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The Disputes Tribunal Process

26 March 2018

The Disputes Tribunal is a quick and inexpensive way to settle disputes. Each hearing is run by a referee and they have a wide jurisdiction to deal with low level disputes over almost anything.

What things can I dispute?

Faulty goods, bad workmanship, pricing, fencing of boundaries, hire purchase contracts, cattle grazing ,car accidents, loss or damage to other property and more.

What things can’t I dispute?

Employment issues, land sales, family matters, wills, ACC.

Other limitations

It must be a dispute that you have tried and failed to resolve.

Who can go to the hearing?

Disputes Tribunal hearings are private. They are closed to the public and the media. You can’t have a lawyer represent you.

How do I apply?

You need to fill out a Tribunal form outlining the parties to the dispute and the general background to the dispute and then file it with the local Tribunal. The cost of filing a claim depends on the amount you are claiming, but ranges from $45 to $180. Your matter will then be allocated a hearing time and the other party will be notified of the claim and given the opportunity to make a counterclaim. Forms and fees

What happens at the hearing?

  • The referee introduces everyone and explains how the hearing will run.
  • Both parties explain their side of the dispute. The applicant (person claiming) speaks first. When both parties have spoken there’s a discussion about the points that are in disagreement.
  • Any witnesses are called into the hearing room to give evidence. Both parties and the referee can question the witnesses.
  • The referee tries to help you both agree how to settle the dispute. If you reach an agreement and it’s approved by the referee, it’s binding (you must follow the agreement).
  • If you can’t agree, the referee makes a decision. This decision may be given at the hearing or be posted to the parties later.
  • Sometimes the referee may need more information. If so, the rest of the hearing will be put off and you will need to come back at another time.

What is the maximum I can claim?

The Tribunal can only hear claims to the value of $15,000 or up to $20,000 if both parties agree.

What if I’m not happy with the decision?

A party can only appeal a decision of the Tribunal on the grounds of procedural unfairness such as not being allowed to question a witness. You can request a rehearing only if you believe that something stopped the proper decision being made . It is not possible to appeal simply because you are unhappy with the decision.