If you have a claim of up to $15,000 – the Disputes Tribunal provides a simple, cost-effective way of dealing with civil disputes. We outline below the basics of what you need to know to make a claim.

The Disputes Tribunal is not a court and there are no judges. Hearings are run by referees who will help the parties to reach an agreement. You can’t have a lawyer with you at the actual hearing – you have to represent yourself. You can, however, talk with us before lodging a claim or attending your hearing. We do urge you, however, to try and settle your dispute rather than have to go to the Disputes Tribunal.

Claim threshold

Generally, the Disputes Tribunal is for claims of up to $15,000. However, if everyone agrees then the amount can be $20,000. If you have a dispute for between $15,000 and $200,000, you will need to go to the District Court. The High Court hears larger disputes.

A claim usually needs to be made within six years of the event or dispute. If you have run out of time then you will need to speak with us about other options.

Claims you can make

The Disputes Tribunal can help with the following disputes:

  • Goods and services: for example, work completed which you are not satisfied with
  • Your place of residence: such as damage caused to property or flatmates disagreeing to contribute as previously agreed
  • Business contracts or agreements: it’s important to know that you can make a claim at the Disputes Tribunal even if you signed an agreement stating you would not do so.


Claims held elsewhere

  • Employment: the Employment Relations Authority deals with these
  • Family disputes such as child care or relationship property: you’ll need to talk with our family law specialist
  • Disputes between landlords and tenants: Tenancy Services is the place to go
  • Debts: when the person owing the money agrees they owe the debt but doesn’t pay anyway, ie: you can’t use the Tribunal as a debt collection agency
  • Wills, intellectual property, land: speak with us about these types of disputes
  • Rates, taxes, benefits or ACC payments: contact the agency that deals with those payments such as Work and Income for benefits.


Making a claim

Go to www.disputestribunal.govt.nz and complete the form online. Alternatively, complete the paper form that’s available at your local District Court.


The hearing

Make sure you’re well prepared, including briefing any of your witnesses. Take with you all the information and copies of supporting documents needed to prove your claim. The referee will explain the hearing process. The referee will help the parties in reaching a resolution. If, however, no agreement can be reached then the referee will make the decision for you. You must follow the decision that has been made.


To know more

For more information on the Disputes Tribunal process, filing fees, how to enforce the decision made, and so on, go online to the Disputes Tribunal or visit your local District Court.

Disclaimer: All the information published in Fineprint articles is true and accurate to the best of the author’s knowledge. It should not be substituted for legal advice. No liability is assumed by the authors or publisher for losses suffered by any person or organisation relying directly or indirectly on this newsletter. Views expressed are the views of the authors individually and do not necessarily reflect the view of this firm. Articles appearing in Fineprint may be reproduced with prior approval from the editor and credit being given to the source.  

Copyright, NZ LAW Limited, 2016. Editor - Adrienne Olsen, em. adrienne@adroite.co.nz  ph. 029 286 3650 or 04 496 5513