Dispute Resolution Services - Is conciliation required?
Under the Act, some matters are defi ned as urgent Tribunal applications. In these situations, you can apply directly to the Tribunal for an urgent hearing without fi rst applying to the RTA Dispute
All other tenancy matters are non-urgent Tribunal applications. This means you must first apply to the RTA for dispute resolution before you can apply to the Tribunal for a hearing. If your matter is defi ned as an urgent application, you may still use the RTA Dispute Resolution Service to try to resolve your dispute before going to the Tribunal.
What is conciliation?
The RTA Dispute Resolution Service consists of a team of trained conciliators. Their role is to provide information on the Act and assist parties to resolve their tenancy dispute.
The conciliator will:
- contact each party and clarify the issues in dispute.
- help you and the lessor, agent or provider, understand how the Act applies to your situation.
- assist parties to share information, including copies of receipts, documents or other evidence.
- facilitate agreement by exchanging offers and suggesting options.
The dispute resolution process often involves a series of phone calls. In some situations, the conciliator may suggest that a teleconference or face-to-face meeting will be helpful.
Withdrawing a dispute
You can withdraw a Dispute Resolution Request at any time by notifying the RTA Dispute Resolution Service in writing. Participation in the dispute resolution process is voluntary for all parties. There are no penalties if you or the other party do not participate, or if you cannot reach an agreement. If you agree to participate, you can withdraw from the process at any time.
The dispute resolution process is based on three principles:
- Natural justice – a process based on fairness, in which each party gets to put forward their side of the story.
- Impartiality – this means not taking sides, but providing direction when necessary.
- Confidentiality – all discussions are kept confi dential between the parties, except in special circumstances as required by law.
Any admissions made during conciliation cannot be used in the Tribunal or in any other court. In some situations, the RTA may decide that a dispute is not suitable for conciliation. For example, the problem may not come under the tenancy laws. The RTA will advise you about what to do if they are unable to handle your dispute.
Who can participate in dispute resolution?
In most situations, parties must represent themselves during the dispute resolution process. However, the conciliator can let someone represent you if they agree you need representation. Corporations can also nominate a representative.
The conciliator can allow other people to be involved in the process if they are satisfied they have sufficient interest in the dispute. For example: if the dispute relates to the lessor’s consent to sublet, the conciliator may allow a prospective sub-tenant participate.
If you reach an agreement, the conciliator can provide a written record of the agreement. Each party should sign the agreement and keep a copy. The conciliation agreement will become part of your tenancy agreement and can be enforced by the Tribunal if necessary.
If the agreement relates to a rental bond dispute, each party will be asked to fill in and sign a Refund of Rental Bond form and send it to the RTA. The RTA can then refund the bond amounts as agreed.
If you agree to release all your bond money to the other party, confirm with the conciliator and the other party that this agreement is ‘in full and final settlement of all claims relating to the tenancy’. If this is the case, write this on the Refund of Rental Bond form. This may protect you from additional future claims for the tenancy.
If a conciliation agreement is broken
If you believe that the lessor, agent or provider has broken the conciliation agreement, you can apply to have the matter heard by the Tribunal. You can apply directly to the Tribunal, without going back to the RTA. If the lessor, agent or provider believes that you have broken the conciliation agreement, they can also apply to the
Tribunal for a decision.
Need an RTA form? Some forms are available at official Australia Post Offices in Queensland or go online at www.rta.qld.gov.au.
If no agreement is reached
If the dispute resolution process ends without an agreement being reached, or if one of the parties is unwilling to participate in the dispute resolution process, the RTA will issue a Notice of Unresolved Dispute.
The RTA will send the Notice of Unresolved Dispute to the person who sent in the Dispute Resolution Request form. This person then has the option to apply to the Tribunal for a tenancy hearing and seek a final decision about the dispute.
Information supplied courtesy of the Tenants Union of Queensland Inc
Further information and advice for Queensland tenants can be sourced from www.tuq.org.au