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Government & legal system

Defending a claim

How will I know if a claim is made against me?

Disputes Tribunal Act 1988, s 25 Disputes Tribunal Rules 1989, rule 13

If a claim is made against you in the Disputes Tribunal, you’ll be sent a notice telling you about the claim and the date of the hearing. They must send you notice no less than 8 working days before the day of the hearing.

You’re called the “respondent,” and the person who brought the claim against you is called the “applicant”.

What are my options if a claim is made against me?

Disputes Tribunal Act 1988, s 24

You (the respondent) can:

  • Try to resolve the claim directly with the applicant.

For example: you get into a minor car accident, and the other party makes a Disputes Tribunal claim for the cost of damage to the car. You could contact the applicant and try to resolve things directly, and avoid going to the Tribunal altogether.

  • Or, go to the hearing to resolve it with the referee’s help.

In the car example, if you agree that you should pay for the cost of damage, but you disagree on the amount they are asking for, you could go to the hearing to try and come to an agreement that’s fair for both sides. You should bring evidence to support your position – for example, a quote from a panel beater.

  • Or, you could go to the hearing to dispute the claim.

In the car example, if you disagree that you were at fault in the car accident, you should go to the hearing to dispute the applicant’s side of the story. You should bring evidence to support your position – for example, a copy of the police report, or statements from witnesses.

  • Or, you could make a counterclaim against the applicant.

In the car example, if you think the accident was the applicant’s fault and they owe you money instead, you could file a counterclaim to be considered at the same hearing.

A counterclaim has to be linked to the issue in the original claim. For example, if the other party in the car accident is your neighbour and you’re having a different disagreement about a fence, you can’t counterclaim about a fence issue – you’d have to make a separate claim.

You don’t have to go to the hearing, but if you don’t, a decision might be made without your side to the story.

How do I make a counterclaim?

It’s best to make a counterclaim as soon as possible after receiving the claim.

The process for a counterclaim is the same as making a standard claim, but you should make a note of the fact that it is a counterclaim and include the CIV number from the notice of hearing:

  • If you’re using the paper form, write “Counterclaim” and the CIV number at the top of the form.
  • If you’re applying online, select “Counterclaim” when you fill out the details of your dispute.
  • You can also bring your arguments and evidence to the hearing on the day if you think the other side is at fault, even if you haven’t officially entered a counterclaim. If the referee thinks the other side will need more time to read over your arguments and evidence, they may postpone your hearing until a later date.

Did this answer your question?

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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