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Making a claim


The Disputes Tribunal process

The following flowchart summarises the process of making or responding to a claim in the Disputes Tribunal.

How do I take a claim to the Disputes Tribunal?

Disputes Tribunal Act 1988, s 24; Disputes Tribunal Rules 1989, rule 4, form 1

To take a dispute to the Disputes Tribunal, you must fill in a claim form and then either post it or take it in person to the local District Court.

You can get copies of the claim form from the District Courts or from your local Community Law Centre or Citizens Advice Bureau. You can get addresses for all District Courts at www.justice.govt.nz/contact-us

You can also file your claim online, at: www.disputesTribunal.govt.nz/how-to-make-a-claim/apply-online

If you are making the claim, you are called the “applicant”. The person or organisation you’re complaining against is called the “respondent”.

The form must be completed with the following information:

  • the name, address and telephone number of the person or organisation making the claim (the applicant)
  • the name, address and telephone number of the person or organisation the claim is against (the respondent)
  • details of the dispute and the claim being made (see below, “Giving details of your claim”)
  • details of any other parties involved
  • details of the applicant’s insurance company, if they have insurance that may cover their claim
  • details of the steps that have already been taken to try to resolve the dispute and any reasons given by the respondent for not paying or otherwise resolving the dispute
  • the applicant’s signature and the date.

    Note: It’s helpful if the contact details you provide for the respondent are as detailed as possible. You should include, if you have them: home and work addresses; work, home and mobile phone numbers; email addresses; any PO Box number; and details of any vehicle they own. You’ll also need to have these details later on if you want to go to the District Court to enforce the Tribunal’s decision – the District Court won’t trace the respondent for you.

Giving details of your claim

On the claim form, the applicant needs to provide clear details of the dispute and what result they are looking for. In general, an applicant should cover the following information:

  • what happened?
  • when did it happen?
  • where did it happen?
  • who was involved?
  • what was the damage or loss to the applicant?
  • what does the applicant want done about it?

Examples of appropriate information for specific types of disputes

Following are examples of specific types of disputes and the information the applicant might provide in their claim:

  • Disputes about goods supplied
    • what are the goods?
    • when were they supplied or bought?
    • what is wrong with the goods (if anything)?
    • when was the defect discovered?
    • what are the issues in dispute?
    • what does the applicant want done about it? for example, a refund of the purchase price or an order for work to be done (including the value of that work).
  • Disputes about work done
    • what work has been done?
    • when was the work done?
    • what is the problem with the work? For example, defects or an excessive charge.
    • when was the defect discovered?
    • what are the issues in dispute?
    • what does the applicant want? For example, a refund or an order for work to be done correcting the problem (including the value of that work).
  • Motor vehicle accidents
    • when and where did the accident happen?
    • what caused the accident?
    • what are the issues in dispute?
    • were there any witnesses?
    • was a police report filed?
    • what is the amount claimed and what is it claimed for? For example, the cost of repairs to the motor vehicle or the excess on an insurance policy.

Filing your claim

Disputes Tribunal Act 1988, ss 24, 25

Once a claim form is completed, the applicant must file it with the Disputes Tribunal (at the District Court or online) and pay the required fee. A date will then be set for a hearing.

You can apply online to the Disputes Tribunal at: www.justice.govt.nz/Tribunals/disputes-Tribunal/apply-online

Is there a time limit for making a claim?

Limitation Act 2010

Claims made to the Disputes Tribunal must be brought within six years of the problem arising. However, it is a good idea to try to sort out the problem as soon as possible, because a long delay in making a claim may limit the possible remedies or make it difficult to prove the claim.

How much does it cost to make a claim?

Disputes Tribunal Rules 1989, rule 5

The fee charged for making a claim in the Disputes Tribunal depends on the amount of the claim. The filing fee cannot be claimed back from the respondent. The fees are as follows:

Amount of claim


Under $2,000






Note: Lawyers are usually not allowed to go to Disputes Tribunal hearings. If you choose to get advice from a lawyer about your claim (or about defending a claim), you’ll have to pay your lawyer’s fees as well as the filing fee. Community Law Centres can provide free initial legal advice about your claim.

What if my claim is covered by insurance?

Disputes Tribunal Act 1988, s 28

Claims in the Disputes Tribunal are often also covered by insurance. If the applicant’s claim is or may be covered by insurance, they must provide the details of their insurance company on the claim form.

The respondent should also inform their insurance company as soon as possible if a claim is made against them and it may be covered by their insurance.

Disputes Tribunal Act 1988, s 35

If an insurance company has paid or might have to pay out on a claim, it is entitled to attend and be a party to the Disputes Tribunal hearing.

Disputes Tribunal Act 1988, ss 28, 35

Note: An insurance company may also apply to the Tribunal and be an applicant in their own right when they are pursuing a dispute against another party. For example, an insurance company may take an uninsured driver to the Tribunal to recover costs it has already paid out to one of its clients.

Next Section | Defending a claim

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The Disputes Tribunal

Where to go for more support

Community Law


Your local Community Law Centre can provide free initial legal advice and can help you apply to the Disputes Tribunal or defend a claim there.

Consumer NZ


This provides information on how the Disputes Tribunal works, your rights at the hearing and how to file a claim.

Disputes Tribunal


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

You can apply online at:

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

Citizens Advice Bureau


Phone (0800 FOR CAB) 0800 367 222

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

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