The Tribunal is established by the Civil and Administrative Tribunal Act 2013 (NSW) (the NCAT Act 2013). It is the successor to the CTTT (2002-2013), as well as a range of other tribunals. The CTTT was itself the successor to the Residential Tenancies Tribunal (1987-1996) and the Residential Tribunal (1996-2001).
The Tribunal is divided into several Divisions, including the Consumer and Commercial Division, which deals with most types of residential tenancy disputes. In particular, the Consumer and Commercial Division deals with applications made under the Residential Tenancies Act 2010 (NSW) (the RT Act 2010), the Residential (Land Lease) Communities Act 2013 (NSW) (the RLLC Act 2013) and the Boarding Houses Act 2012 (NSW) (the BH Act 2012) – all of which are referred to as ‘residential proceedings’ (clause 3, Civil and Administrative Tribunal Regulation 2013 (NSW)) (the NCAT Reg 2013). The Consumer and Commercial Division also deals with consumer claims applications under the Fair Trading Act 1987 (NSW).
The Tribunal’s decisions are legally binding and enforceable. The Tribunal is not a court, but is in some ways like one. Table 5.1 summarises the similarities and differences.
Is like a court …
… but is not like a court
It makes legally binding and enforceable decisions.
It must decide matters according to the law, as set down in legislation and by the superior courts.
It must comply with the rules of procedural fairness (NCAT Act 2013, s 38(2)), as otherwise qualified by the NCAT Act 2013.
It can summons witnesses and take evidence under oath or affirmation (NCAT Act 2013, s 46).
Contempt of the Tribunal is an offence (NCAT Act 2013, s 73).
It conducts hearings in venues with a bench for the Tribunal Member, bar tables for the parties, and a public gallery. (Sometimes it uses the Local Court as a venue.)
It is required to act 'with as little formality as the circumstances of the case permits', and 'without regard to technicalities or legal forms' (NCAT Act 2013, s 38 (4)).
It is mostly not bound by the legal rules of evidence (NCAT Act 2013, s 38(2)).
In most cases, parties are not entitled to be represented by lawyers, except with the Tribunal’s permission (NCAT Act 2013, s 45(1)).
Any costs incurred in proceedings are borne by each party, regardless of the outcome of the proceedings, except in exceptional circumstances (NCAT Act 2013, s 60).
It is made up of ‘Members’ (not magistrates or judges, except the President of the Tribunal, who is a Supreme Court judge); call them ‘Member’ or ‘Mr [surname]’ or ‘Ms [surname]’ (not ‘Your Worship’ or ‘Your Honour’).