The NSW Consumer, Trader and Tenancy Tribunal (CTTT) is a low-cost and accessible service for the resolution of a wide range of everyday disputes between consumers and traders, and disputes about residential property.
The CTTT uses alternative dispute resolution methods such as conciliation to help parties settle their disputes, by negotiating and reaching an agreement often without the need for a hearing. CTTT hearings are designed so that parties can generally run their case without legal representation. Orders made are final and binding, and are legally enforceable.
Disputes are resolved in one of the following Divisions:
Commercial – disputes about agricultural tenancies, commission fees, Travel Compensation Fund appeals and some credit matters.
General– consumer claims about the supply of goods and services. Also includes disputes about conveyancing costs, pawnbroker stolen goods and holiday park long-term occupancy.
Home building – disputes between home owners, tradespeople and insurers about residential building work.
Motor vehicles – consumer claims about vehicles purchased from a motor dealer or repairs.
Residential parks – disputes between residential park residents and owners.
Retirement villages– disputes between retirement village residents and operators.
Social housing – social housing tenancy disputes between social housing or community housing providers, tenants and occupants.
Strata and community schemes– disputes about strata scheme and community scheme living.
Tenancy – disputes between landlords, tenants and occupants such as rental bond claims, repairs, non-payment of rent and termination of a tenancy.
CTTT'S dispute resolution process
Stage 1: Application
When the parties to a dispute cannot resolve it on their own, they can apply to have their matter listed at the CTTT. An application form for the appropriate Division needs to be lodged along with payment for the application fee. The CTTT sends the parties a letter advising them of the place, date and time to attend the hearing.
Stage 2: Conciliation
When the parties arrive at the CTTT on the hearing day they must first try to reach agreement through conciliation. Although conciliation by definition is a voluntary process, the Consumer Trader and Tenancy Tribunal Act 2001 requires the CTTT to try to bring parties to a settlement before the CTTT is permitted to hear their arguments.
During the conciliation process, the parties have an opportunity to look at each other’s evidence, discuss the strengths and weaknesses of their cases and try to search for mutually acceptable solutions. Where possible, the CTTT provides conciliators who actively assist the parties in their negotiations. In many cases, the dispute can be settled at this stage and there is no need to take the matter any further.
If an agreement is reached during the conciliation session, a formal order will be made in accordance with the agreement. If an agreement is not reached, a Tribunal member will listen to both parties’ arguments and will impose an enforceable decision.
The main benefit of conciliation is that disputes can be dealt with quickly. Conciliation also gives parties greater control over the outcome because settlement at this stage alleviates the need to have a decision imposed on them by the CTTT.
Stage 3: Hearing
Both parties are required to attend the hearing. In circumstances where parties have a good reason for non-attendance such as a medically certified reason, flexible arrangements such as telephone conferences can be made.
If a party fails to attend (without contacteding the CTTT to make alternative arrangements), the CTTT has the power to make orders in their absence. These are commonly known as ‘ex parte’ orders.
During a hearing, the Tribunal member’s role is to control the proceedings and to direct the discussion. The parties are allowed to tell their side of the story, present their evidence and then ask questions of each other. The CTTT is not bound by the technical rules of evidence that operate in courts. For example, the member can ask questions and can inquire into any matter that he or she feels fit, provided that that the inquiry does not unfairly disadvantage either of the parties.
In normal circumstances, parties are required to run their own cases in the CTTT without legal representation. This reflects the ideal of keeping proceedings affordable, informal and uncomplicated by legal jargon.
After both parties have presented their case, the Tribunal Member will make a decision and give reasons. Sometimes the decision is ‘reserved’ meaning that it will be handed down at a later date.
Stage 4: Rehearings and appeals
If a party is not satisfied with the decision of the CTTT, they can lodge an application to have the matter reheard. A rehearing is not automatically granted. In order to be successful, the party seeking the rehearing must show that they have suffered a substantial injustice because:
- the decision of the CTTT was not fair and equitable; or
- the decision was against the weight of evidence; or
- significant new evidence has arisen.
Ultimately, the Chairperson has the discretion to grant or dismiss applications for rehearings.
Parties who are not happy with the outcome of the hearing also have the option of lodging an appeal with the District Court. Appeals to the District Court must only be about errors made by the CTTT in applying the law. The Consumer Trader and Tenancy Tribunal Act 2001 does not permit parties to lodge appeals about the merits of their case.
See the CTTT website for more information,
How to run your own court case by Nadine Behan. This is a very useful online book if you have to appear at the CTTT.