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Government & legal system

Challenging a Disputes Tribunal decision

Appeals to the District Court

I’m not happy with the Disputes Tribunal decision, but I’ve been refused a rehearing. Can I appeal the decision?

Disputes Tribunal Act 1988, s 50 Case: Strang v Singh, DC Manukau CIV-2008-092-4267, 1 July 2009

There is only one ground for appealing a decision of the Disputes Tribunal. You’ll need to show that the referee (or Tribunal investigator) acted in a way that was unfair (“procedural unfairness”), and this affected the result of the hearing.

What happens after an appeal is lodged?

Disputes Tribunal Act 1988, s 51

Once a notice of appeal has been filed at the District Court, the Tribunal referee (or investigator) has 28 days to prepare a report to the court which sets out:

  • how the hearing was conducted, and
  • the reason for their decision

The court Registrar will send a copy of the report to both the applicant and the respondent. The appeal will then be heard by a District Court Judge.

How will the Judge make a decision?

Disputes Tribunal Act 1988, s 53

The Judge will look at:

  • the grounds for appeal, and
  • the referee’s (or investigator’s) report.

The Judge will only consider if there has been procedural unfairness. They won’t look into the facts of the case.

What types of decisions can the Judge make?

Disputes Tribunal Act 1988, s 53

The Judge can:

  • dismiss the appeal, or
  • cancel the Tribunal’s order and order a rehearing, or
  • cancel the Tribunal’s order and transfer the dispute to the District Court.

How much does it cost to appeal a Disputes Tribunal decision?

District Courts Fees Regulations 2009, Schedule 1

It costs $200 to apply for an appeal of a Disputes Tribunal decision.

Can I have a lawyer at the appeal?

You can be represented by a lawyer at the District Court if you choose, but you’ll have to pay your lawyer’s fees. In some cases, you might be able to get Legal Aid. To see if you’re eligible, see: “Legal Aid”.

What is the time limit for filing an appeal?

Disputes Tribunal Act 1988, s 50(3)

You have 20 working days after the original decision to file for an appeal.

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The Disputes Tribunal

Where to go for more support

Community Law

Your local Community Law Centre can provide you with free initial legal advice.

Find your local Community Law Centre online: www.communitylaw.org.nz/our-law-centres

Disputes Tribunal

This website includes general information about how to apply, fees, the hearing process, and appeals.

Website: www.disputestribunal.govt.nz

Information on how to make a claim to the Disputes Tribunal: www.disputestribunal.govt.nz/how-to-make-a-claim
Make a claim online:  www.disputestribunal.govt.nz/how-to-make-a-claim/apply-online
Applying to the Disputes Tribunal by paper: www.disputestribunal.govt.nz/assets/DT-Claim-form2.pdf

Some Disputes Tribunal decisions are available to read at: www.disputestribunal.govt.nz/disputes-decision-finder 

Consumer NZ

Consumer NZ provides information on how the Disputes Tribunal works and may be a helpful resource for consumer-related claims.

Website: www.consumer.org.nz/articles/disputes-tribunals
Email: info@consumer.org.nz
Phone: 0800 266 786

Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB)

Contact your local Citizens Advice Bureau for information about the Disputes Tribunal process.

Website: www.cab.org.nz
Phone: 0800 367 222
Find your local CAB office: www.cab.org.nz select “Find a CAB”

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