Residential Tenancies Disputes
Published Thu, 02 Jul 2015 14:17:40 +1000 Content
To access Applications/Forms for this section, please click here.
- CONSTITUTION OF THE ACAT
- TYPES OF RESIDENTIAL TENANCY APPLICATIONS
- MORE INFORMATION ABOUT APPLICATIONS
- PRE-HEARING CONFERENCES
- WHAT HAPPENS IF A PARTY FAILS TO ATTEND A PRE-HEARING CONFERENCE OR HEARING
- DO PARTIES HAVE TO BE LEGALLY REPRESENTED
- WHAT ARE THE OPTIONS IF A PARTY IS NOT REPRESENTED BUT IS UNABLE TO PHYSICALLY ATTEND THE PROCEEDINGS
- PROCEDURAL POWERS & ORDERS OF THE TRIBUNAL
- WHAT IF A PARTY FAILS TO COMPLY WITH AN ORDER OF THE TRIBUNAL
- CAN A PARTY SEEK A REVIEW OF, OR APPEAL A, DECISION OF THE TRIBUNAL
- WHAT PARTIES CAN EXPECT FROM STAFF OF THE ACAT
- WHAT WE WOULD LIKE FROM YOU
BEFORE CONTACTING THE ACAT
The Renting Book is a publication developed by Access Canberra, and is a guide for all tenants, property owners and agents involved in renting residential property in the ACT. It explains your rights and responsibilities under residential tenancy laws.
There are new provisions in the Residential Tenancies Act 1997 that start on Friday, 14 December 2018. They introduce payment orders, which replace conditional termination and possession orders. More information about unpaid rent and payment orders can be found here.
RESIDENTIAL TENANCY NOTICES
(Please Note these notices are examples only and meant for guidance only and are not prescribed forms. The user must make sure the form is appropriate for their matter before using it)
The ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal (ACAT) commenced on 2 February 2009. Previously, residential tenancy disputes were determined in the Residential Tenancies Tribunal.
The ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal is an independent body, which has exclusive jurisdiction to hear and determine all matters arising from private and public residential tenancy and occupancy agreements under the Residential Tenancies Act 1997 (the Act).
The membership of the ACAT consists of the President, Presidential Members, a full time Senior Member and a number of sessional non-presidential Members. All Members are appointed by the Attorney General.
There are two types of applications a person may make to the ACAT about residential tenancy matters.
1. Application for Endorsement
An application for endorsement of additional or inconsistent terms to a lease should be lodged when a lessor (or their agent) and a tenant enter into a new tenancy agreement and the parties agree to additional terms being included in the agreement that are inconsistent with the standard terms. The standard terms is a schedule included at the end of the Residential Tenancies Act 1997. It contains 100 standard terms that should be included in all leases in the ACT.
Where the ACAT has not endorsed an inconsistent term, it cannot be relied upon in any hearing before the ACAT.
A copy of the proposed lease, the prescribed terms and proposed additional clause should accompany lodgement of an application for endorsement. An application for endorsement does not attract a filing fee. Applications are generally decided on the papers included in the application - if more information is required, the Tribunal will inform the parties in writing.
It should be noted that an application for endorsement must be agreed to and signed by both the lessor and the tenant/s. Any evidence indicating fraud or undue influence may render the application void.
2. Applications for the Resolution of a Dispute
A dispute arising out of a Residential Tenancies Agreement can be lodged with the ACAT by either the lessor or the tenant. Examples of some applications commonly sought include applications:
- by a tenant for the termination of a tenancy agreement;
- by a lessor for a termination and possession order;
- by a lessor for an order for the payment of rent arrears;
- by a tenant for a stay of an eviction;
- by a tenant for an order for compensation and/or reinstatement for wrongful eviction;
- by a lessor for an order for compensation where a tenant abandons a premises before a fixed term tenancy agreement expires;
- by either party for a review of a rental rate increase;
- by a tenant for a reduction in the rental rate payable and reimbursement of the rent paid.
An application may be, but is not limited to, the disputes referred to above.
All applications are subject to a filing fee. The size of the fee depends on the nature of the dispute. Information about fees is available on the ACAT website or at the ACAT.
Application forms can be found on the ACAT website or obtained from the front counter at ACAT.
Upon receipt of an application, the Registrar will assess the best way to process the matter. It may be the matter is referred for conference or mediation, or alternatively, be set down for hearing before a Registrar, Deputy Legal Registrar or ACAT Member.
Written notice of the process adopted will be sent to each party as soon as possible after lodgement. The notice will also include the date and time and location set for the conference or hearing. A full copy of the application will be sent to both parties. Any confidential information should not be included with your application.
In appropriate cases, a Registrar, Deputy Legal Registrar or Member may conduct a pre-hearing conference. The objective of the conference is to:
- define and limit the relevant issues in dispute;
- ensure that the parties have used all their endeavours to resolve the dispute;
- actively assist the parties to resolve the dispute; and
- assess the time likely to be required for any hearing.
If a consent agreement between the parties is reached at the conference, the terms of the agreement are lodged with the ACAT. If the matter is not resolved at the conference, directions will be made for the filing of evidence and the matter will be scheduled for hearing.
