If you are experiencing a tenancy dispute with your landlord, NCAT can help you resolve your issue in accordance with the law. This article aims to help you decide if you want to resolve your tenancy dispute at NCAT, and how to prepare for a hearing.
NCAT is mainly about tenants and landlords coming to an agreement. NCAT can resolve disputes as permitted by the law.
If you have signed a tenancy agreement, your tenancy rights are protected under the Residential Tenancies Act 2010.
For example, if your landlord did not lodge a bond with Rental Bonds Online, NCAT can make an order for the bond to be lodged – because this constitutes a breach of the law.
However, if your real estate agent is treating you in a way that is dismissive or unkind, NCAT cannot resolve this matter as it does not constitute a breach of the law.
NCAT can, for example, order that:
If your matter involves ‘federal jurisdiction’ – for example, your landlord is a permanent resident of an Australian state or territory other than NSW – NCAT will not be able to determine your matter. In this situation, you can still apply to NCAT for help in coming to an agreed settlement. Otherwise, you will need to get a letter from NCAT confirming that they are not able to hear the matter so you can take it to the Local or District Court. Learn more about federal jurisdiction on the NCAT website.
If you have signed an Occupancy Agreement in a boarding house, your rights are protected under the Boarding Houses Act 2012. NCAT can determine occupancy disputes between residents and proprietors of registered boarding houses. To check whether the property you are living in is a registered boarding house, search the NSW accommodation registers.
Under the Boarding Houses Act 2012, NCAT can make an order:
Check NCAT’s webpage on boarding houses for more information.
Fair Trading is an NSW government department that handles complaints regarding tenancy matters and is responsible for regulation and licensing of real estate agents. Fair Trading can investigate some matters and has the power to make rectification orders (order to rectify or complete work by a due date). Going to Fair Trading is free and can be a good option for certain matters if you don’t want to go to NCAT – but it is not compulsory to go to Fair Trading first. There is a fee to apply to NCAT, and NCAT orders are binding.
Another option is to make an agreement with the landlord or agent. This may not be ideal for you, but it can save you time, money and effort. You can also consider sending a letter of demand, outlining the ways the issues are in breach of the law. Contact SUPRA’s Postgraduate Advocacy Service for support with this.
Once an application has been lodged and accepted, NCAT will ask the parties to reach an agreement through conciliation. If agreement cannot be reached this way, the case will then proceed to a tribunal hearing.
During both processes (conciliation and tribunal hearings) the applicant and the respondent will each have a turn to tell their side of events and present any evidence.
During a tribunal hearing, it is up to the person who lodged the application to provide enough evidence to convince the Tribunal Member that the orders they are seeking should be given.
Any orders made by NCAT are binding, but not legally enforceable. In the event that NCAT orders are not followed by the respondent, contact SUPRA’s Legal Service for advice.
Make sure you have the information and supporting documents you need to complete the application. This includes a full legal name and contact details for the respondent –you will need at least one email or mailing address.
Complete the online application form. You will need to select which orders you are seeking; consult with our casework service if you are unsure what to select. Check the possible orders NCAT can make on the NCAT website.
You will receive a notice of conciliation and hearing, including a location, date and time. The notice will direct you to bring the relevant documents to the hearing.
If the matter proceeds to a hearing, you will be sent a notice of order advising of the hearing details and requesting the submission of supporting documents.
You will need to pay an application fee, which will be later charged to the respondent if NCAT rules in your favor. NCAT’s fees page lists the costs. There is a reduced fee for full-time students who receive a student assistance allowance from the Australian government.
Time limits apply for some types of tenancy orders so seek advice from SUPRA’s Postgraduate Advocacy Service as soon as possible. If the time limit has passed, you can still apply but will have to request a time extension as part of your application. However, NCAT will not always agree to a request for a time extension.
Conciliation is an informal meeting where parties can attempt to settle a dispute before a hearing takes place. Generally, it’s always best to reach an agreement in conciliation, however, you should not agree to something you think is unfair. In some cases, NCAT Conciliators may be available to assist parties in coming to an agreement. If the matter is not settled in conciliation, it will proceed to a hearing.
