Going to the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal (ACAT)

Contributed by Peter Christensen and Tenancy Advice Service (a division of Legal Aid ACT) and current to March 2020.

General Information

The ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal (ACAT) is an independent body set up to resolve disputes.

ACAT took over roles previously dealt with by the Residential Tenancies Tribunal and the Small Claims Court.

ACAT has exclusive jurisdiction in relation to tenancy matters where the amount is dispute does not exceed $25,000.

ACAT is more informal than a Court (with most current proceedings conducted via telephone due to COVID-19 restrictions), [DS1] [DY2] but it is required to provide parties with procedural fairness. This means that each party understands the case being put against them, has a fair opportunity to present their case and have the matter adjudicated by an independent Tribunal ‘member’.

This means:

  1. If you are preparing an application, you should be clear on what you are seeking. It is not helpful to include a generalised complaint about what the lessor has done.

  1. If you are a respondent, make sure you understand what the case against you is. Ensure that any response you provide deals with the case against you. Make sure you include the required timelines and statements in your response.

  1. Be prepared - when the matter is listed for hearing you will usually not be granted an adjournment. It is useless to say to the ACAT, “I can send through that evidence now". Ensure you have all necessary statements, letters and documents when you come to your hearing, and have arranged for witnesses to be available.

Sometimes the member at a hearing asks questions of the parties themselves. In other cases, the member will leave the parties to conduct their own cases (particularly when the parties are represented).

Usually the member will tell the parties of the decision at the end of the hearing. In more complex cases, the member will "reserve" their decision and provide a written decision later. A written decision will include the reasons for the decision.

A party can ask the Tribunal to provide a statement of reasons for any decision. This should be done within 14 days of the decision being handed down.

Searching Decisions

Previous decisions of ACAT can be found on the ACAT site or on the Australasian Legal Information Institute.

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