Rental property disputes

The law that applies to rental property disputes is the Residential Tenancies Act 1997. ACAT resolves and decides disputes under this Act.

Rental property disputes involve a lease or occupancy agreement. A lease is also called a residential tenancy agreement. Cases may be about:

There may be more than one issue in a case.

Find out about:

Changes to residential tenancy law – coming soon

The Residential Tenancies Amendment Act 2019 commences on 1 November 2019. This Act introduces new types of applications made by landlords and tenants at ACAT.

Parties will be able to apply to ACAT about:

  • Rent increases: A lessor may apply for approval to increase the rental rate more than the prescribed amount, i.e. more than the percentage increase of the rent’s component of CPI plus 10%. A tenant may apply for a review of a proposed increase.
  • Modifications: A lessor may apply for approval of their refusal to consent to special modifications. A tenant may ask for an order that the lessor unreasonably refused to consent to their request.
  • Pets: Lessors may seek approval to refuse consent to keep an animal, or to impose a condition for keeping a pet. A tenant may ask ACAT to resolve a dispute about whether a condition is reasonable.

The Justice and Community Safety Directorate has fact sheets about:

  • keeping pets
  • making modifications
  • break lease fees
  • excessive rent increases.

Before you apply

Which application form do I use?

For most rental disputes, to start a case you will need to complete and lodge an application for resolution of a tenancy dispute form [PDF 705KB].

You will need to use a different form to start a case if:

If your case is about a rental bond, ACT Rental Bonds will refer the case to ACAT. ACAT will then advise you of next steps.

Will I have to pay fees?

There are fees for most applications that start a rental property dispute, unless you have an exemption, waiver or deferral.

Fees also apply for subpoenas, and the applicant will need to pay a hearing fee if the case is scheduled for more than one day of hearing.

There is no fee for an endorsement.

How will my case be resolved and how long will it take?

Termination applications, including for unpaid rent, are scheduled for hearing as soon as possible, usually in about 10-14 days.

Other rental property disputes are usually scheduled for a conference within about three to four weeks.

The average time to complete a rental property dispute is 49 days. Review our information about case length.

What if my case is urgent?

If your case is urgent, or you are asking for emergency or urgent orders, you will need to let ACAT know. You should use the application for interim or other orders form [PDF 56KB] to tell us why your case is urgent.

Make sure you clearly set out what orders you are seeking and why.

ACAT will then decide whether to schedule your case for an urgent hearing or conference.

Do I need a lawyer or representative?

ACAT staff can provide you with procedural information, but cannot give you legal advice.

All parties can get legal advice and it is best to seek it early. ACAT has a list of free legal advice providers and other organisations or support services you may need to contact.

You can be represented by a lawyer when you come to the ACAT, but it is not necessary and generally, ACAT cannot make orders about payment of legal costs. You can be represented by someone other than a lawyer (for example, a family member, friend or agent) if that person is authorised. It is useful to provide any authorisation (or details of a legal representative) at the time you lodge an application or response.

If you are a lessor who is represented by an agent, you must complete and lodge the general power of attorney form [DOC 52KB]or [PDF 241KB].

Find out more about:

Previous cases and outcomes

Find out about the outcomes in previous rental property disputes.

Notices to remedy and vacate

Before you come to ACAT, check what notices you need to serve (see the Residential Tenancies Act 1997 and the Residential Tenancies Regulation 1998.

There are some templates notices below. Note, the content and service of notices is your responsibility. Make sure you give all the information required and check time frames. If you are using a template, make sure it fits your circumstances.

Rental bond disputes

At the end of a tenancy, if there is a disagreement about the distribution of a rental bond, ACT Rental Bonds will refer the matter to ACAT.

Once a referral is made, ACAT will send a notice to the parties that requires them to attend ACAT for a conference.

Before the conference (at least seven days beforehand) the lessor is required to provide to the tenant a list of claims, which sets out how the lessor wants the bond distributed, and why.

If an agreement is reached at the conference, ACAT will make orders about the disbursement of the bond. A copy of this order will go to ACT Rental Bonds, who will disburse the bond in accordance with the order. If no agreement is reached, directions will be made. The directions will give parties a timeframe to prepare for a hearing.

The directions may ask:

You need to read any directions from carefully and make sure you comply with them.

The case will then progress to a hearing. An ACAT Member will usually make a decision at the end of the hearing. In some cases, the ACAT Member will reserve the decision, and give it later.

