Divisions and the process
The CTTT deals with a very large number and diverse range of matters including tenancy and social housing matters, shopping and other retail transactions, motor vehicle repairs and purchases, residential park agreements, strata and community schemes, home building defects, retirement villages, and disputes about agents fees and commissions.
The following information describes how the CTTT manages and deals with its diverse and busy workload.
15 Acts confer jurisdiction on the CTTT which comprises of 9 Divisions - Tenancy, Social Housing, General, Home Building, Residential Parks, Strata and Community Schemes, Motor Vehicles, Commercial and Retirement Villages.
Download the Divisional Jurisdiction Table (PDF size: 33kb) for a snapshot of the CTTT's jurisdiction by Division.
The Tenancy Division deals with disputes between private landlords and tenants in a residential tenancy agreement. Common tenancy disputes include breaches of the residential tenancy agreement, rent increases, non-payment of rent, rental bond claims, and termination of the tenancy. Under the Residential Tenancies Act 2010 the CTTT can make orders up to the value of $30,000 for rental bond disputes, and $15,000 for all other disputes.
Note: The CTTT does not deal with disputes concerning commercial leases or retail tenancies, or disputes about boarders and lodgers.
Learn more about the Tenancy Division.
2. Social Housing
The Social Housing Division deals with disputes between social housing providers and tenants relating to social housing premises. Common disputes include termination of the social housing tenancy agreement, repairs and maintenance, breaches of the agreement such as rent arrears, water usage charges, previous debts and rent increases. Like the Tenancy Division, orders in the Social Housing Division are made under the Residential Tenancies Act 2010.
Learn more about the Social Housing Division.
The General Division deals with 'consumer claims' about goods and services under the Consumer Claims Act 1998. Consumer claims span a wide range of issues in relation to the supply of goods (e.g. purchase of whitegoods, computers, personal items) or the supply of services (e.g. travel, dry cleaning, dating, dental, legal, architectural, accounting and funeral services). The CTTT has jurisdiction in this Division to make orders up to $30,000. Claims must be made within 3 years from the cause of action accruing, and within 10 years from the date of supply.
The General Division also deals with miscellaneous claims, such as disputes under the Holiday Parks (Long-term Casual Occupation) Act 2002, Pawnbrokers and Second-hand Dealers Act 1996 and the Conveyancers Licensing Act 2003.
Learn more about the General Division.
4. Home Building
The Home Building Division deals with disputes between consumers, traders and insurers concerning residential building work under the Home Building Act 1989. Orders can be made up to the value of $500,000. Common disputes include claims of defective or unfinished work, debt recovery by the builder against the homeowner or a subcontractor, and insurance appeals.
Legal representation is more likely in home building disputes than in any other Division due to the large sums of money involved and the complex legal issues that can arise.
Learn more about the Home Building Division.
5. Motor Vehicles
The Motor Vehicles Division deals with consumer claims about new and used motor vehicles and repairs. A 'motor vehicle' includes new or used cars, motorcycles, tractors or any other powered vehicles on wheels.
Under the Consumer Claims Act 1998 the CTTT can make orders in this Division up to $30,000, except when the dispute relates to the purchase of a new vehicle. Section 14(3) specifies that the monetary limit does not apply to disputes concerning new motor vehicles "substantially used for private purposes".
Common disputes are consumer claims against dealers for breach of statutory warranties and failure of consideration, and consumer claims against motor mechanics for failure to carry out repairs with due skill and care.
Learn more about the Motor Vehicles Division.
6. Strata and Community Schemes
The Strata and Community Schemes Division deals with disputes concerning strata schemes and community schemes. Common disputes in this Division include conflicts about by-laws, maintenance fees or alternations to the common property.
The CTTT has jurisdiction to determine these matters under the Strata Schemes Management Act 1996 and Community Land Management Act 1989. Under these Acts, mediation must be attempted to resolve the dispute before the CTTT can determine the matter. Mediation is generally conducted by NSW Fair Trading.
Most disputes in this Division are determined by an Adjudicator. All parties in the scheme affected by the orders sought are invited to make written submissions. The Adjudicator's decision is then made 'on the papers' based on the application and any submissions received.
Learn more about the Strata and Community Schemes Division.
In the Commercial Division, the CTTT deals with disputes about agricultural tenancies (Agricultural Tenancies Act 1990), fees and commissions charged by agents (Property, Stock and Business Agents Act 2002), appeals against decisions of the Travel Compensation Fund (Travel Agents Regulation 2011) , and certain credit matters (Credit (Commonwealth Powers) Act 2010).
Learn more about the Commercial Division.
8. Residential Parks
In the Residential Parks Division, the CTTT determines disputes between park owners and permanent park residents and occupants under the Residential Parks Act 1998. A 'residential park' includes caravan parks, manufactrued home estates, mobile home villages and relocatable home parks. Common types of disputes include rent increases, noise, nuisance and repairs, and termination applications.
Learn more about the Residential Parks Division.
9. Retirement Villages
In the Retirement Division the CTTT hears disputes between the retirement village administration and one or more residents under the Retirement Villages Act 1999. Common types of disputes include recurrent charges, annual statements of proposed and approved expenditure termination of the residence contract.
Learn more about the Retirement Villages Division.
Dispute resolution process
Stage 1: Application
When two or more parties are having a dispute that they cannot resolve on their own, they can apply to have their matter listed at the CTTT. To make an application to the CTTT, the application form for the appropriate Division must 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 about two or three weeks after receiving the application. In the meantime, the parties prepare for the hearing by gathering information such as receipts, photographs, tax invoices, witness statements and any other documents that will help them present and argue their case.
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. The CTTT however, is flexible and arrangements such as telephone conferences, for example, can be made in circumstances where parties have a good reason for non-attendance such as a medically certified reason.
If a party who has been notified of the hearing fails to attend (and has not contacted the CTTT to try to make alternate arrangements), the CTTT has the power to deal with the matter and make orders in their absence. These types of orders are commonly known as ‘ex parte’ orders.
The role of the Tribunal member during a hearing is to control the proceedings and to direct the discussion. The parties are allowed to tell their side of the story to the Tribunal Member, 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.
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