Preparing for court - rental disputes

Whether you win or lose in court may depend on whether you followed the correct procedures in handling the dispute from the beginning to the court stage, and how thorough you are in preparing your evidence.

Make sure you have records of all notices, receipts and other relevant documents that will support your case. Take both the original documents and photocopies to court.

To be sure you understand the parts of the Act on which you are basing your application (or your defence), you may want to read the Residential Tenancies Act or seek advice from the department. We can give you general advice, but not legal advice. You can obtain legal advice from community legal centres.

If you intend to call witnesses to support your case, give them details of:

  • the hearing date;
  • the court they should go to; and
  • any documents they should bring.

If a witness is vital to your case but will not come to court voluntarily, you can serve him or her with a Summons to Witness. You will need to serve the document on the witness personally as it cannot be sent by post. You will also need to give the witness sufficient money to enable them to use public transport for the return trip to the court.

Before you get to court, go through exactly what you intend to tell the magistrate. Make an orderly list of the points you need to make.

Use this checklist:

  • Can I establish that I had the right to let the premises, or an authority to act if I am not the owner?
  • Do I have a copy of the tenancy agreement?
  • Did I lodge the bond correctly?
  • Have I kept proper records of the rent paid and the date of the last payment?
  • Did I issue receipts for rent paid, and are they in order for quick reference by the magistrate?
  • If the rent was paid directly into a bank account, do I have the appropriate statements?
  • If the rent fell behind, did I serve a notice on the tenant on the correct day?
  • Did I follow correct procedures when serving a notice to end the tenancy agreement?
  • Have I arranged for witnesses to appear at the hearing (if required)?
  • Have I gone through my evidence thoroughly?

You cannot read a prepared statement at the hearing, although you may be allowed to refer to a list of points to help you make your statement. Ask the magistrate if this is permitted. Any notes you made at the time of the event can be given as evidence.

For more information about going to court, see Renting out your property - a lessor's guide and Going to the Magistrates Court

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