of minutes. Writing your story down will help you remember key facts and important dates and ensure that you get your point across in the limited time you have.

While you should practice learning your story by heart before the hearing, you can read from your notes during the hearing as long as your delivery is confident.

Example tenant story

Potential applicants can insert the details of their own case into this example story, using it as a template:

“From the beginning of my tenancy in March 2019, I noticed the locks to my apartment were broken and I requested that my landlord, Mr. Jones, repairs them, to which he agreed. Despite repeated requests since then, both orally and in writing, Mr. Jones has not repaired the locks. This compromised the security of my premises to the extent that I suffered a break-in in August 2019, which caused me severe emotional distress. I have turned to the Tribunal to request compensation for the damages incurred as a result of the break-in and an immediate lock replacement”.

6. Engage with a professional property manager

The advantages of engaging a professional property manager to represent you include the following:

  • Knowledge of the law: The law can be complicated and change regularly and lawyers are experts.
  • Lawyers are familiar with the rules and procedures of the Tribunal and can help you understand the proceedings and outcomes you are facing.
  • Property Managers can help you deal with paperwork related to your case, as well as gather and organize your evidence.

Unless you are dealing with a small claims tribunal, a property manager can be vital, particularly in cases where:

  • the dispute is for more than $6,000;
  • the other person has a lawyer representing them;
  • the complexity of the issue is high.

Man in a library with his arms crossed

On the day of the hearing

7. Attend the hearing

If you want your side regarding the dispute to be heard, you should attend the hearing. If you don’t attend it:

  • the application will likely be dismissed if you are the applicant;
  • an order, such as the tenancy being ended or you being charged a fee, will be made without you if you are not the applicant.

If you want to attend the hearing but cannot be in the area, you can arrange to participate by phone conference.

It is in your best interest that you avoid sending a representative to the hearing and represent yourself instead. This is because:

  • You know your case better than anyone and, therefore, only you can answer any potential questions that may come up with detail and precision.
  • It is not guaranteed that a representative will be able to advocate for your interests as passionately as you would.
  • A representative may not be able to effectively communicate to you exactly what happened at the hearing in case it is unsuccessful and you need to appeal the decision.

8. Dress for success

On the day of the hearing, you should dress conservatively.

For men, a good option would be long trousers and a collared shirt, preferably with a tie, with or without a jacket.

Women can opt for a knee-length dress or skirt or trousers and a modest blouse or sweater.

While you don’t have to dress excessively formally, you should aim to dress respectfully so as to demonstrate you are taking the hearing seriously.

9. Arrive on time

Arriving on time for the hearing is important, as it shows the members of the Tribunal that you are respectful of the procedure.

Arriving at least 30 minutes before your hearing is scheduled is advisable.

10. Provide evidence

You should bring any evidence that supports your claim or your side of the issue to the Tribunal hearing. You should have two extra copies of all evidence, be it bank statements, photos or other documents – one for the adjudicator and one for the other person. Also, take with you all original documents that you submitted copies of with your application (such as the tenancy agreement, any correspondence etc.)

To be on the safe side, go through the following check-list on the day of the hearing:

  • tenancy agreement

  • rent summary

  • 14-day notices

  • Repairs and maintenance quotes

  • bank statements

  • accounts

  • inspection reports

  • a rental summary

  • photos

  • letters, etc.

Infographic containing the evidence list and a template story

11. Be honest

Tribunal hearings are less formal than normal court hearings. Yet at the beginning of the hearing, you will be asked to make a promise to tell only the truth.

Some reasons why it is a bad idea to lie during a Tribunal hearing are:

  • If caught in a lie, you will lose the case.
  • The hearings are public record, meaning your lie will be forever available online for scrutiny and could be exposed.
  • The fact you lied after promising to tell the truth can jeopardize future tenancy and employment prospects.

12. Keep calm

Many people have never appeared in a courtroom before and, therefore, are inexperienced with advocating for themselves publicly. Representing oneself at a hearing requires a lot of work, such as gathering evidence related to the case, which can be a daunting task. For these reasons, a Tribunal hearing can often be perceived as a stressful affair.

While it is understandable that participants may feel emotional at the hearing, due to anger or disbelief for example, it is best to try and remain calm and be articulate. Excessively emotional participants can give a bad impression to the Tribunal members and that will not help them win their case.

To calm yourself down before a Tribunal hearing, try the following:

  • take deep breaths to get oxygen into your brain and relax your body;

  • practice positive self-talk in order to get yourself in a pleasant mood;

  • practice your speech, as being prepared will help you stop feeling nervous.

14. Apply for a rehearing

If you disagree with a decision made at the Tenancy Tribunal hearing, you can either apply for a rehearing or appeal to the District Court.

You can apply for a rehearing within 5 working days of a decision being issued if you think:

  • the decision was substantially wrong;