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Resolving Disputes and Going to the Tenancy Tribunal

13 November 2017

Photo: Court House, Reefton, New Zealand by Jocelyn Kinghorn

Disputes are usually best resolved by negotiation and agreement between landlords and tenants. If you need to go further and seek mediation or a tribunal order, it’s important that you understand your rights and responsibilities as a landlord or tenant.

What kind of dispute do you have?

It’s important to understand what kind of dispute you have. You can only use the mediation and tribunal process if there has been a breach of your residential tenancy agreement.

If there has not been a breach and your problem or dispute is just a misunderstanding or disagreement, then you will need to resolve it by negotiation or agreement.

Problems with rent vs other problems

Problems with rent and rent arrears are dealt with differently to other problems.

Read about Rent Arrears and solving problems

For all other disputes and breaches of a residential tenancy agreement, refer to the information below.

Read more about responsibility for Maintenance and Repairs Issues

What steps can I take to solve a problem?

There is no single way to solve tenancy disputes. As a rule of thumb, however, myRent recommends first discussing the issue as soon as possible to come to an agreement about how to fix the issue.

The steps set out below are a general guide. You should consider the specific nature of your tenancy, the circumstances of the tenant and landlord, and anything else relevant before deciding on your course of action.

1. Self-resolution: the best solution

In most circumstances, you should contact the other party to discuss the problem. In many cases, the issue, and how it will be fixed, can be resolved through a quick chat.

A simple discussion or verbal reminder will often solve the issue quickly without any further action being required.

Although the tenant or landlord may be in breach of the agreement, it is important to remain calm and courteous in any discussion - that is usually the best way to quickly reach a solution.

Tips for self-resolution

  • Set-up a face to face meeting at a mutually convenient time and location.
  • Prepare for the meeting beforehand with any information (e.g. pictures) you may need to illustrate the problem. This is also helpful so you are clear about what you want to communicate.
  • Communicate the problem or issue clearly.
  • Listen to what the other person has to say. Don’t go into a discussion assuming you are absolutely right and the other person is absolutely wrong - there are almost always multiple reasonable perspectives on an issue.
  • Be realistic about what you can expect from the conversation and be willing to compromise to reach a solution acceptable to all.
  • Record any agreement on how the issue will be resolved in writing and upload it to ‘Tenancy Documents’ in your myRent account. This will provide a permanent and mutually accessible point of reference both tenants and landlords.
Read more about Self-resolution

If you reach an agreement: Apply for FastTrack Resolution to formalise the agreement

A FastTrack Resolution formalises an agreement between the landlord and tenant on how an issue will be resolved. The landlord can apply for a FastTrack Resolution when they have come to an agreement with the tenant. The Resolution has the same effect as a Mediator’s Order, meaning that breach of the order allows the non-breaching party to seek a possession or compensation order from the Tribunal.

Read more about FastTrack Resolution

No agreement reached: Serve a Notice to Remedy

If you don’t reach an agreement on how to resolve the dispute, you may want to serve a 14-day Notice to Remedy on the other party. You can only serve a Notice to Remedy if there has been a breach of the terms of the tenancy agreement.

If the issue is not resolved within 14 days of serving the notice, you can then apply to the Tribunal for mediation or a hearing.

Read more about Notices to Remedy

3. Mediation: structured negotiation

If you cannot reach an agreement with the tenant about payment of the overdue rent, it may be necessary to apply to the tribunal for mediation or a Tenancy Tribunal order.

When you apply for a Tribunal hearing and order, Tenancy Services may decide that you should first go through mediation in order to reach an agreed solution. Having a trained and skilled mediator will often be a better way to reach an agreement that both the landlord and tenant can agree on.

Mediation has several benefits over going straight to the Tribunal:

  • Mediation usually occurs more quickly and efficiently than a Tribunal hearing. The order produced by a mediator is legally binding can be enforced in court if required.
  • Mediation is less formal, can occur over the phone, and the mediator will make sure all parties understand the nature of the order made.
  • The parties have more control in mediation. The mediator simply structures the discussion between the tenant and landlord - they do not make a decision. This allows the landlord and tenant to come to a solution that suits them both.
  • Mediation is confidential. Tribunal decisions are usually published.

Tenancy Services will schedule a mediation session at a mutually convenient time for both landlord and tenant.

Read more about Mediation
Read more about Applying to the Tenancy Tribunal

Tips for preparing for mediation

  • Bring useful documents relating to the issue - this may include: rent records, receipts for work done, a notice to remedy, or photos of the damage to the property.
  • Think about possible solutions to the issue that could be agreed to by both parties before mediation.
  • Write down what you want to say and the points you want to make.
Download the Tenancy Services Pre-Mediation Workbook to help you with preparing for the Mediation.

4. Tenancy Tribunal: last resort for unresolved issues

If mediation does not work, or if Tenancy Services decides that mediation would not be helpful in your case, then the issue may be scheduled for a Tribunal hearing. The Tribunal has the power to make legally binding orders, which may include a possession order (that terminates the tenancy and gives possession back to the landlord) and/or money order (that requires the tenant or landlord to pay compensation or satisfy outstanding debts).

What is a Tenancy Tribunal hearing like?

Tribunal Hearings are basically less formal court hearings. While the Tribunal is like a court, you are not expected to have legal representation and most people appearing before the Tribunal are not represented.

Because most people at the Tribunal are self-represented, the adjudicator (basically like a judge) will assist both sides in presenting their arguments and conducting the hearings. You will not be disadvantaged if the other side has legal representation and you do not.

Both sides have the opportunity to present their case, evidence, and arguments. You should bring any evidence with you to the hearing, including any witnesses you may have or documents relating to the dispute. You should also write down and carefully prepare your arguments before the hearing.

The adjudicator will listen to your evidence and arguments, and those of the other side. Based on this, the adjudicator will then make a decision and an order to resolve the dispute. Depending on how complicated the issue is, you may receive the order on the same day as the hearing, or a few days later.

A Tribunal order is legally binding. Failing to comply with an order may lead to more serious consequences.

Read more about the Tenancy Tribunal and how to apply and prepare for a hearing

Further Reading

Rent Arrears: problems and solutions
About Maintenance and Repairs
Dispute Process explainer
Breaches of the Act
Search for Tenancy Tribunal Orders

The information contained in this article is exclusively for promotional purposes. It does not in any way constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as the basis for any legal action or contractual dealings. The information is not, and does not attempt to be, a comprehensive account of the relevant law in New Zealand. If you require legal advice you should seek independent legal counsel. does not accept any liability that may arise from the use of this information.

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