A dispute between a tenant and their landlord or agent may arise during a tenancy.
The Residential Tenancies Act describes the process by which these disputes may be resolved.
Commissioner of Tenancies
To lodge an application with the Commissioner of
Tenancies, you must submit a form to the Consumer
Affairs Tenancy Unit. You may also contact Consumer
Affairs directly by phoning (08) 8999 1999 or
1800 019 319. Their office is located on the 1st Floor
of the Met Building, 13 Scaturchio Street, Casuarina
(PO Box 40946, Casuarina NT 0811). The application
form can also be downloaded from their website,
which is Contact our
Service if you need assistance.
When lodging your application form you should
attach copies of the relevant documentation in
support of your application, including your tenancy
agreement, condition reports, inspection reports, and
details of any contact - written or verbal – that you
have had with the landlord or agent. Sworn statutory
declarations by persons supporting your application
should also be attached. Once your application is
lodged with Consumer Affairs, a delegate for the
Commissioner will review your application and
supporting documents to determine whether the
matter should be listed for a hearing or proceed by
way of conciliation.
The Commissioner’s delegate may organise a
conciliation conference where both parties sit with
the Commissioner to negotiate an agreement,
or may undertake preliminary conciliation, which
involves an officer from the Consumer Affairs
Tenancy Unit contacting you and your landlord to
inform you of your rights and obligations.
The Consumer Affairs officer may also require
further information and documentation from you
before recommending an outcome to resolve the
dispute. If a tenancy dispute is not conciliated,
or the nature of your application requires it to be
listed for a hearing in the first instance, Consumer
Affairs will write you a letter and tell you that your
application has been listed for “Inquiry”. If you
cannot physically attend at the Consumer Affairs
office, you should write a letter to the Commissioner
explaining the reason and requesting leave to
attend the Inquiry by telephone.
Under the Residential Tenancies Act, proceedings
before the Commissioner in relation to your
application must be concluded within 28 days
after receiving your application, or as soon as
practicable. If there are circumstances requiring
an urgent determination of your application, write
a letter to the Consumer Affairs Tenancy Unit
requesting that your application be listed for Inquiry
at the earliest available date.
If you are defending an application made by the
landlord against you, notice of the Inquiry will
be posted to you by Consumer Affairs. Whether
you are attending for a conciliation conference or
for an Inquiry before the Commissioner, you will
need to be prepared just as if you had lodged the
application yourself. Even though the proceedings
before the Commissioner are less formal than a
Court, you should seek legal advice beforehand.
Darwin Community Legal Service June 2012
Local Court applications
There are situations where it may be appropriate
to seek resolution of the dispute in the Local Court.
Contact our Service for advice about your particular
have a fixed term tenancy agreement, the landlord
would have to prove to the Court or the Commissioner
that you breached the law or your tenancy agreement
and that you were given proper notice of the breach
and failed to remedy the breach. The hardship
argument may also be applicable depending upon
your circumstances. Contact our Service for more
information and advice about your situation.
If you have made the application, you are responsible
for proving your case. Once you file your application,
the Local Court Civil Registry staff will list your
application before the magistrate. You will be given the
Local Court or Commissioner of
date and time to appear in Court. If your landlord has
Tenancies orders
made an application against you in the Local Court you
will be served with a copy of that application, which will Both the Commissioner and the Court can make
advise the date and time of the hearing.
orders that are legally enforceable. If an order has
been made against your landlord and they are not
It is extremely important to attend the hearing
complying with this order there are a number of
because the Court can make orders that affect you,
steps you can take. In the first instance you may
even if you are not present. If you do not attend the
wish to write to your landlord reminding them of the
hearing, you could be evicted or charged for money
orders made and requesting that they comply with
that you did not know about. If you cannot attend
them immediately.
the Court date listed on the application, you should
request that the matter be re-listed for another date
If you have written to your landlord requesting that
and provide reasons for requesting the date change.
they comply with the Order and have not received
If the landlord believes they have suffered loss or
damage as a result of you breaching your duties under
the law or your lease, they may make a claim against
you for compensation in the Local Court or before the
Commissioner of Tenancies. If you do not agree that
you are responsible for the landlord’s loss, you should
tell the Court or Commissioner why not and provide
whatever evidence you can to support your claim.
If you agree that you are liable but the amount
claimed by the landlord is unreasonable, you must
provide evidence of this.
If you have a periodic tenancy agreement and the
landlord has made an application to evict you after
providing proper notice, there is no defence other than
to seek an extension of time based on hardship. If you
a positive response, contact us to find out more
information about the enforcement options available
to you. If orders are made against you and you
want to appeal the decision, it is a good idea to
contact the Local Court Civil Registry or our Service
for advice immediately, because the timeframe for
appealing the orders may be very short.
If orders have been made to evict you it is important
to seek advice from the Local Court or our Service
as soon as practicable. If the Commissioner’s orders
are for compensation only, for example, your appeal
must be filed in the Local Court within 14 days
after the date of the order, or the date of the written
decision, whichever is the latter. If you wish to appeal
an order made by the Local Court you can contact
our Service for advice.
For further information contact
Darwin Community Legal Service
Freecall: 1800 812 953
8 Manton St Darwin NT
GPO Box 3180 Darwin NT 0801
P: (08) 8982 1111
F: (08) 8982 1112
E: [email protected]
Disclaimer: This fact sheet is for general information purposes only and should not be used as a substitute for professional legal advice.
If you are a residential tenant and need advice relating to a past, present or prospective tenancy, contact the Tenants’ Advice Service
(“TAS”). TAS is a Northern Territory-wide program of Darwin Community Legal Service that receives funding through the Northern Territory
Department of Justice to provide information and advocacy services to residential tenants in the Northern Territory. TAS takes no responsibility
for any loss or damage resulting from errors in this fact sheet. The information contained in this fact sheet is current as at June 2012.