How to Handle Disputes with Your Tenants

Find out the best way to resolve disputes within the tenancy and what to do if you can't come to a resolution.

Handling Disputes with Tenants: A Guide for Property Owners

Disputes with tenants are an unfortunate but common occurrence in the world of renting. Handling these situations in a professional and efficient manner is essential to ensuring a happy environment and the smooth running of your tenancy.

There are many reasons a dispute can come about in a tenancy, but most commonly these conflicts are to do with:

  • Unpaid rent
  • Repair or Maintenance issues
  • Property damage
  • Rent increases
  • Undeclared pets
  • Bond refunds
  • Entering/accessing the property
  • Terminating the tenancy
  • Breaking the lease early

There are different avenues to take depending on the type of issue at hand, but for the purpose of this article, we will speak more generally about dispute resolution during the tenancy, You’ll also find the links further down below for specific information on each state. 

Step 1: Read and Understand the Lease Agreement

The first step in handling a dispute with a tenant is to review your Lease Agreement. This agreement outlines all the terms and conditions of the tenancy, including the rights and responsibilities of both parties (landlord and tenant).

You should also understand the rules and regulations according to your state. For example, if your tenant is late in paying the rent, you must follow a specific protocol before you can issue an eviction notice. 

Read more - My Tenant is Late to Pay the Rent

Understanding is the first essential step to ensure that you are within your rights before taking any action.

Step 2: Communicate with your Tenant

The next step is to communicate with the tenant. If the dispute is minor, it is recommended to try to resolve it through a conversation with the tenant. 

This can be done in person or in writing, but it is important to remain calm and professional during the conversation. If an agreement is reached, then it’s important to ensure it's in writing and you detail how the issue was resolved. 

It helps to have a paper trail to prove that all parties are aware and are clear on what needs to happen, and can officially acknowledge the resolution. 

Read more - Tips for Communicating with Tenants

Step 3: Negotiation or Mediation

If the dispute cannot be resolved through direct communication with the tenant, the next step is to attend mediation or negotiation. This is a process where an independent third party helps to resolve the dispute. 

For example, in New South Wales, tenants and landlords can access free mediation services through the NSW Fair Trading website.

Often during this process, each party can comprehend how the issue affects the other and they become more open to arriving at a mutually agreed solution. 

Step 4: Lodging an Official Complaint/Going to Tribunal

If the issue still cannot be resolved, it may be necessary to go a step further send a formal letter or form if the dispute involves a breach of the tenancy agreement, outlining the issue and/or requesting a resolution with an official party.

Each state government has its own process for resolving tenancy disputes through the courts but we have linked them directly below. 

Most states will encourage you to go through other options first before applying to the tribunal or court  as a last resort. Applying to the tribunal requires thorough documentation. You must provide evidence to support your case, and the tribunal will make a decision based on what is presented. 

NSW - Fair Trading 

Residential Tenancy Complaints

Where agreement cannot be reached, parties will be advised of the outcome and recommended to seek independent advice or lodge a claim with the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT).

QLD - Residential Tenancies Authority 

RTA Dispute Resolution

The RTA’s dispute resolution process can assist you to resolve the issue. Unresolved matters can be heard at the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT).

VIC - Consumer Affairs Victoria

Consumer Affairs Dispute Support

Disputes can often be settled without going to VCAT. If talking about it does not fix the problem, you can put it in writing. They may be able to help resolve the issue. As a last resort, you can apply to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT).

SA - Consumer and Business Services

Resolving a Dispute in a Rental Property

If you're having a problem with your tenant, you should try to calmly talk the problem over with them first. Consumer and Business Services (CBS) gives advice and information to both landlords and tenants and the options available to help you resolve a problem. 

If you’re unable to solve the problem you can apply to SACAT. SACAT is an independent judicial body that has the authority to make legally binding decisions in disputes between landlords and tenants

TAS - Consumer Building and Occupational Services

Residential Tenancy Commissioner

The Residential Tenancy Commissioner deals with tenancy disputes to do with bond, repairs and maintenance and rental increases. For more information see 

If you do not agree with the Residential Tenancy Commissioner’s decision, you can appeal the decision to the Magistrates Court.

WA - Consumer Protection

Resolving rental property issues in WA

If you’re unhappy with the way the tenancy is going, for example, the care or maintenance of the property or rent payments and inspections, try to sort out the issue amicably first. 

If disputes about rental property issues cannot be resolved privately or by using Consumer Protection’s free conciliation service, you may need to apply for an order from the Magistrates Court of Western Australia (Magistrates Court).

ACT - ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal

ACAT Rental Property Dispute Information

The law that applies to rental property disputes in the ACT is the Residential Tenancies Act 1997. ACAT resolves and decides disputes under this Act.

NT - Northern Territory Civil and Administrative Tribunal

NTCAT Information

The Northern Territory Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NTCAT) is a super tribunal for the Northern Territory. It was set up to help people quickly resolve disputes that would otherwise have been dealt with by the courts or other boards and tribunals. 

NCAT helps solve disputes between landlords and tenants under the Residential Tenancies Act.

Handle Disputes with Communication and Care.

Dealing with tenant disputes is something that no one wants to experience but it comes part and parcel with the territory of renting out a property. Conflict is often difficult, uncomfortable and a source of stress for everyone involved but it's crucial to resolve these issues promptly and effectively. 

Ensuring you are clear on what rights and responsibilities both you and your tenants have and then communicating effectively is key to avoiding tenancy disputes from escalating further. 

Remember, going to the court or tribunal costs a lot of time and money (and it might not rule in your favour), so it’s recommended to try and avoid this where possible!