Resolving Disputes

The landlord or the tenant may apply to the Commissioner if a breach of the tenancy agreement or a provision of the Act is alleged, or if a tenancy dispute has arisen between the parties or between tenants.

If the landlord and tenant have a dispute about something, they should discuss the problem and try to come to an agreeable solution. If the parties agree on a solution to the problem, then the tenancy agreement will continue and there is no need to go through the formal dispute resolution process described below.

Applications must be in writing, setting out the details of the breach or dispute.

Written applications should be Forwarded to: Delivered to:

The Commissioner of Tenancies
GPO Box 1722 Old Admiralty House
DARWIN NT 0801 The Esplanade
Fax: 8999 6260 DARWIN NT 0800
PO Box 1745 Belvedere House
ALICE SPRINGS NT 0871 Parsons Street
Fax: 8951 5442 ALICE SPRINGS NT 0870

The Commissioner will determine whether the dispute should be resolved through a preliminary conciliation conference, a conciliation conference or by proceeding directly to an inquiry.


Preliminary conciliation conference

At a preliminary conciliation conference, the Commissioner will:

  • give information to each party so that they are aware of their rights and obligations under the Act;
  • encourage full and open communication between the parties about the dispute; and
  • encourage parties to propose solutions and resolve the dispute.


Conciliation conference

The objective of a conciliation conference is for the parties to, between themselves and with the assistance of the Commissioner, attempt to achieve a negotiated settlement.

A conciliation conference will generally be private, and will be confidential. Any agreement reached between the parties at a conference will be binding.



If either the tenant or the landlord disagree with a decision or order of the Commissioner they may appeal to the Court.



An inquiry may be held if:

  • the Commissioner decides a matter should be determined at inquiry; or
  • the parties are unable to negotiate a settlement at a conciliation conference.


An inquiry will be conducted by the Commissioner with a minimum of formality, and the rules of evidence will not apply. An inquiry will be open to the public.

The Commissioner has broad powers in conducting an inquiry, including summonsing persons to attend or requiring the production of books and records, or entering land or buildings. A person who fails to comply with a summons to attend or produce books or records, or misbehaves or interrupts proceedings at an inquiry faces a fine. PENALTY OF UP TO $11 000


At an inquiry, the Commissioner may:

  • declare that all or part of money paid by the tenant as a security deposit be returned or retained by the landlord;
  • order that an amount for rent be paid by the tenant;
  • order that repairs or maintenance be carried out by the landlord;
  • declare that the tenant abandoned the premises on a particular date;
  • declare that a tenancy has, or has not, been validly terminated;
  • require the tenant to give up possession of the premises to the landlord or require the landlord to give up possession of the premises to the tenant; or
  • do anything else necessary or desirable to resolve a matter to which an application relates.


The landlord and the tenant will usually bear their own costs, eg cost of legal or expert advice. If the Commissioner considers the application frivolous or vexatious, the Commissioner may make an order for costs.