If you reach an agreement about how the bond should be distributed before the hearing, you need to let ACAT know. It is important to contact us.

Termination of a lease

Both a lessor and a tenant can apply to ACAT to terminate (end) a residential tenancy agreement (lease). A lessor may ask for a termination and possession order (this means the tenancy will come to an end and the tenants are required to move out).

Termination applications can be made for a range of reasons, including unpaid rent, hardship, failure to comply with a payment order or a breach of the lease.

Whether you are a lessor or tenant, you need to tell us why you are asking to terminate the tenancy. Make sure it is a ground you can rely on. Look at your residential tenancy agreement and the Residential Tenancies Act 1997.

Check if you need to give notice to the tenant or lessor before coming to ACAT.

How to apply

To make an application to terminate a tenancy you need to:

  • complete the application for resolution of a tenancy dispute form [PDF 705KB] in full
  • attach any relevant documents (for example, the residential tenancy agreement, notice to remedy and notice to vacate, rent ledger, and any condition reports)
  • lodge your application form at ACAT
  • make sure you tell us the times and dates you are not available to attend ACAT, for example, if you are overseas or having a medical procedure
  • pay the fee, unless you have an exemption, waiver or deferral.

What to expect

After an application is made to terminate a lease, the case will be scheduled for a short hearing in about 10-14 days. This will usually be on a Thursday and take between 30 minutes and one hour (some cases may take longer). ACAT will send a notice to all the parties in a case, which:

  • states the date, time and location to attend ACAT
  • tells you when to provide your documents to any other party and ACAT
  • attaches a copy of the residential tenancy application.

A decision about the case is usually made at the end of the hearing. Depending on the circumstances, ACAT will:

  • terminate the lease and require the tenant to vacate
  • make a payment order
  • adjourn the hearing
  • dismiss the application
  • make other orders.

A copy of the orders will be sent to the parties.

More information

ACAT has an information sheet for tenants about termination and possession orders [DOC 47KB].

Find out more about:

Warrants for eviction

A warrant for eviction authorises the Australian Federal Police (AFP) to evict the tenant (or tenants) who have not vacated the premises when required (by an ACAT termination and possession order).

A lessor can only apply for a warrant for eviction:

  • after a termination and possession order has been made by ACAT and
  • if the tenant has not vacated the premises in accordance with that order.

To apply for a warrant for eviction, complete and lodge an application for a warrant for eviction [PDF 71KB]. There is no fee to make this application. You will need to tell us:

  • what orders you are seeking
  • what date a termination and possession order was made by ACAT (attach a copy of the order)
  • why you believe the tenant still resides in the property (for example, you saw the tenant at the premises).

Make sure you complete the application in full.

An application for a warrant of eviction is usually considered by the ACAT Registrar in chambers (without a hearing).

If ACAT issues a warrant, we will send it to the AFP.

Note, sometimes a termination and possession order ‘takes effect as a warrant for eviction’ (check the order if you are unsure). In this situation, a lessor does not need to apply to ACAT for a warrant and should contact the AFP.

Find out more about how to apply for a warrant for eviction [DOC 51KB].

Payment orders

If you are a lessor who has applied for a termination and possession order on the basis of unpaid rent, ACAT may decide to make a payment order (instead of ending the tenancy).

A payment order requires a tenant to pay to the lessor the rent (or part of the rent) that is overdue, and future rent as it becomes due.

What if a tenant fails to comply with a payment order?

If a tenant fails to comply with a payment order, the lessor can apply for a termination and possession order. To do this, fill in the application – failure to comply with payment order form [PDF 528KB]. There is no fee for this application.

You will need to tell us:

  • the date ACAT made a payment order (and attach a copy to your application)
  • that the payment order is current and has not expired
  • what date you say the tenant did not make a payment or payments (this needs to be in the last 60 days)
  • why you believe the tenant continues to live at the premises.

The application will then be listed for a short hearing at ACAT in about two weeks, usually on a Thursday. You and the other party or parties will receive a notice letting you know when the hearing is scheduled.

At the hearing, an ACAT Member will decide whether or not to make a termination and possession order due to a breach of a payment order. If the order is made, the ACAT Registrar will be directed to issue a warrant for eviction.

More information

Download our information sheet about unpaid rent and payment orders [PDF 559KB].

