News & Views
Oct 19

Making a claim at the Disputes Tribunal – How a lawyer can help

The Disputes Tribunal is a division of the District Court designed to achieve a quick,  inexpensive, private and effective resolution of disputes up to $30,000.00.

In court, a case could take more than 12-18 months to be heard, and there are many complicated rules and steps that must be followed.

What happens at a Disputes Tribunal Hearing?

Dispute Tribunal hearings are held at a District Court or hearing centre. Unlike going to court, hearings are usually held in a meeting room and are more informal than the  District Court. There are no lawyers or judges in the Disputes Tribunal. While the law is important, the Tribunal also looks at what is fair and just in the circumstances.

A hearing will begin with the referee introducing everyone and explaining the procedure for the hearing.

Both parties will then be asked to explain their side of the dispute. The applicant will be invited to speak first as their application commenced proceedings. Once both parties have told their side of the story, the referee will explain the law, identify the points that both parties agree on, the issues they disagree on and set out the areas for discussion. Both parties will have the opportunity to comment on and ask questions should there be points they disagree on or do not understand.

During the hearing, the referee will generally try to assist the parties in reaching an agreement. If an agreement is reached and approved by the referee, it has the effect of an order of the Tribunal and can be enforced in the same manner as an order.

If an agreement cannot be reached, the referee will consider the evidence and make a decision. This decision may be given at the hearing, or it may be a reserved decision. Meaning the parties will receive the decision at a later date, typically by post.

Preparing a winning case

Although you cannot be legally represented in the Disputes Tribunal hearing, a  lawyer can assist you with preparing your case.

It is essential to be fully prepared before; you file a claim with the Disputes Tribunal,  or before you represent yourself at the hearing. A clear and robust claim or defence can make a big difference.

We can assist you by:

  • Meeting with you to assess the strength of your case;
  • Outlining your position in relation to the law and advising you on the best argument/s and approach to use;
  • Preparing and filing your application or response to a claim made against you;
  • Preparing submissions and a bundle of evidence for the Tribunal;

If you have any questions about the Disputes Tribunal process or require assistance regarding a claim, please contact our dispute resolution team today.

Thomas Nation (Partner)
Leticia Glover