By Peter Moran, Colin Biggers & Paisley
The NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT) is one of the main forums for resolving disputes relating to real estate matters. Whether it’s a dispute about sales commission or a residential tenancies complaint, many agents will find themselves before NCAT at some point in their careers.
But it can be intimidating. That’s why it’s important to know the basics about NCAT and how it operates.
A quick overview
NCAT is a specialist tribunal service that oversees a wide range of legal matters, including tenancy issues, building works, decisions on guardianship and administrative reviews of government decisions.
It has four divisions:
- Administrative and Equal Opportunity Division
- Consumer and Commercial Division
- Guardianship Division
- Occupational Division
Tribunal members conduct hearings and make determinations in relation to disputes, and decisions are legally binding. NCAT’s procedures are significantly less formal than those of a court and much cheaper.
After someone has made an application to NCAT, the agent (respondent) will be issued a Notice of Hearing, usually within 14 days. In most cases, the first hearing will be held within 10 to 28 days from the date of lodgement of the application.
The length of the hearing will depend on a number of factors including:
- Complexity of the matter
- Number of witnesses
- Whether the matter is resolved at the conciliation stage
- Whether the hearing will be adjourned
- Amount of paperwork or number of issues involved.
NCAT conducts hearings throughout NSW. Hearings will usually occur at the venue closest to the place of dispute. For example, a tenancy matter will usually be heard at the venue closest to the rental premises.
NCAT’s purpose is to provide a low cost and accessible platform to resolve disputes and is designed for people to represent themselves without the need for lawyers. Therefore, there’s no entitlement at NCAT to legal representation, although it can be permitted in special circumstances on application being made.