The Unit Titles Act 2010 provides for a fully integrated dispute resolution service for unit title disputes. This service is provided jointly by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) and the Ministry of Justice. Disputes may be heard by the Tenancy Tribunal, the District Court, or the High Court.

This information only applies to disputes which have arisen after the Unit Titles Act 2010 came into force on 20 June 2011. Any earlier disputes may need to be dealt with under the relevant law which applied at the time. If you are unsure of whether the Unit Titles Act 2010 applies to your dispute, please contact MBIE.

If a dispute under the previous Unit Titles Act 1972 is currently before the High Court, both parties can agree to transfer the dispute to the Tenancy Tribunal or District Court, if either of those courts would have jurisdiction under the Unit Titles Act 2010. 

How can I resolve a dispute?

The first thing you should always do is talk to the person or group with whom you have a dispute. Often there may have been a simple misunderstanding or mistake. It is always best to try to sort things out with each other so you don’t need to apply to the Tenancy Tribunal.

It may be helpful to consider the following points:

  • Before raising the problem with the other party, you need to know your rights and responsibilities and how the law applies to your situation.
  • You also need to think about how the other party may see things and what their rights and responsibilities are.
  • The best way to sort out concerns is to talk them out. The sooner you do this, the better.
  • Be clear about what your concerns are.
  • Writing down what the concern is can help explain it to the other person.
  • Describe the problem carefully and give a reasonable amount of time for it to be put right.
  • Say what you think a good solution might be.
  • If this doesn’t work, MBIE staff can give you advice and help you decide what to do next.

What happens if we can’t agree?

MBIE is committed to helping people avoid and resolve disputes without needing to apply to the Tenancy Tribunal. We have a range of information available on our website and from our Service Centre where trained staff can give you advice to help you resolve your disputes.

If you need further help resolving a dispute or if you need an external party to make a decision you can apply to the Tenancy Tribunal for dispute resolution. MBIE receives these applications on behalf of the Tenancy Tribunal and identifies the most appropriate way to help you resolve the dispute.

Where possible our trained mediators will try and help you to settle the dispute. Many cases can be settled by mediation.

If the dispute is not resolved by mediation, or if the type of dispute is more suitable for adjudication, then the matter will be referred to the Tenancy Tribunal for a hearing. 

Mediation

Mediation is a process where you and the other parties involved have the opportunity to discuss the problem, and agree on a solution by talking with a mediator. Mediators do not make decisions – they facilitate discussions between the parties to a dispute, attempting to help reach an agreement.

  • It’s a way to get things sorted out quickly – a mediation appointment can be set up more quickly than a Tribunal hearing.
  • It’s less formal than going to Court – mediated agreements are made with all parties being fully informed of all their rights and responsibilities, and there is a clear understanding of what the agreement means.
  • You decide between you what will happen – you don’t get told what to do. When people contribute to the decision themselves, they are likely to be more committed to making it work than to a decision imposed by someone else.
  • It’s confidential – no one else has to know what you said in mediation.
  • The result is legally binding – and it’s enforceable through the Court system if necessary.

Once an agreement has been reached, the mediator checks that each person fully understands what they are agreeing to. The agreement is then usually written down as a mediated order which the mediator signs. The mediator can formalise the agreement in an order sealed by a Tenancy Adjudicator.

A mediated order is binding and will usually say what happens if it is broken. If any party does not adhere to what was agreed, then the mediated order can be enforced as if it was an order of the Tribunal.

The sorts of disputes that are most appropriately dealt with by mediation are those disputes where agreement can be reached by the parties involved.

For example:

  • someone not following the body corporate rules
  • disputes between neighbours, such as those about parking, noise and rubbish.  

Adjudication

The Tenancy Tribunal is part of the Ministry of Justice, and in a hearing before it, an adjudicator will make a final decision for all parties. The adjudicator has the power to make a number of orders, including that the respondent in a dispute pay the applicant’s application fee. The Tenancy Tribunal may also order the dispute back to mediation. Tribunal hearings are open to the public.