Protected persons - ending a tenanacy when there is violence

A protected person is someone who is under a protection order (also commonly known as a domestic violence order) that has been made by the ACT Magistrates Court.

On application by a protected person, ACAT may make orders to:

  • end an existing tenancy agreement, meaning the protected person can leave the tenancy
  • end an existing tenancy agreement then require a lessor to enter into a new tenancy agreement with the protected person, meaning the protected person can stay at the rented premises.

How to apply

If you are a protected person and want to ask ACAT for orders about your residential tenancy agreement, you need to:

You need to provide ACAT with a way that we can contact you. This can be an email address or through a friend or family member. You must tell us if you have contact details that are confidential or that you do not want given to other parties in the case. If you want to ask for a non-disclosure or non-publication order, you should fill in an application for interim or other orders form [PDF 56KB].

What to expect

After ACAT gets the completed application, a hearing date is scheduled as soon as possible. All the parties in the case will receive a notice with the hearing date and time, as well as a copy of the application and any attachments.

At the hearing, ACAT will decide what orders to make, after looking at the evidence and hearing from the parties in attendance.

More information

Download our information sheet about protection orders and leases [PDF 310KB].

Endorsements

All residential tenancy agreements (leases) have standard terms.

A term of a residential tenancy agreement that is inconsistent with a standard term is void if it has not been endorsed by ACAT. This means that it is not binding or legally valid.

While ACAT can endorse a term that is inconsistent with the standard residential tenancy terms, it cannot endorse a term that is inconsistent with any other part of the Residential Tenancies Act 1997.

You can find the standard residential tenancy terms in Schedule 1 of the Residential Tenancies Act 1997.

Before you apply

Both the tenant and lessor must agree to any terms they want endorsed by ACAT.

How to apply

To apply for an endorsement, the lessor (or their agent) or tenant should complete and lodge with ACAT:

The lessor (or their agent) and a tenant must sign the application. If a lessor’s agent signs the endorsement application, you will also need to lodge a general power of attorney form [DOC 52KB] or [PDF 241KB].

There is no fee for an endorsement.

ACAT will contact you if additional information is needed.

What to expect

An application for endorsement is usually considered in chambers (without a hearing) by an ACAT Member.

ACAT will notify the tenant and lessor about the outcome.

Other types of rental property disputes

There is a wide variety of rental property disputes ACAT can decide, such as disputes about overdue rent, repairs, compensation and damages, access to the premises, abandonment of premises and restoration or breach of a termination or occupancy agreement.

These disputes start when an application for resolution of a tenancy dispute form [PDF 705ZKB] is lodged. The application should:

  • clearly set out the dispute
  • clearly set out the orders you want ACAT to make
  • attach relevant documents (for example, the lease or occupancy agreement, invoices, letters, emails, photographs and condition reports).

conference will then usually be held at ACAT. If no agreement is reached at the conference, the case will be scheduled for a hearing (which will be heard by a different ACAT Member on a future date). ACAT will make directions, that tell you and each other party what to do before the hearing.

The case will be heard by an ACAT Member. Usually at the end of the hearing, a decision will be given. Sometimes an ACAT Member will reserve the decision and give it later.

More information

Find out about:

Glossary and terms

Glossary and terms

ACT Civil and Administrative TribunalA tribunal established under the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal Act 2008. It may also be referred to as ACAT or Tribunal.

Adjourn (or adjournment)To suspend or postpone a preliminary conference, mediation or hearing and reschedule it for a future date.

Administrative reviewACAT has jurisdiction to review some administrative decisions made by the ACT Government. Find out about Review of ACT Government decisions.

Alternative dispute resolution (ADR)Also known as dispute resolution. This is a way of resolving disputes without a formal hearing. It may involve a preliminary conference or mediation. ADR is used to help parties resolve cases by agreement.

AnorMeans ‘and another’. This term is generally used to name parties to proceedings when there is more than one applicant or respondent.

Appeal TribunalA tribunal constituted under section 81 of the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal 2008 to review a decision of the tribunal (not all ACAT decisions are appealable at ACAT – you may need to go to the Supreme Court).

AppellantThe individual or company that appeals an ACAT decision.

Authorising lawsA law that says an application (including referrals) may be made to ACAT. An authorising law may also set out the powers ACAT has in a case. Also see ‘jurisdiction’.

