This Factsheet can also be downloaded as a PDF file: Tribunal (ACAT) General Information
WHAT IS ACAT?
The ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal (‘ACAT’) decides a broad range of disputes, including disputes between tenants and lessors (landlords) and between occupants and grantors in the ACT. This Fact Sheet deals only with tenancy and occupancy matters and explains how to take a matter to ACAT where you have a dispute with your landlord or grantor. If you are a public housing tenant your landlord is Housing ACT and you can take them to ACAT however TUACT cannot assist with public housing matters, you can receive free advice for Housing ACT matters through Canberra Community Law.
ACAT is a Tribunal, not a Court so it is relatively informal but its decisions are legally binding. Matters are heard by Members, not Judges or Magistrates.
WHERE IS ACAT?
ACAT is on level 4 of the ACT Health Building which is located at 1 Moore Street in the City.
STEPS INVOLVED IN APPLYING TO ACAT
1. Get an Application Form
Whether you are a tenant or an occupant, the Application Form you need is called ‘Application for Resolution of Tenancy Dispute’.
To get an Application Form, you can:
- Download one from ACAT’s website go to “Applications and Forms“. There is a list of applications, in most instances tenants woudl be looking for “Application for Resolution of a Tenancy Dispute”
- Pick one up from the ACAT Registry (ACT Health Building,Level 4, 1 Moore Street,Canberra City;
- Call the ACAT Registry on (02) 6207 1740 and ask the registry staff to mail you one, please note it is difficult to reach this number.
2. Fill out the Application Form
You need to complete the Application Form in full, paying particular attention to the ‘Statement of Particulars’ at page 4 of the Application Form.
The Statement of Particulars asks you to set out:
1. the issues in dispute;
2. the nature of relief you seek; and
3. a brief history of the dispute.
- The issue(s) in dispute is your problem(s). For example, the toilet at the premises is broken and the lessor refuses to fix it
- The nature of relief you seek is the order(s) that you want ACAT to make. For example, an order that the lessor arrange for the toilet to be repaired by x date. (Another example would be an order that the landlord pay compensation to you for their failure to carry out repairs.)
Note: section 83 of the Residential Tenancies Act 1997 (‘the Act’) sets out some of the orders which ACAT may make. The Act can also be accessed at www.legislation.act.gov.au by clicking on ‘Acts’ and then ‘R’.
- Under brief history of the dispute you should set out the facts that you say have occurred. That is, what has led you to make the application. You should set out the circumstances of the problem and the date on which it happened. It is important to be precise and comprehensive but only to include relevant facts. For example:
- On 27 February 2009, the toilet started leaking from the pipe into the cistern causing extensive flooding to the floor and rendering the toilet unusable
- I rang the lessor immediately upon discovering the leak in the toilet. During this telephone conversation, the lessor refused to carry out any repairs.
The cause of the leak if known, should also be included and if you have any evidence of this (e.g. a report from a plumber) you should refer to it and attach it to the application. If there have been any quotes for repairs, they too should be included.
If you know the clauses of the Tenancy Agreement which have been broken you should provide details. For example, a broken toilet is an urgent repair according to clause 60 of the Standard Residential Tenancy Terms and the requirement to fix urgent repairs is in clause 59.
- Clause 59 requires the lessor to make urgent repairs to the property, including a leaking toilet, within a reasonable time (‘as soon as necessary’) after notification.
Please note that this is a very basic example, and has not considered other orders that may be sought in the circumstances, such as a rent reduction or compensation. For more detailed advice, please call the Tenants’ Advice Service (‘TAS’) or the Canberra Community Law (for Housing ACT matters).
3. Gather your Evidence
You need to provide evidence to support you case. You should attach supporting documentation to your application.
Relevant documents might include:
- copies of letters between you and the landlord (or real estate agent);
- receipts, quotes or invoices (e.g. for rent, bond, cleaning, repairs);
- reports (e.g. from a tradesperson);
- photographs or video footage that shows the problem (or the condition or state of repair of the premises or relevant item);
- notes about phone conversations;
- statutory declarations by any persons whose knowledge of the situation supports your application.
