“Agree, for the law is costly” (Marcus Tullius Cicero, Roman lawyer and statesman)
We all know how easy it is for misunderstandings and disputes to arise between landlords and tenants, and whilst most can be resolved with a bit of open communication and negotiation, sometimes independent intervention is needed.
Enter the Rental Housing Tribunal, which uses the Rental Housing Act to “speedily resolve” landlord/tenant disputes, to balance the rights of both sides and to protect them both from “unfair practices and exploitation”.
Note that this applies only to residential housing, not to commercial or industrial leases.
What’s the cost and how does it work?
It’s free, and to get going you lodge a complaint with your local Tribunal. An impartial mediator is then appointed to help you settle the dispute and reach an agreement. If that fails a formal hearing is held and a ruling issued. Either side can take the ruling (which is binding and must be complied with on pain of criminal prosecution) on review to the High Court.
You can if you like draw up your own complaint and represent yourself in the hearings, but – particularly if there’s a lot at stake – taking legal advice upfront is far safer.
Because the Tribunal cannot order eviction (only a court can do so) and needs time to resolve complaints, landlords faced with a non-paying tenant will usually go straight to court.
For most disputes however, both landlords and tenants should seriously consider following the quick, cheap and easy Tribunal route.
Prevention being better than cure…
Of course first prize is as always to avoid disputes altogether. Start off with a properly-worded, clear and comprehensive lease. Make sure you comply with Rental Housing Act basics like joint inspections for damage, investment and refund of deposits, avoiding unfair practices and so on.
Ask your lawyer for assistance here – blindly using a generic lease without taking advice is a recipe for disaster.