Not every dispute goes to a court. Many are dealt with at tribunals. Tribunals are not like a formal court. You represent yourself at the hearing and the hearing does not involve lawyers or a judge. A third (independent) party - an adjudicator - listens to each party’s information about the dispute and looks at any documentation provided then makes a decision.
The tribunal process is quicker, cheaper and less formal than court. There are specialised tribunals and services that deal with areas such as debt recovery, undisputed debts, employment issues, family law issues or rental disputes. We detail below two of the tribunals available to you – the specialised Motor Vehicle Disputes Tribunal and the more general Disputes Tribunal.
You recently bought a car from Joe at Joe Blow Autos. After a couple of weeks, you notice that there is a strange sound coming from the engine and the car is not running well. After having it checked out with a mechanic you find out that the car has major defects. You contact Joe to say there are issues with your car but he tells you its your problem not his as it as running fine when he sold it to you. What can you do?
If you buy a vehicle and then find that it has defects, or mechanical issues, but the seller won’t co-operate, you can bring a claim to the Motor Vehicle Disputes Tribunal. However, to bring a claim, the vehicle must have been sold to you by a registered Motor Vehicle Trader or by a Vehicle Trader that meets the criteria for being registered.
The Motor Vehicle Disputes Tribunal is specifically for vehicles. Application forms can be found online and the cost of filing an application is approximately $50.00. Ensuring that all of the important facts are included, and clear in the application can be hard. While lawyers are generally not able to attend the Motor Vehicles Disputes Tribunal with you, we can assist you determining the merits of your claim then assist in drafting the application and advising what documentation/evidence of your claim you should bring to the hearing.
You can use the Disputes Tribunal to settle small claim disputes. The Tribunal can help with, for example, disputes about damages to a car in an accident, fences, flatmates not doing what they agreed to do, whether a tradesman has completed work properly, and disputed debts
The Disputes Tribunal can hear claims of up to $15,000.00 or $30,000.00 if both parties agree. If the amount you are claiming is larger than this then you will need to apply to the District Court. Like the Motor Vehicle Disputes Tribunal, lawyers are not permitted to attend at the hearing, unless there has been permission granted by the adjudicator. This only occurs in limited circumstances.
The cost of filing an application in the Disputes Tribunal will depend on the amount of your claim. Generally speaking, the filing fee will be between $45.00 to $180.00.
We can assist you in assessing the merits of your case, establishing the quantum (amount to claim for) and drafting your application. This can be beneficial, because it sets the foundation for your claim, and ensures that all of the relevant facts and information is included. This also includes ensuring evidence (proof) of the claim is also included in the application. We can also assist to prepare you for your hearing day. We understand that attending a tribunal hearing, particularly when you must represent yourself, can be a stressful process and that it is important to be prepared.
Complex and High Value Disputes
For more complex disputes, for example relating to defects to a house, leaky home issues, or a claim for more than $30,000.00, an application to the District Court (Civil Jurisdiction) may be necessary. This is a forum where lawyers are permitted to attend and actively assist with your case in court. The District Court can resolve disputes up to a maximum of $350,000.00. Anything higher than this, requires an application to the High Court.
The District Court process is governed by a set of procedural rules (District Court Rules 2014, and District Court Act 1947), put in place to ensure that disputes proceed and resolve in a timely manner, while trying to achieve fairness. We appreciate that this process can seem overwhelming, and the procedure can appear complex. We are here to ensure that the process is as straightforward as possible.
If you have a dispute, and don’t know where to start, talk to Lisa Ebbers or someone in our team - we can provide some solutions.
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