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You can use the Disputes Tribunal to settle disputes without going to court.

The Tribunal is:

  • for small claims up to $15,000 or, if everyone agrees, $20,000
  • quicker, cheaper and less formal than court
  • legally binding (you must follow its decisions).

Types of disputes the Tribunal can help with

The Tribunal can help with disputes about:

Car accidents or other vehicle issues

For example, disputes about:

  • damage to a car in an accident
  • damage to a bike in an accident
  • damage to a vehicle when someone borrowed it.

Your house or flat

For example, disputes about:

  • fences
  • tree roots damaging drains
  • damage to property
  • property that’s been borrowed and not returned
  • flatmates not doing what they agreed to.

Buying goods or services

For example, disputes about:

  • goods that don’t work properly
  • whether a tradesman has done work properly
  • the amount of money charged for work done
  • loss caused by misleading advertising
  • disputed debts.

Business deals

For example, disputes about:

  • contracts
  • business agreements.

You can use the Tribunal even if you’ve signed an agreement saying that you won’t.  

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Types of disputes the Tribunal can't help with

We can’t deal with disputes about:

  • renting (disputes between landlords and tenants) or body corporate issues
  • rates, taxes, social welfare benefits or ACC payments
  • intellectual property (copyright and who owns an idea or creative work)
  • employment
  • wills
  • land
  • family law issues such as relationship property and care of children
  • debts when the person owing the money agrees they owe the debt but doesn’t pay anyway. In other words, you can’t use the Tribunal as a debt collection agency.

Many areas have their own ways you can settle disputes, for example:

Tenancy Services (external link)

Weathertight Homes Tribunal (external link)

Employment Relations Authority (external link)

If you have a civil dispute for between $15,000 and $200,000, you’ll usually go to the District Court. For larger or more complex disputes you’ll usually go to the High Court.

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