For more information on conciliation, check these resources:
You need to submit as much evidence as possible for the issues you want the NCAT tribunal hearing to consider. NCAT is committed to procedural fairness, and each party is entitled to know the others’ case before they get to a tribunal hearing.
Your residential tenancy agreement is evidence establishing the jurisdiction of the tribunal. All sorts of things can be additional evidence, including photographs, quotes, bank statements, receipts, and correspondence (including emails, letters, texts).
To establish your case, you may like to submit a chronology of events document. This provides a simple list of dates, times, and notes on what happened. Be factual and as concise as possible.
NCAT has a hierarchy of evidence: different types of evidence carry different legal weight. For example, expert reports carry a lot of weight in repair matters. You should present the most comprehensive, credible, and independent evidence possible.
If you as the tenant want to make a statement about something you’ve seen or heard, you need to put it in a statutory declaration (stat dec). Statutory declarations can also be completed by people who witnessed relevant events. Generally, a stat dec should be completed by the person who is re-telling the events. Prepare a NSW statutory declaration.
Stat decs need to be witnessed and signed by a Justice of the Peace (JP), check the University’s list of JPs on campus to find a JP.
Take note of the due date for submission and ask for an extension if you need it. Submitting your documents by the due date will help NCAT understand what’s in the application. To get an extension of time to lodge your evidence, you must contact the other parties and let them know you want to change the timetable for lodging evidence.
If the directions in your hearing notice permit it, you can file your submissions and evidence online: make a submission and evidence filing.
Otherwise, submissions and evidence should be lodged with NCAT by post or delivered to an NCAT Registry.
You need to include a copy for the Tribunal Member and a copy for the respondent. Note that:
If the original documents are in colour, a colour copy should be provided.
Generally, you present your own case at a hearing. You will need to clearly and concisely tell the Tribunal Member your case and refer to evidence that supports your claims.
If you have attempted other ways to resolve the issue, you should outline these. For example, if you have contacted your landlord to resolve issues, or sent a letter of demand.
The Tribunal Member will hear both stories and review the supporting evidence before making a decision. The Tribunal Member may ask direct or follow-up questions about the matter to both party(ies).
Enforcing an NCAT order
Orders made by NCAT are binding, however NCAT cannot enforce orders. If the other party does not follow the order, enforcement options may be available to you. For example, orders for the payment of money can be enforced by registering a certified copy of the order with the NSW Local or District Court. You can then legally enforce the Court Order. Refer to NCAT’s page on enforcing a money order and contact SUPRA’s Legal Service for advice.
If your meeting is scheduled in person in Sydney, NCAT conducts hearings at Level 14/66 Goulburn Street, Sydney NSW.
To make a request for yourself, a witness or support person to attend a hearing by telephone or video, you can either ask the Tribunal Member in the initial hearing or complete a request form as soon as possible after the scheduled hearing date.
Check NCAT’s web page on attending a hearing by phone or video.
Hearing details may change. You should check the updated hearing list closer to your hearing date to confirm hearing details.
If the other party doesn’t appear at a hearing, the hearing will take place without them. Orders may be made in their absence.
Generally, you represent yourself at NCAT. NCAT encourages people to run their own case without a lawyer or a representative. SUPRA’s caseworkers can advise you on how to prepare for a hearing – contact us.
A tribunal hearing can be a stressful process, so consider taking a support person with you. Be aware that a support person cannot represent you.
In some circumstances, a SUPRA caseworker may be able to attend as a support person.
If you need an interpreter, you can request an interpreter free of charge through NCAT.
For the applicant, generally the worst-case scenario is that the matter is dismissed, and you forfeit the application fee.
In some cases, a tenant may be successful in obtaining a money order – for example, an order to return some or all of a rental bond.
Generally, the Tribunal Member will inform you of the decision at the end of the hearing. If an order is made, this will take effect immediately. The Tribunal Member can also say they will take more time to decide. You may receive an outcome by email or mail, or they may simply make an order for either party to comply.
Contact SUPRA’s Postgraduate Advocacy Service to get advice about whether you should take your issue to NCAT, and the best way to do it.
Refer to the Tenants’ Union page on The Tribunal (NCAT) for further information and letter templates.
You can also contact the Tenants Advice Line during operating hours.
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Written by SUPRA Postgraduate Advocacy Service September 2023