It is an unfortunate reality in the world of property management that Landlords and tenants don’t always see eye to eye. While a disagreement can usually be resolved with a property manager acting as mediator, this is not always the case. That’s when it may become necessary to present the case, on behalf of the landlord, before Tribunal. This article offers the top tips from the most experienced practitioners in the business, to prepare for Tribunal.
Reasons to go to Tribunal
The most common reason for going to Tribunal is eviction, more specifically, when a tenant has received a notice of eviction for a reason they disagree with. Another common reason is when the landlord raises the rent and the tenant believes the increase either doesn’t reflect the local market or is unwarranted due to alleged unresolved maintenance and repair issues. Other common causes for disputes between landlords and tenants that can end up before Tribunal include, unpaid rent, bond claims, applications for possession orders, compensation claims and breaches of the Tenancy Agreement.
The first thing to be aware of is that, as a property manager, you act on behalf of your client, the landlord. You must never proceed with a case unless it is under the landlord’s instruction.
6 tips to prepare your case
To persuade Tribunal to make a decision in the landlord’s favour (which is your mission), you must present them with a logical, clear and well-documented case.
So what are the steps you need to take to prepare for Tribunal and is there anything you can do in your day-to-day practice to make preparing for Tribunal more efficient and less time consuming in future?
- Ensure you have clear instructions from the landlord to proceed
You should also discuss the desired outcome of the hearing with the landlord and other possible outcomes, ensuring the landlord is very clear that the benefit of winning outweighs the time and effort involved.
Once you have been given approval to proceed, keep the lines of communication open with all parties involved and document all discussions and meetings.
- Get all documents in order
Efficient file management in the office at all times makes it much easier and quicker to gather the necessary documentation to support your landlord’s case.
Throughout the life cycle of any managed property you should have the following key documents readily accessible: the Management Authority, owner’s instructions, Tenancy Agreement, bond records, inspection reports with photos, all correspondence with the landlord and tenant and all maintenance records. Dates and times are also important, as this information will help you create a complete record and timeline of events.
This is where a cloud-based mobile software solution like Maintenance Manager can save you an enormous amount of time and stress. The system allows you to keep track of and print out a neatly formatted, chronologically listed events log for all maintenance and repair requests and the subsequent action taken, including communication between all parties.
- Understand the dispute and the law associated with it in your state
Check your state’s legislation to understand the relevant provisions. Make a simple checklist of all the important issues related to the dispute. This will help you organise the case and highlight the documents, photos and other evidence you will need to support it.
- Timeline, documentation & evidence
Prepare a detailed chronology of relevant events and have a list of the important facts, documents and events linked to those dates on hand. This is where your efficient file management on a daily basis will come to the fore (and a software solution like Maintenance Manager, if you have access to it).
Documents and evidence will vary depending on the nature of the dispute. However, at the very least, most cases require you to have the documents noted in point 2. For a case revolving around rental arrears, you will also need rent receipts, account ledgers and reconciliation statements.
- Consider if you need to bring in a witness
A witness would be someone who can confirm aspects of the case you are presenting. This could be a tradesperson to confirm that certain repairs were completed in a timely manner if the tenant is arguing that repairs were not completed. A verbal witness is more powerful than a written statement.
- Prepare, rehearse, check documents
Just before the hearing, rehearse your address and argument. Be concise and stick to the facts. Ensure you have a copy of all documentation for yourself, the Tribunal Member and the tenant.