Case length

How long will my case take to finalise?

The time your case takes to be finalised usually depends on:

  • the complexity
  • whether forms have been completed correctly and any fees have been paid
  • whether supporting documents are lodged on time
  • the willingness of parties to resolve a dispute before a hearing (for example, at a conference or mediation)
  • how long a hearing takes (some take an hour, some take days)
  • whether the decision is given orally on the day or reserved to be given later (possibly for written reasons to be given).

Case length based on case type

The information below is based on ACAT performance data and general information about how long a case usually takes to resolve after an application is lodged.

Civil disputes:

  • Around 95% are finalised within 12 months.
  • The average time to complete an application is 165 days.
  • Often a civil dispute application is served on the respondent, who usually has 21 days to respond. How the case progresses past this point will depend if a response is received, the amount of money claimed, and complexity of the application.
  • For claims for less than $3,000, usually an application will be referred to a conference and immediate determination, which is listed 9–12 weeks after ACAT receives a response. Most parties get a resolution on this day.
  • For claims valued between $3,000 and $15,000, the case will be scheduled for conference 3–4 weeks after ACAT receives a response. If the claim is not resolved then, it will go to a hearing.
  • For claims valued above $15,000, applications will be scheduled for a conference and evaluation about 3 weeks after the response is received. If the claim is not resolved then, it will go to a hearing.

Discrimination cases:

  • Around 83% are finalised within 12 months.
  • The average time a discrimination case takes after it has been referred to ACAT is 148 days.
  • Generally listed for directions hearing 2–4 weeks after the referral has been made.

Energy and water cases:

  • Applications for hardship assistance are scheduled for a meeting or hearing 2–3 weeks after contact is made with ACAT.
  • Complaint applications are generally lodged within 3 days of being received by the ACAT.
  • All complaints are different with varied levels of complexity, and ACAT aims to resolve complaints as quickly as possible.
  • Specific timeframes for complaint resolution cannot be provided, however 45% of complaints are resolved within 90 days.

Fence disputes:

  • Generally listed for a conference and immediate determination 5–6 weeks after an application is lodged. Most parties get a resolution on this day.
  • In some instances, applications will be listed for a preliminary conference 2-3 weeks after an application is lodged.

Guardianship and management of property cases:

  • New applications are scheduled for hearing 4–6 weeks after the application is lodged.
  • Decisions are usually made on the day of the hearing.

Mental health cases:

  • New applications are listed for hearing 2–4 weeks after the application is lodged.
  • Decisions are usually made on the day of the hearing.

Occupational regulation and discipline cases:

  • Around 96% are finalised within 12 months.
  • The average time to complete an application is 105 days.
  • Applications are generally listed for directions hearing 2–4 weeks after the application is lodged.

Rental property disputes:

  • Usually finalised within 12 months.
  • The average time to complete an application is 49 days.
  • Applications for termination and possession of a residential tenancy agreement are generally scheduled for a hearing within 10–14 days. Decisions are usually made on the day of the hearing.
  • Other applications (including rental bond referrals) are generally listed for conference 3–4 weeks after the application is lodged or referred to ACAT. If the case is not resolved then, it will go to a hearing.

Residential tenancy endorsements:

  • Usually finalised within 12 months.
  • The average time to complete an endorsement is 61 days.
  • Applications are usually dealt with in-chambers by an ACAT member.

Retirement village cases:

  • Usually finalised within 12 months.
  • The average time to complete an application is 259 days.
  • Applications are often scheduled for directions hearing 2–3 weeks after the application is lodged.

Review of administrative decisions:

  • About 95% are finalised within 12 months.
  • The average time to complete an application is 144 days.
  • An initial directions hearing is usually scheduled 2–4 weeks after the application is lodged.

Unit title disputes:

  • Around 97% are finalised within 12 months.
  • The average time to complete an application is 135 days.
  • A directions hearing is generally scheduled 2–3 weeks after the application is lodged.

ACAT appeals:

  • Usually finalised within 12 months.
  • The average time to complete an appeal is 85 days.
  • An initial directions hearing is generally scheduled 2–4 weeks after the application is lodged.

More information

Contact us for more information.

Glossary and terms

Glossary and terms

ACT Civil and Administrative TribunalA tribunal established under the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal Act 2008. It may also be referred to as ACAT or Tribunal.

Adjourn (or adjournment)To suspend or postpone a preliminary conference, mediation or hearing and reschedule it for a future date.

Administrative reviewACAT has jurisdiction to review some administrative decisions made by the ACT Government. Find out about Review of ACT Government decisions.

Alternative dispute resolution (ADR)Also known as dispute resolution. This is a way of resolving disputes without a formal hearing. It may involve a preliminary conference or mediation. ADR is used to help parties resolve cases by agreement.

AnorMeans ‘and another’. This term is generally used to name parties to proceedings when there is more than one applicant or respondent.