IMPORTANT NOTICE: Under section 55 of the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal Act 2008 the ACAT may, by order, make a decision in accordance with agreed terms without holding a hearing, or without completely dealing with an application at a hearing if a hearing has begun.
Applications may be listed for hearing depending on the issues in dispute. All hearings are recorded and parties will receive written notice advising the date, time and location of the hearing.
At hearing, the ACAT will invite the parties to add anything further to what they have already presented in their application or response, and except in exceptional circumstances, proceed to hear and determine the matter there and then.
If a party to the dispute fails to attend a conference or hearing, the ACAT may:
- adjourn or schedule a case for hearing;
- take such other steps before the conference/hearing proceeds, as the ACAT directs;
- adjourn the proceedings;
- if the party is the applicant - dismiss the application;
- if the party is the respondent - make orders in favour of the applicant.
If both parties fail to appear, the ACAT may dismiss the application.
A person appearing at a hearing may be represented at the hearing by a legal practitioner or an agent, or they may appear on their own behalf.
IMPORTANT NOTICE: Costs are rarely awarded in the ACAT and usually only in cases where one side has caused an unreasonable obstruction or delay in proceedings.
Where a party is unavailable to attend a conference or hearing, arrangements can be made for a teleconference. This is done by telephone hook-up. Parties should contact the ACAT prior to the conference or hearing to enable appropriate arrangements to be made.
Procedural Powers of the ACAT
The ACAT has wide ranging powers. These are specified at Division 6.1 of the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal Act 2008. These powers include the power to make an interim order, if it believes the party applying for the interim order would suffer disadvantage or harm if the Order was not made.
The ACAT may make a variety of orders. Some orders which are commonly made include:
- an order terminating a tenancy agreement;
- an order granting a termination and possession order to have effect as a warrant of eviction;
- an order for the payment of rent arrears;
- an order for a stay of eviction;
- an order for compensation and/or reinstatement for wrongful eviction;
- an order for compensation where a tenant abandons a premises before a fixed term tenancy agreement expires;
- an order accepting, declining or partly accepting a rental rate increase;
- an order reducing the rental rate payable;
- an order refunding rent already paid as compensation;
- such other order as the ACAT considers appropriate.
If a termination and possession order is made and the tenant fails to vacate the premises on the date ordered, the ACAT will, upon application from the lessor, issue a warrant authorising the police to evict the tenant and anyone residing in the premises. upon giving two days notice.
For information on what to do when a payment order is breached see the unpaid rent and payment orders fact sheet here.
The ACAT is required to state that an application for warrant of eviction has been made, the time and place for the hearing of the matter and that the person should seek legal advice if they wish to continue living at the premises. Two days' notice is often required.
The Magistrates Court enforces ACAT orders. You can find out information about enforcement procedures here.
A party can request written reasons for the decision of the ACAT within 14 days of the date of the order. A party to an ACAT hearing may appeal internally to ACAT on a question of law or fact from a decision of the ACAT in the first instance. Appeals must be instituted no later than 28 days from the date of the order, unless the President or a Presidential Member allows for an extension of time. Appeal forms are available from the ACAT website and from the Tribunal registry. A fee applies to applications for appeal.
IMPORTANT NOTICE: When written reasons for decision are requested from the ACAT, a copy of those reasons may be posted in full on the ACAT website.
The ACAT has a responsibility and a duty to those who approach it to facilitate dispute resolution which is quick, simple and inexpensive.
Parties can expect the staff of the ACAT to provide a timely service to all users accessing the ACAT. Staff of the ACAT will also provide assistance with applications and advice regarding the preparation of relevant documents.
ACAT staff are unable to offer legal advice or inform parties of their legal rights and obligations. If a party requires legal assistance or advice, the staff of the ACAT are able to refer parties to the relevant services where such guidance can be sought.
ACAT hearings are open to the public unless, for exceptional reasons, the ACAT is of the opinion that the proceedings should be closed. Information on access to ACAT files can be found here.
To assist the ACAT in disposing of matters in a timely, cost effective and efficient manner; please remember to:
- ensure that your application is completed in full with the nature of the dispute clearly identified;
- attach all relevant documents and material to your application;
- if represented, provide the name and contact details of your solicitor or agent;
- advise staff of times and dates that you or your representative may not be available for any conciliation process or hearing; and
- if you are unable to attend personally and you are not represented, advise with regard to telephone contact details.
Further information on the ACAT can be obtained by contacting:
The Deputy Registrar
ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal
ACT Health Building
Level 4, 1 Moore Street
Canberra City ACT 2601
Telephone (02) 6207-1740
Facsimile: (02) 6205-4855
For information regarding rental bonds, inquires may be directed to:
ACT Rental Bonds
GPO Box 293, CIVIC SQUARE, ACT 2608
9.00am to 4.30pm Monday to Friday
Telephone: (02) 6207 0028
For further advice regarding legal rights and obligations, parties may wish to contact:
Canberra Community Law
21 Barry Drive
TURNER ACT 2601
Telephone: (02) 6218-7900
Facsimile: (02) 6257-4801
Tenants Advice Service
21 Barry Drive
TURNER ACT 2612
Telephone: (02) 6247-2011 (Between 10am-11.30am each day. Leave details to receive a call-back)
Check Twitter: @tuact