The sorts of disputes that are most appropriately dealt with by adjudication are those disputes that may require interpretation of the Act or regulations, or where the parties cannot come to an agreement by themselves.

For example, disputes about:

  • unpaid levies
  • body corporate decisions
  • repair and maintenance decisions

There are also some cases where the Tribunal will be the first port of call. For example, in cases where the body corporate has been locked in to a harsh or unfair contract by the developer, and they are seeking compensation or cancellation of the contract. 

Who can apply to the Tenancy Tribunal?

The Tenancy Tribunal can hear and resolve disputes arising between anyone listed below in relation to a unit title development (dispute).

  • the owner of a principal unit or a former owner of a principal unit
  • a future development unit owner
  • an occupier of a future development unit
  • a body corporate
  • an administrator
  • a registered valuer
  • an occupier of a principal unit
  • a service contractor
  • a prospective buyer of a principal unit
  • an original owner
  • a lessor of base land
  • the chief executive.

If you are a party to a unit titles dispute you may appoint an agent to act on your behalf by notifying the Tribunal in writing.

The Tribunal does not have jurisdiction to:

  • make orders requiring any person or body to pay any sum, or to do any work to a value, or otherwise incur expenditure, in excess of $50,000,
  • hear disputes relating to the application of insurance money under section 136(4) of the Act,
  • hear any dispute relating to the title of land including:

    (a) a redevelopment
    (b) cancellation of a unit plan
    (c) conversion of a cross-lease or flat-owning company to unit title.

If a claim exceeds $50,000, one of the parties may choose to abandon some of the claim, in order to bring the claim within the jurisdiction of the Tribunal. If you reduce your claim to fit within the $50,000 limit you cannot make a later claim for the difference.

Disputes that exceed this amount will be transferred by the Tribunal to either the District Court or the High Court, depending on which jurisdiction the dispute falls into. 

Categories of applications

Applications to the Tenancy Tribunal will be divided into two categories. The application fee is determined by the category.

Category 1 proceedings are those for a unit title dispute that, because of their complexity, are likely to involve a hearing before the Tenancy Tribunal as the principal means of resolving the dispute. Examples of these are:

  • the repair or maintenance of common property
  • the governance of a body corporate
  • the decisions and procedures of a body corporate.

Category 2 proceedings are those for a unit title dispute of a straightforward nature that, because of their lower complexity, are likely to involve mediation as the principal means of resolving the dispute.

Examples of these are:

  • the day-to-day management of a unit title development
  • the effect of the behaviour of an owner or occupier of a principal unit on the other owners and occupiers of the unit title development
  • non-compliance with body corporate operational rules.

Another example of category 2 proceedings are claims relating to non-payment of body corporate levies (even though they would ordinarily involve a hearing before the Tenancy Tribunal). 

Application Fees

CategoryApplication Fee
Category 1 $3,300 including GST
Category 2 $850 including GST

You should note that if your claim is wholly successful the Tenancy Tribunal must order the other party to pay you the application fee. If your claim is partly successful the Tenancy Tribunal may order the other party to pay you the application fee.

The Courts

Where a dispute falls outside the jurisdiction of the Tenancy Tribunal it can be taken to the appropriate court.

The District Court has jurisdiction to hear and determine disputes:

  • where the order sought has a value of between $50,000 and $350,000
  • relating to the application of insurance money under section 136(4) of the Act up to and including $50,000.

The District Court does not have jurisdiction to hear any disputes relating to the title of land.

The High Court has jurisdiction to hear and determine disputes:

  • where the order sought has a value in excess of $200,000
  • relating to the application of insurance money under section 136(4) of the Act in excess of $50,000
  • relating to the title of land.

You should contact your lawyer or legal advisor if you are thinking of applying to the District Court or the High Court.

Appeals against decisions of the Tenancy Tribunal

Any party to proceedings before the Tenancy Tribunal and who is dissatisfied with the decision can appeal to the District Court. The District Courts Fees Regulations have been amended and from 1 July 2013 filing fees ($200), scheduling fees ($900) and hearing fees ($900 after the first half day) are now payable for appeals from the Tenancy Tribunal to the District Court.