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Government & legal system

Making a claim

Filling out the Disputes Tribunal application form

You can print out a paper form from disputestribunal.govt.nz/forms-and-fees (it’s called the Disputes Tribunal claim form). You can also ask for a copy from any District Court, or your local Community Law Centre or Citizens Advice Bureau.

This section will explain each step of the application form and what information you need to include. If you’re applying online, you’ll have to provide all the same information, but the online form is in a slightly different order – see the previous section: “Applying online”.

How do I submit my application form?

Once you’ve filled out the application form, you’ll need to:

  • photocopy your completed form and any attached documents – make sure you have at least three copies,
  • post or deliver all three photocopied forms to your local District Court. You can find the addresses for all District Courts at justice.govt.nz/contact-us, and
  • pay the filing fee:
    • If you’re delivering the application by hand to the District Court, you can pay the fee by card or cash when you get there.
    • If you post your application, you’ll have to pay online first, or go into a District Court to pay in person.

Filling out the form – step by step

Step 1. Who is making the claim?

You’ll need to include:

  • your name, address and postal address, phone number and email address
    • If you’re worried about the other party having this information, refer to Step 10 to request that your information is kept confidential.
  • whether you need an interpreter
    • If the referee thinks you need one, the hearing might be adjourned to arrange an interpreter.
  • whether you’re applying as an individual, or on behalf of an organisation, company, or trust
    • If you’re a sole trader, and the dispute arose as part of your work, you should include your company’s details.
  • your bank account details (this is optional).

Step 2. Claimant insurance and insurer details

Disputes Tribunal Act 1988, ss 28, 29, 35, 38

If you’re the applicant, and your claim is or might be covered by insurance, you must provide your insurance company details on the claim form. You should also let your insurance company know that you are making the claim. The Registrar of the court should also notify your insurer of the proceedings.

If you are the respondent, you can choose whether you let your insurance company know.

For example: You have car insurance, and you get into a car accident with someone else, and both cars get damaged. If the other car was at fault, and you’re applying to the Disputes Tribunal to get them to pay for the damage to your car, you have to tell your insurer. If you were at fault, and the other person is trying to make you pay for the damage to their car, you might prefer to just pay privately, and not make an insurance claim – in that case, you don’t have to tell your insurer.

If an insurance company has paid or might have to pay out on a claim, they are entitled to have someone attend the Disputes Tribunal hearing on their behalf. They will usually have an experienced attendee who acts as an agent for the company.

An insurance company can also apply to the Tribunal themselves if they have a dispute. 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.

Step 3. Who is the claim against?

You’ll need to include the respondent’s name and contact details. You should give as much detail as possible, including 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 need to go to the District Court to enforce the Tribunal’s decision. The District Court won’t trace the respondent for you.

If you’re not sure if the respondent was acting as an individual or an organisation (e.g., if you get someone to paint your house, and you’re not sure if they work for a company), you can check for logos or company details on any invoices/quotes they gave you. If you’re still not sure, just include as much detail as you can.

Step 4. Anyone else you wish to claim against?

If there are multiple people involved in the same claim (for example, if you’re making a claim against your flatmates), you’ll need the name and contact details of everyone involved.

Step 5: Details of the dispute

How much are you claiming for?

You have to include a monetary figure of how much you are claiming for, up to a maximum of $30,000.

Even if you’re not asking for money (e.g., if you want a plumber to complete a job that you’ve paid for), you need to include a monetary figure. You could calculate this by how much it will cost someone else to do equivalent work.

Details of the dispute:

You need to provide clear details of the dispute and what result you’re looking for. Usually, the easiest way to format this is in a chronological timeline. You should include:

  • What happened?
  • When did it happen?
  • Where did it happen?
  • Who was involved?
  • What was the damage or loss?
  • What do you want done about it?
  • How did you calculate the amount you’re claiming for?


You need to include evidence to back up what you’ve included in your timeline, for example:

  • quotes, invoices, receipts
  • agreements, contracts or terms and conditions you signed
  • texts, emails, social media messages
  • photos
  • police reports
  • statements from witnesses
  • statements from experts (e.g., ask a mechanic to provide an expert opinion about the damage to your car)
  • medical records.

Step 6: Why is the respondent still disputing the claim?

The Tenancy Tribunal doesn’t hear claims about debts where there isn’t a disagreement about what’s owed (“undisputed debt”). This is mostly to avoid big companies using the Disputes Tribunal as a debt collection agency.

When filling out the claim form, you have to answer this question to prove that you’re not using the Disputes Tribunal just to collect undisputed debt. On the online form, you’ll be asked “What have you done to resolve the issue?”

The best way to answer these questions is to:

  • State what you’ve done to try resolve the issue so far. This is important because the referee will consider if both sides have acted fairly and reasonably. If you can show you’ve been open to communication or compromise, this will be evidence that you’ve acted reasonably.
  • Include all communication you’ve had with the respondent. It’s best if you have written communication (e.g., text messages or emails), but you can also refer to in-person conversations if you include when the conversation happened, with who, and what was discussed.
What if someone is refusing to pay me?

If someone owes you money, agrees they owe it to you, but they just haven’t paid it, this might technically be considered undisputed debt.

One way to get around this is to write to the respondent saying if they don’t pay within a certain timeframe, you will consider the issue is in dispute. If they don’t pay within the timeframe, include this communication in your application and this should be enough for the Disputes Tribunal to hear your claim.

Steps 7-9

You then sign and date the application form. Go through the checklist to make sure you haven’t forgotten any steps. For more information about submitting your form and paying the filing fee, see: “How do I submit my application form?” at the top of this page.

Step 10. Confidentiality

You can ask for your contact details to be kept confidential, so the respondent won’t have access to them.

You should specify:

  • what information you want to be kept confidential (e.g., your physical address, your email address, your phone number, or all of the above), and
  • why you want these details to be confidential (e.g., if you have safety concerns), and
  • if you still want the claim to continue, even if your confidentiality request isn’t granted.

You’ll have to give a reason for this. It’s usually enough to say you’re worried about your safety if the other side gets all your contact details.

Note: Even if your confidentiality request is granted, the respondent will still be sent a copy of the rest of your application form, so make sure you redact any personal information that you don’t want the respondent to see.

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 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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