How cases are heard - rental disputes

The magistrate usually conducts the hearing in the following way (except in the case of a Form 6 application for a bond dispute, where the owner always proceeds first):

  1. The applicant tells their story (evidence) and presents any documents in support of their case.
  2. Then the respondent questions (cross-examines) the applicant about their evidence.
  3. If the applicant has witnesses, they tell their story.
  4. The respondent can cross-examine each witness.
  5. The respondent then tells their story and produces any supporting documents.
  6. The applicant can cross-examine the respondent.
  7. If the respondent has witnesses, they tell their story.
  8. The applicant can cross-examine each witness.

Presenting your story to the magistrate

When it is your turn to give evidence, you go into the witness box, take an oath or make an affirmation to tell the truth and present your version of the dispute.

Tell your story in the order that events happened.

Show any documents that support your story to the magistrate at the time you give your evidence.

When you and your witnesses have told their story and have been cross-examined, you have finished presenting your case. You should have told the magistrate all the important facts as you see them.

The decision

When both parties have finished telling their stories, the magistrate will make a decision, which is final.

Generally, the magistrate will outline the problem, summarise what has been said and then give the decision, known as an order.

Listen to what the magistrate says when making the order. The court will usually send you a copy of the order by mail after the hearing. Ask the magistrate if this will be done, as procedures vary from court to court.

If you do not understand the order, ask the magistrate to explain it to you.

Orders handed down by the magistrate can include:

  • ending a tenancy agreement;
  • how bond money will be paid out;
  • requiring that an action be carried out in accordance with the tenancy agreement;
  • stopping any action which breaches the tenancy agreement;
  • payment of compensation by the person in breach of the agreement, for loss or injury (other than personal injury), caused by the breach; and
  • payment of rent into the court until the owner carries out the magistrate's order to remedy a breach or for compensation.

If an order is granted and the tenant can demonstrate they would suffer hardship if it was effective immediately, they can ask the magistrate to suspend the order for up to 30 days.

If the tenant does not pay an amount ordered by the magistrate, you can take action to enforce the order. There are different actions and the most common are explained in the department's publication If they don't pay. You can get advice on the best course of action from Legal Aid, the Citizens Advice Bureau or Community Legal Centres.

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