ACAT - Do I Need a Lawyer?
Parties do not have to be represented by a lawyer at the ACAT, although they can be. The Tribunal will take into account whether parties are represented or not. If a tenant is unrepresented the Tribunal must actively assist them to understand the hearing process and present their case (s81 RTA).
If unrepresented it is advisable to at least seek advice before appearing at the Tribunal. Advice can be obtained from the Tenants’ Advice Service or the Welfare Rights and Legal Centre.
It is very important that a tenant, or their representative, attend the hearing. If there is any problem with attendance, the Tribunal must be contacted immediately. It is also useful to observe a hearing at the Tribunal at an earlier date in order to become aware of the environment.
Tenants can afford to defend an eviction without fear of having to pay the landlord’s legal fees if unsuccessful. Section 48 of the ACAT Act 2008 expressly provides that the parties to a Tribunal hearing will bear their own costs unless the Tribunal orders otherwise. The Tribunal can order that the unsuccessful party pay the applicant’s filing fee.
The Tribunal can also order a party to pay the others’ costs where that party caused unreasonable delay or obstruction before or during the hearing (s48(2)(b)).
It must be noted however, that RTA s56 does allow the landlord to make an application for compensation where the tenant fails to vacate in accordance with a TPO.
The landlord may claim:
- An amount equal to the rent that would have been payable to the landlord during the period the tenant was in possession of the premises after the termination of the residential tenancy agreement;
- An amount equal to the reasonable costs incurred by the landlord in applying for a warrant and having the warrant executed.
The tenant may claim:
- For compensation where a person (such as the landlord or their agent) enters premises for the purpose of recovering possession, without a warrant from the Tribunal or order of the Supreme Court (s37 RTA).
If you are in public housing there is additional information you should know. Go to the Welfare Rights and Legal Centre website for their Fact Sheet on Eviction, or contact them directly. See contact details below.
Welfare Rights and Legal Centre 6247 2177
free legal advice and assistance for low income tenants