Appeal TribunalA tribunal constituted under section 81 of the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal 2008 to review a decision of the tribunal (not all ACAT decisions are appealable at ACAT – you may need to go to the Supreme Court).

AppellantThe individual or company that appeals an ACAT decision.

Authorising lawsA law that says an application (including referrals) may be made to ACAT. An authorising law may also set out the powers ACAT has in a case. Also see ‘jurisdiction’.

ApplicantThe individual or company that brings a case to ACAT, usually by making an application.

Calling a witnessA party or their representative will ‘call a witness’ at an ACAT hearing when they ask a witness to give evidence.

CaseAlso known as a matter, dispute, application or referral. Cases come to ACAT when ACAT has jurisdiction (power) to make a decision.

Cross-examinationThe process of asking a witness questions to test or check the evidence that the witness has given to ACAT.

Deliver a decisionAlso ‘handing down a decision’. This is giving a decision about an ACAT case. It may be done verbally or in writing (or both).

DirectionsInstructions that set out what each party must do (and when), often to prepare a case for hearing.

Directions hearingA short hearing where an ACAT Member or Registrar decides how to manage a case and what needs to be done before a hearing. Find out about directions hearings.

Ex parte orderAn order made by ACAT where one or more parties were not present.

Expert reportA written report from an expert that may be used as evidence.

Expert witnessA person with specialised knowledge based on their training, study or experience. An expert can give evidence at a hearing. Find out more about witness statements.

Final directions hearingSometimes ACAT will hold a final directions hearing prior to the final hearing of an application. The purpose is to make sure the case is ready to go to a hearing and give the parties a chance to ask questions about the hearing process.

Handed upGiving documents to an ACAT Member or Registrar in a hearing.

In chambersWhen ACAT considers something without holding a hearing.

Joined party (joined/joinder)A party who was not originally a party to the dispute but has later been added to the case.

JurisdictionACAT’s authority (power) to deal with, hear and decide applications (cases).

LeaveIf someone asks for leave, they are usually asking for permission to do something.

List (or listing)A schedule (or list) of cases to be heard at ACAT each day.

Listing noticeA letter or written document from ACAT that sets out when a conference, mediation or hearing is scheduled at ACAT.

MediationA private meeting where parties discuss ways to resolve their dispute, with the help of an impartial mediator (who is also an ACAT Member or Registrar). It is held under section 35 of the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal Act 2008.

Non-publication and/or non-disclosure orderAlso called a ‘suppression order’. It is an order that requires certain information not to be published or disclosed. It is made under section 39 of the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal Act 2008. Find out about public hearings and confidentiality.

Notice to partiesA letter sent to the parties in a case that sets out the time, date and location for an ACAT conference, mediation or hearing.

Opening statementUsually means a statement made at the beginning of a hearing to outline the key points in the case. Sometimes parties are asked to give an opening statement at a mediation or preliminary conference.

Originating applicationAn application that starts an ACAT case.

Party or partiesAn individual or company directly involved in an ACAT case, for example an applicant or respondent. Find out how to identify and name parties.

Preliminary conferenceA private meeting where parties discuss ways to resolve their dispute with the help of an ACAT Member or Registrar. See section 33 of the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal Act 2008. ACAT has different types of preliminary conferences.

RegistryThe administrative section of ACAT that accepts documents lodged by parties, handles enquiries and provides support for case management.

RepresentativeA person who represents or advocates for an individual or company at a conference, mediation or hearing at ACAT. For example, a legal practitioner or an attorney appointed under a general power of attorney.

Reserved decisionWhen an ACAT Member or Registrar reserves a decision (at the end of a hearing), this means they will give their decision later, either verbally or in writing (sometimes both).

RespondentThe party (or parties) against whom orders or relief is sought.

Short service orderAn order that authorises a shorter time for service (than the time otherwise required).

Serve/serviceA person who can give evidence at a hearing. Find out about witness statements.

Statement of reasonsA document that explains why ACAT made an order in a case. It sets out the law relied on by an ACAT Member or Registrar and explains how the law was applied to the facts of the case. You can request a written statement of reasons within 14 days after an order is made. Find out about statement of reasons.

StayAn order for a particular action (or decision) to be put on hold or suspended for a period of time.

SubmissionA document that sets out your side of a case or dispute and the relevant law. It is presented to ACAT either in writing, verbally or both. Find out about submissions.

SubpoenaRequires a person to appear at ACAT to give evidence or provide documents (or both). Find out about subpoenas.

Substituted service orderAn order that says how a party is to be served with an application or other documents related to the proceedings. In a civil dispute or a rental dispute, an applicant will need to consider asking for a substituted service order if they do not have a physical address for the respondent. Find out about lodging and serving documents.

WitnessA person who can give evidence at a hearing. Find out about witness statements.