You should also attach a copy of your Tenancy Agreement (if you have one) to your application.
It is a good idea to put all documents in date order and to provide a date ordered summary of all the relevant events (a timeline of events) and documents. This is called a ‘chronology’ and will help the Tribunal Member to get a clear understanding of all the events of your case.
For more examples of information you should include with your application see:
- Evidence Checklist for the Tribunal
- Applications under Residential Tenancies Act 1997 – Checklist for Tenants (this can be accessed from ACAT’s website at www.acat.act.gov.au by clicking on ‘Applications/Forms’ and scrolling down to the heading ‘Residential Tenancy’).
4. Lodge your Application and pay the Application Fee
You need to lodge your complete application, along with a copy for yourself and each of the other parties, at the ACAT Registry and pay an application fee. You should refer to ACAT’s ‘Schedule of Fees’ for details.
The Application Fee can be Waived by ACAT in Cases of Financial Hardship
If you are on a low income, receive a government pension or benefit, have a health care card, or if there is any other reason why paying the fee would cause you financial hardship you may be able to lodge your application without paying a fee.
If you are not able to pay the fee at the time of lodging your application but will be able to pay it a later date you can also ask that the payment of the fee be deferred.
If you are seeking the fee to be waived or deferred you need to complete and lodge a ‘Request about Payment of Fees’ form. This form is available from the ACAT Registry or can be downloaded from the Fees page on ACAT’s website .
If your matter is urgent you should tell the Tribunal staff when you lodge your application that it is urgent and why it is urgent and/or attach a letter to your application explaining why your matter is urgent.
5. Wait to be contacted by ACAT
A copy of the application and attached documents is sent to the other party, so you should not include any confidential information in your application.
ACAT aims to hear the application within 14 days of the application being sent to the other party.
ACAT will send you a Notice of Hearing in the mail telling you the date and time your application will be heard.
Sometimes a pre-hearing conference will be organised. This is normally run by a Registrar or Deputy-Registrar and is a chance for the parties to try and resolve the matter without having to go to hearing. Whilst you should make the most of the opportunity, you should not feel pressured to agree to something you are not comfortable with. Only orders that all parties agree to can be made at conference. If the matter is not resolved at conference it will be listed for hearing and you will receive a Notice of Hearing in the mail.
Before the Hearing
It is advisable to seek advice before appearing at the Tribunal. Advice can be obtained from the Tenants’ Advice Service or the Welfare Rights and Legal Centre.
It is also a good idea before the date of your hearing to go to ACAT and watch other residential tenancy matters being heard. This will give you an idea of what to expect on your hearing day and help you plan for presenting your case to the Tribunal Member. You can find out when other tenancy matters are being heard by looking at the hearing schedule on ACAT’s website which can be accessed by clicking on ‘Daily lists’ at the top of ACAT’s homepage.
You should be well prepared for your hearing. It might be helpful to write down the points that you want to make before the hearing. This will give you something to refer to in case you forget what you want to say.
You can represent yourself or be represented by a lawyer. You can also bring a friend or family member for support.
The Member must help a party to understand the hearing process and to present their case (section 81 of the Act).
ACAT is about providing a simple, inexpensive and informal approach to achieving justice.
What will it Cost to go to ACAT?
Each party generally pays their own costs which usually just involves the application fee. However, ACAT can order costs to be paid in certain circumstances.
The Tribunal Member may:
- order the losing party to pay the application fee;
- where a party causes unreasonable delay or obstruction before or during the hearing, order that party to pay the reasonable costs of the other party caused by the delay or obstruction.
- award costs against a party that doesn’t follow an order of the Tribunal.
Sections 48 and 49 of the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal Act 2008 deal with costs. This Act can be accessed at www.legislation.act.gov.au by clicking on ‘Acts’ and then ‘A’.
