Tenancy tribunal: A landlord's guide

Posted by Pam Hight on May 18, 2022

How to handle a tenancy tribunal hearing

Receiving a tenancy tribunal application is a landlord's nightmare, especially when the prospect of a fine is on the table. When dealing with the tenancy tribunal, there is a lot to know, and not having the expertise to deal with it can not only be stressful for the landlord but can also result in a messy outcome.

Understanding the tenancy tribunal process, knowing your obligations as a landlord, and how to effectively support yourself during a hearing if the situation arises is the best place to start. We've broken down the main points you need to know about the tenancy tribunal and the tenancy hearing process to help if you're preparing for a hearing or want to avoid one in the future.

What is a tribunal hearing?

The tenancy tribunal deals with tenancy issues in residential properties, its purpose is to assist tenants and landlords to resolve conflicts. These hearings are faster and cheaper than normal court hearings and only require the landlord, tenant, and an adjudicator to attend. The adjudicator hears the dispute, from both sides, and makes a decision. During the hearing, each person presents any records and evidence they have and can invite witnesses to speak.

What can a tenancy dispute include?

Tribunal hearings can decide if: 

  • There is a legally binding tenancy agreement. 
  • The tenancy agreement is covered by the Residential Tenancies Act. 
  • A notice given to end the tenancy was legally valid, and which party has the right to have possession of the property.
  • Either party has breached the tenancy agreement, and what action to take.

What is the outcome of a tenancy tribunal hearing?

Depending on the dispute, the adjudicator can give an order for: 

  • The tenant or landlord to pay any relevant compensation. 
  • Either party to do something required by the tenancy agreement, or to stop doing anything that contradicts it.
  • Any relevant work to be done to the property (i.e. damage fixed or repairs done).

A tribunal hearing is not the same as a traditional court; it is intended to resolve tenancy disputes quickly. You are not represented by an attorney at the hearing, and there are no judges. An adjudicator oversees each hearing and makes a decision after analysing the evidence presented and the answers to questions they have asked. They must be persuaded ‘on a balance of probabilities’ that the tenant or the landlord has breached the tenancy agreement and is likely to suffer a loss as a result.

As a landlord you will be representing yourself, which is why it is important to make sure that you are well prepared. You can invite any witnesses to come to the hearing if you believe it will help your case. If you want to attend the hearing but cannot be in the area, you can arrange to participate by phone conference. Once the adjudicator has made a decision, the tenant and landlord must obey the order. All tribunal orders are publicly available on the Ministry of Justice website and from the District Court where the hearing took place. You can ask for suppression of your name at the hearing and this may be granted if your application is wholly or substantially successful.

Attending a tribunal hearing

Tribunal hearings can be a daunting experience, especially for those who have not experienced them before. Even though they are less formal than a normal court hearing, you still need to know the rules and procedures to make sure that you support your case to the best of your ability. To help plan ahead we have sourced some great advice from a great online resource: tenancy.govt.nz.

How to better prepare for a tribunal hearing:

  • Make a list of the important points you wish to make. This can be read at the hearing.
  • If the application is against you, make a cross-application to the tribunal if you want to have your concerns addressed and a court order awarded to you at this hearing.
  • If you choose, you can present your case in writing. You must provide a copy of your written submission to the tenant and the adjudicator.
  • Practice makes perfect! Prepare what you’re going to say in advance. This helps you to ensure it is clear and logical.
  • Collect relevant evidence such as letters, bills, receipts, contracts, quotes, photographs, or police reports.
  • Invite any witnesses who can help you with your case.
  • Before the hearing, send any supplementary papers to the tenancy tribunal. They can be sent, couriered, scanned, or handed in at the court counter. Include the CIV number from your notice of hearing and the hearing date if you know it. A copy of the documents must also be sent to the other parties.
  • Make sure that you are aware of the hearing day and time. In most cases, if an applicant is a no-show, the dispute is left unresolved, or the other party wins.

Can a property manager represent you at a tribunal hearing?

Whether you have a property manager or not, you can arrange for one to assist you in your hearing. If you already have a property manager looking after your property, they will already have the required paperwork needed to help support the case. They will complete all the preparation needed to professionally present the issues and they will represent you at the hearing.

A property manager can be extremely useful, especially in situations where:

  • The dispute is for more than $6,000.
  • The other person has a lawyer representing them.
  • The issue is complex.
  • The problem has been ongoing for a long time.

If you self-manage and have limited time to prepare, are unfamiliar with rental law, or are unclear about any of the hearing process, having a property manager to support you can be a lifeline. The tenancy tribunal is often a complicated and tense place to be. As a landlord, you will face the challenges of the tribunal if the property in question is mismanaged. Fortunately, the stress and hassle of the tribunal can be successfully dealt with by an experienced property manager. If meticulous record-keeping is a drain on your time and energy, then outsourcing your property management could be the best investment you can make. 

To take the responsibility off your shoulders, get a free rental property assessment today. With McDonald Real Estate, you won’t be trapped in any long-term contracts. We’re here to make your rental property work for you, not the other way around. 

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Topics: Managing a rental

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