ApplicantThe individual or company that brings a case to ACAT, usually by making an application.

Calling a witnessA party or their representative will ‘call a witness’ at an ACAT hearing when they ask a witness to give evidence.

CaseAlso known as a matter, dispute, application or referral. Cases come to ACAT when ACAT has jurisdiction (power) to make a decision.

Cross-examinationThe process of asking a witness questions to test or check the evidence that the witness has given to ACAT.

Deliver a decisionAlso ‘handing down a decision’. This is giving a decision about an ACAT case. It may be done verbally or in writing (or both).

DirectionsInstructions that set out what each party must do (and when), often to prepare a case for hearing.

Directions hearingA short hearing where an ACAT Member or Registrar decides how to manage a case and what needs to be done before a hearing. Find out about directions hearings.

Ex parte orderAn order made by ACAT where one or more parties were not present.

Expert reportA written report from an expert that may be used as evidence.

Expert witnessA person with specialised knowledge based on their training, study or experience. An expert can give evidence at a hearing. Find out more about witness statements.

Final directions hearingSometimes ACAT will hold a final directions hearing prior to the final hearing of an application. The purpose is to make sure the case is ready to go to a hearing and give the parties a chance to ask questions about the hearing process.

Handed upGiving documents to an ACAT Member or Registrar in a hearing.

In chambersWhen ACAT considers something without holding a hearing.

Joined party (joined/joinder)A party who was not originally a party to the dispute but has later been added to the case.

JurisdictionACAT’s authority (power) to deal with, hear and decide applications (cases).

LeaveIf someone asks for leave, they are usually asking for permission to do something.

List (or listing)A schedule (or list) of cases to be heard at ACAT each day.

Listing noticeA letter or written document from ACAT that sets out when a conference, mediation or hearing is scheduled at ACAT.

MediationA private meeting where parties discuss ways to resolve their dispute, with the help of an impartial mediator (who is also an ACAT Member or Registrar). It is held under section 35 of the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal Act 2008.

Non-publication and/or non-disclosure orderAlso called a ‘suppression order’. It is an order that requires certain information not to be published or disclosed. It is made under section 39 of the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal Act 2008. Find out about public hearings and confidentiality.

Notice to partiesA letter sent to the parties in a case that sets out the time, date and location for an ACAT conference, mediation or hearing.

Opening statementUsually means a statement made at the beginning of a hearing to outline the key points in the case. Sometimes parties are asked to give an opening statement at a mediation or preliminary conference.

Originating applicationAn application that starts an ACAT case.

Party or partiesAn individual or company directly involved in an ACAT case, for example an applicant or respondent. Find out how to identify and name parties.

Preliminary conferenceA private meeting where parties discuss ways to resolve their dispute with the help of an ACAT Member or Registrar. See section 33 of the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal Act 2008. ACAT has different types of preliminary conferences.

RegistryThe administrative section of ACAT that accepts documents lodged by parties, handles enquiries and provides support for case management.

RepresentativeA person who represents or advocates for an individual or company at a conference, mediation or hearing at ACAT. For example, a legal practitioner or an attorney appointed under a general power of attorney.

Reserved decisionWhen an ACAT Member or Registrar reserves a decision (at the end of a hearing), this means they will give their decision later, either verbally or in writing (sometimes both).

RespondentThe party (or parties) against whom orders or relief is sought.

Short service orderAn order that authorises a shorter time for service (than the time otherwise required).

Serve/serviceA person who can give evidence at a hearing. Find out about witness statements.

Statement of reasonsA document that explains why ACAT made an order in a case. It sets out the law relied on by an ACAT Member or Registrar and explains how the law was applied to the facts of the case. You can request a written statement of reasons within 14 days after an order is made. Find out about statement of reasons.

StayAn order for a particular action (or decision) to be put on hold or suspended for a period of time.

SubmissionA document that sets out your side of a case or dispute and the relevant law. It is presented to ACAT either in writing, verbally or both. Find out about submissions.

SubpoenaRequires a person to appear at ACAT to give evidence or provide documents (or both). Find out about subpoenas.

Substituted service orderAn order that says how a party is to be served with an application or other documents related to the proceedings. In a civil dispute or a rental dispute, an applicant will need to consider asking for a substituted service order if they do not have a physical address for the respondent. Find out about lodging and serving documents.

WitnessA person who can give evidence at a hearing. Find out about witness statements.