6. Attend the hearing
It is extremely important that you attend the hearing because ACAT can dismiss your application or make orders that affect you even if you are not there. If you cannot attend, you must tell the ACAT Registry as soon as possible.
You should be well presented and it is a good idea to arrive a little earlier than the time stated on your hearing notice.
Your matter will be one of a number of matters listed at the same time, usually at 10am or 2pm.
When your matter is called, you should take a seat at the table in the Hearing Room. The landlord and/or the landlord’s representative (usually the Real Estate Agent) or the Housing ACT representative (if you are a public housing tenant) sits on one side, you on the other side and the Member sits in the middle.
The Member usually introduces him/herself and invites the parties to introduce themselves. The proceedings are taped so you should position yourself close to one of the microphones and speak clearly.
You may call the Member ‘sir’ or ‘madam’, or by their surname, for example, Ms Lennard, Madam Member or Member Lennard. If the Member is a Presidential Member then they should be referred to as Mr or Madam President.
The Member will usually ask you, the applicant to explain why you have made the application. The Member will then listen to the other party. The Member will look at any documents, photos or other evidence presented and will ask questions.
It is important to keep your cool. Do not interrupt the other party when they are speaking and DO NOT interrupt the Member. Make notes of any points you disagree with so you can address them when given the opportunity to respond. You should be polite but firm and ensure that you get an adequate opportunity to present your case. You should ask the Member to explain anything you do not understand.
At the end of the hearing the Member may make an order (or orders). This is their decision on the matter. Within seven days of the order being made, you will get a copy of the order/s in the mail.
You can ask the Member to provide written reasons for their decision. You can ask for this at the hearing, but it is safer to make a written request at the registry desk after the hearing. Either way, your request for written reasons MUST be made within 14 days of the date of ACAT’s orders. If written reasons are given they may be published on ACAT’s website and on the Australasian Legal Information Institute’s website: www.austlii.edu.au
WHAT IF YOU DON’T AGREE WITH THE DECISION?
You can appeal the decision to the ACAT Appeals Tribunal.
In an appeal you ask the ACAT Appeals Tribunal to reconsider and change the original decision. To get the decision changed you must convince the ACAT Appeals Tribunal that there was an error in the original decision. An example of an error is where a Tribunal Member makes a mistake in applying the law or where a Tribunal Member makes a decision in circumstances where there was no evidence to support the decision.
If you are thinking of appealing a decision, you should ask for written reasons ASAP (see above) and it is advisable to seek legal advice. You can contact the Tenants’ Advice Service or the Welfare Rights and Legal Centre for advice.
You must lodge an appeal within 28 days of the date of ACAT’s decision, although you can seek an extension of time in certain circumstances.
If you want to appeal a decision you need to fill out an ‘Application for Appeal from an ACAT Decision’ form and return it with the application fee to the ACAT Registry. At the time of writing, the fee is $420. For details of applicable fees go to the ‘Appeals’ heading in ACAT’s ‘Schedule of Fees’. You can apply to have the fee deferred or waived on the grounds of financial hardship (see above).
You can get an ‘Application for Appeal from an ACAT Decision’ form from the ACAT Registry or you can download it from ACAT’s website by clicking on ‘Appeals’ on the left hand side of ACAT’s homepage.
The Tribunal may dismiss your Application for Appeal if it considers it to be substantially the same as other appeals previously rejected by the Tribunal. If the Tribunal dismisses your application for appeal you may appeal the original decision to the Supreme Court.
You can also appeal a decision of the Appeal Tribunal to the ACT Supreme Court. However, an appeal to the Supreme Court can only be made with leave (permission) of the Court.
The time limit for appeals to the Supreme Court is 28 days from the date of ACAT’s decision.
It is important to note that the Supreme Court can award costs against unsuccessful applicants.
If you are considering appealing you should seek legal advice as soon as possible to determine whether or not you have a case, and, if so, to prepare your case within the time limit.
The ACAT also has information about Appeals on their website (click on ‘Appeals’ on left hand side of the screen).