Residential Tenancy Commissioner Case Study

The Residential Tenancy Commissioner

The Residential Tenancy Commissioner (RTC) was created by section 7 of the Residential Tenancy Act 1997 (the “Act”), to:

  • determine disputes arising in relation to the disbursement of security deposits;
  • determine disputes in relation to any residential tenancy database;
  • act in the mediation or conciliation of any disputes between the parties to residential agreements in relation to boarding premises;
  • determine applications made to the Commissioner under section 23 (rent increases) or section 36A (orders for repairs);
  • levy fines for breaches of the Act, as each section permits;
  • other functions conferred on the Commissioner by or under this Act.

The RTC was established to resolve disputes, and issue orders, quickly and cheaply. While it would be ideal for these disputes to be resolved by a Magistrate, who has a deeper understanding of the law, the court system is notoriously slow and inefficient. Prior to the introduction of section 36A of the Act, a tenant had to make an application to the Magistrate’s Court to get an order for repairs to be completed. As court applications can often take weeks to be heard, this was obviously not suited to urgent or emergency repairs. In contrast, the RTC can resolve a repairs matter within the first day the tenant makes contact. As eviction is such a serious consequence for a tenant, the Court has retained sole jurisdiction to hear applications for vacant possession.

In drafting the Act, Parliament made allowance for the RTC’s lack of legal expertise relative to the Magistrate’s Court by providing that the RTC’s determinations (including bond determinations, rent increases, and orders for repairs) can be appealed to the Court if either party to the determination is aggrieved. By creating the RTC, then providing an avenue to appeal their decisions to the Magistrate’s Court, Parliament has attempted to strike a balance between efficiency and legal certainty.


In Legal Studies Foundation Unit 4: Consumer Law

Learners will study dispute resolution – courts and alternative dispute resolution.

The Residential Tenancy Commissioner is a form of alternative dispute resolution.

Read the following example of a bond dispute determination by the Residential Tenancy Commissioner.