What to know about tenancy tribunal hearings
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Tenancy tribunal hearings: What you need to know

Tribunal hearings are an essential part of ensuring fair and impartial governance of the rental property market in New Zealand. For both tenants and landlords, understanding the intricacies of the process and these hearings is crucial to ensuring a fair resolution in case of disputes. 

In this article, we aim to clarify the tribunal process. Read on to find out more about your rights and responsibilities, and what to expect. 

What is a tribunal hearing?

Unlike traditional courts, the tenancy tribunal is used to resolve tenancy disputes. At a hearing, both the landlord and tenant tell their side of the story, present evidence, and call witnesses. The adjudicator overseeing the hearing will ask questions of all parties. 

The adjudicator then makes a decision based on the evidence presented, The Residential Tenancies Act, and the balance of probability. To be successful, you must prove that your version of events is most likely to be true. Both parties will receive an order outlining what each party is required to do to resolve the dispute.

The tenancy tribunal plays a vital role in resolving conflicts between tenants and landlords. Whether it's a disagreement over rent, maintenance issues, lease terms, or any other matter, hearings provide a formal setting for both parties to present their cases and reach a resolution. 

What to expect from a tribunal hearing

See below for an explanation of each stage and how to prepare. 

Before the tribunal hearing

The outcome of your hearing will depend on how much preparation you do in advance. We advise taking the time to watch one or two other cases to get an idea of how the process works. While hearings are public, you may have to state that you are an observer and sit near the back. 

To prepare for your hearing, we recommend collecting as much evidence as you can to support your claim. This may include a combination of the following: 

  • Tenancy agreements.
  • Property inspection reports.
  • A rent summary.
  • Letters of request or 14-day notices to remedy.
  • Printed copies of any relevant emails or texts.
  • Copies of any relevant photos, receipts, or bank statements.
  • Relevant video media (note: you will need to inform the tribunal in advance).
  • Any witnesses who can attend the hearing.

In addition to the above documents, bring your copy of the tribunal application and contact details for the court. It will also be helpful to have a written summary of your claim or your response to the other party’s claim. 

Matters surrounding either the property you live in, own or rent out, can feel quite personal, which means emotions can run high. It’s important to note that the tenancy tribunal focuses on facts and evidence alone so try to remain calm and objective when gathering and presenting evidence.

During the tribunal hearing

Tribunal hearings are less formal than court hearings but they still follow a structured process. The room usually looks similar to a courtroom, with the landlord and tenant parties seated at tables facing the adjudicator. The proceedings are as follows: 

1. Swear to tell the truth 

As an act of courtesy, stand up when the adjudicator enters the room. They will ask you to read out a truth-telling pledge which you must agree to. Stay standing until you are invited to sit. 

2. The applicant presents their case

The tenant or landlord who first applied to the tribunal will present their case. This typically includes a summary of the facts, paperwork, photos, and other evidence. You will also have the opportunity to present any witnesses, such as neighbours, real estate agents, police, or other tenants. 

3. The respondent presents their case

The other party will now respond to any allegations that were made by the applicant and present their evidence.

4. The Order of the Tribunal

Both parties will have one last opportunity to make their final comments to the adjudicator before the decision is made. The adjudicator can choose to make the decision on the day or at a later date, which is known as a reserved decision. 

After the tribunal hearing

With a reserved decision, the adjudicator considers the evidence and makes an objective decision. This is called the Order of the Tribunal and is legally binding for both tenants and landlords. The adjudicator will provide each of you with a copy of the order, stating what you need to do, such as pay fines, arrange repairs, or end the tenancy. 

Once the Order of the Tribunal has been issued, you will not be able to present more information. Re-hearings are rarely granted and usually only when there is a serious error or new information has arisen since the first hearing. 

Can a property manager help during my tribunal hearing?

Property managers are a great asset to have when dealing with a tenancy dispute. When an issue arises, they will take proactive steps to resolve it quickly and effectively. In many cases, this will solve the issue before either party submits a tribunal claim.

For cases where the tribunal cannot be avoided, having an experienced industry expert in your corner makes a big difference. 

If you already have a property manager managing your rental, they will have the paperwork you need and can complete all the preparation for you. With their expertise, they will present the issues and represent you at the hearing. Your property manager will also act as an intermediary between both parties, which is extremely helpful for de-escalating issues. 


To take the responsibility of property management off your shoulders, get a free rental property assessment with McDonald Real Estate. Don’t worry, you won’t be trapped in any long-term contracts! 

If you’re in a situation that may escalate into a tribunal hearing, speak with our team. We can support landlords with advice before a tribunal process or give assistance de-escalating the situation before it reaches that stage. An experienced property manager can reduce the stress on both parties and help to resolve the situation peacefully.


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