On 1 August 2017 the Tribunals Powers and Procedures Legislation Bill was introduced into Parliament and amongst other changes increases the jurisdiction of the Disputes Tribunal from $15,000 to $30,000. In practice this means many more claims will come within the jurisdiction of the Disputes Tribunal.

A further significant change is that the Real Estate Agents Disciplinary Tribunal will be able to award monetary compensation of up to $100,000 for financial losses arising from a real estate agent’s unsatisfactory conduct:

The Bill as a whole aims to reduce the time it takes to hear and resolve matters, as well as improve the experience of users of Courts and Tribunal systems. Further, the Bill attempts to enable the greater use of modern technology in order to make the Tribunal process more efficient. The Bill also aims to standardise the powers and procedures across all Tribunals and ensure greater access to justice.

On the whole the Bill makes changes to the Tribunals enacted under the following pieces of legislation:

  • Accident Compensation Act 2001;
  • Copyright Act 1994;
  • Customs and Excise Act 1996;
  • Disputes Tribunal Act 1988;
  • Education Act 1989;
  • Health Act 1956:
  • Human Rights Act 1993;
  • Immigration Act 2009;
  • Immigration Advisers Licensing Act 2007;
  • Lawyers and Conveyancers Act 2006;
  • Legal Services Act 2011;
  • Maritime Transport Act 1994;
  • Prisoners’ and Victims’ Claims Act 2005;
  • Private Security Personnel and Private Investigators Act 2010;
  • Real Estate Agents Act 2008;
  • Residential Tenancies Act 1986;
  • Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act 2012;
  • Secondhand Dealers and Pawnbrokers Act 2004;
  • Social Security Act 1964;
  • Taxation Review Authorities Act 1994;
  • Weathertight Homes Resolution Services Act 2006.

Procedures simpler and standardised

The Bill aims to make the powers and procedures standard across all Tribunals, therefore allowing individuals (and their advisors) to know to expect in whatever Tribunal they are a part of. As it currently stands the Tribunals operate very differently and this can be frustrating when dealing with tribunals.

Under the Bill certain Tribunals (including Disputes Tribunal and the Lawyers and Conveyancers Disciplinary Tribunal) now have powers of striking out meritless applications. This will ensure that less Tribunal and individuals time is wasted on meritless claims which till now have required to be heard as any other claim would.

The Bill also gives Tribunals power to summonsing witnesses and the ability to use audio visual facilities. This will mean less time is wasted attempting to get witness participation and will mean individual’s will not need to necessarily travel to participate in hearings either as a party or witness.

Further Tribunals are now required to make online publication about information regarding procedures, timeframes and how to inquire about the progress of the decisions. This will likely make the process more transparent and make it simpler to know who to contact with questions or get an update on what is happening with a case.

How will this affect me?

The biggest impact on most people is likely to be the Disputes Tribunal threshold increasing from $15,000 to $30,000. This will mean that significantly more claims will come within the jurisdiction of the Disputes Tribunal rather than the District Court and additionally mean that it will be more attractive to certain individuals to bring a claim that they may have seen as not worth the cost previously.

As the Disputes Tribunal does not allow legal representation this means that there are potentially claims up to $30,000 that individuals and companies will have to defend or argue themselves.

Although many of the Tribunals, in particular the Disputes Tribunal, do not allow individuals to be represented by lawyers, we are still able to help in the drafting of documents, submissions and preparing for attending the hearing.

When will this come into force?

It is largely unknown as it has only just been introduced and there is the upcoming election. However if you would like to be kept in the loop please let us know.

This article was written by Sam Fellows. Sam is a Solicitor in Holland Beckett’s Dispute Resolution team.