RESOLVING TENANCY DISPUTES A dispute between a tenant and their landlord or agent may arise during a tenancy. The Residential Tenancies Act describes the process by which these disputes may be resolved. Commissioner of Tenancies To lodge an application with the Commissioner of Tenancies, you must submit a form to the Consumer Affairs Tenancy Unit. You may also contact Consumer Affairs directly by phoning (08) 8999 1999 or 1800 019 319. Their office is located on the 1st Floor of the Met Building, 13 Scaturchio Street, Casuarina (PO Box 40946, Casuarina NT 0811). The application form can also be downloaded from their website, which is www.consumeraffairs.nt.gov.au. Contact our Service if you need assistance. When lodging your application form you should attach copies of the relevant documentation in support of your application, including your tenancy agreement, condition reports, inspection reports, and details of any contact - written or verbal – that you have had with the landlord or agent. Sworn statutory declarations by persons supporting your application should also be attached. Once your application is lodged with Consumer Affairs, a delegate for the Commissioner will review your application and supporting documents to determine whether the matter should be listed for a hearing or proceed by way of conciliation. The Commissioner’s delegate may organise a conciliation conference where both parties sit with the Commissioner to negotiate an agreement, or may undertake preliminary conciliation, which involves an officer from the Consumer Affairs Tenancy Unit contacting you and your landlord to inform you of your rights and obligations. The Consumer Affairs officer may also require further information and documentation from you before recommending an outcome to resolve the dispute. If a tenancy dispute is not conciliated, or the nature of your application requires it to be listed for a hearing in the first instance, Consumer Affairs will write you a letter and tell you that your application has been listed for “Inquiry”. If you cannot physically attend at the Consumer Affairs office, you should write a letter to the Commissioner explaining the reason and requesting leave to attend the Inquiry by telephone. Under the Residential Tenancies Act, proceedings before the Commissioner in relation to your application must be concluded within 28 days after receiving your application, or as soon as practicable. If there are circumstances requiring an urgent determination of your application, write a letter to the Consumer Affairs Tenancy Unit requesting that your application be listed for Inquiry at the earliest available date. If you are defending an application made by the landlord against you, notice of the Inquiry will be posted to you by Consumer Affairs. Whether you are attending for a conciliation conference or for an Inquiry before the Commissioner, you will need to be prepared just as if you had lodged the application yourself. Even though the proceedings before the Commissioner are less formal than a Court, you should seek legal advice beforehand. Darwin Community Legal Service June 2012 RESOLVING TENANCY DISPUTES Local Court applications There are situations where it may be appropriate to seek resolution of the dispute in the Local Court. Contact our Service for advice about your particular circumstances. have a fixed term tenancy agreement, the landlord would have to prove to the Court or the Commissioner that you breached the law or your tenancy agreement and that you were given proper notice of the breach and failed to remedy the breach. The hardship argument may also be applicable depending upon your circumstances. Contact our Service for more information and advice about your situation. If you have made the application, you are responsible for proving your case. Once you file your application, the Local Court Civil Registry staff will list your application before the magistrate. You will be given the Local Court or Commissioner of date and time to appear in Court. If your landlord has Tenancies orders made an application against you in the Local Court you will be served with a copy of that application, which will Both the Commissioner and the Court can make advise the date and time of the hearing. orders that are legally enforceable. If an order has been made against your landlord and they are not It is extremely important to attend the hearing complying with this order there are a number of because the Court can make orders that affect you, steps you can take. In the first instance you may even if you are not present. If you do not attend the wish to write to your landlord reminding them of the hearing, you could be evicted or charged for money orders made and requesting that they comply with that you did not know about. If you cannot attend them immediately. the Court date listed on the application, you should request that the matter be re-listed for another date If you have written to your landlord requesting that and provide reasons for requesting the date change. they comply with the Order and have not received If the landlord believes they have suffered loss or damage as a result of you breaching your duties under the law or your lease, they may make a claim against you for compensation in the Local Court or before the Commissioner of Tenancies. If you do not agree that you are responsible for the landlord’s loss, you should tell the Court or Commissioner why not and provide whatever evidence you can to support your claim. If you agree that you are liable but the amount claimed by the landlord is unreasonable, you must provide evidence of this. If you have a periodic tenancy agreement and the landlord has made an application to evict you after providing proper notice, there is no defence other than to seek an extension of time based on hardship. If you a positive response, contact us to find out more information about the enforcement options available to you. If orders are made against you and you want to appeal the decision, it is a good idea to contact the Local Court Civil Registry or our Service for advice immediately, because the timeframe for appealing the orders may be very short. If orders have been made to evict you it is important to seek advice from the Local Court or our Service as soon as practicable. If the Commissioner’s orders are for compensation only, for example, your appeal must be filed in the Local Court within 14 days after the date of the order, or the date of the written decision, whichever is the latter. If you wish to appeal an order made by the Local Court you can contact our Service for advice. For further information contact Darwin Community Legal Service Freecall: 1800 812 953 8 Manton St Darwin NT GPO Box 3180 Darwin NT 0801 P: (08) 8982 1111 F: (08) 8982 1112 E: [email protected] www.dcls.org.au Disclaimer: This fact sheet is for general information purposes only and should not be used as a substitute for professional legal advice. If you are a residential tenant and need advice relating to a past, present or prospective tenancy, contact the Tenants’ Advice Service (“TAS”). TAS is a Northern Territory-wide program of Darwin Community Legal Service that receives funding through the Northern Territory Department of Justice to provide information and advocacy services to residential tenants in the Northern Territory. TAS takes no responsibility for any loss or damage resulting from errors in this fact sheet. The information contained in this fact sheet is current as at June 2012.
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