At Szabo & Associates, Solicitors, we are acutely aware that disputes over property can be stressful and time-consuming. However, disagreements between landlords and tenants are sometimes unavoidable and can arise at any point during the term of a retail lease or even after its expiration.
Which Law Applies to Retail Lease Disputes in NSW?
Retail leases in New South Wales are subject to the dispute resolution procedure set out in the Retail Leases Act 1994 (“RLA”), though a number of significant changes were made to the Act in 2017. The changes were designed to increase transparency and certainty in the leasing sector, improve standards of conduct between parties and increase the efficiency of the processes. An important change, for example, is that there is no longer a requirement that leases of retail shops be for a minimum of five years.
The NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT)
The RLA sets out the rights and obligations of both landlords and tenants. Alongside this, the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT), is the specialist tribunal that deals with various types of dispute, including tenancy issues.
Landlords and tenants should bear in mind that there are certain steps that can be taken from the beginning to manage a potential dispute and that mediation, as well as other Alternative Dispute Resolution methods, may be viable alternatives to applying to the NCAT. Indeed, formal or informal direct negotiation can be a practical and cost-effective approach and should be the preferred first step. And, where the parties to a retail dispute are unable to resolve the matter between them, they will ordinarily be required to attempt mediation before applying to the NCAT for a hearing.
The NCAT does not follow all the strict procedural rules of a court. It is important for landlords and tenants to keep in mind that the RLA and NCAT prescribe specific procedures for resolving retail lease disputes and that there are certain considerations to be kept in mind if an application is to be made to the NCAT. These matters include timeframes for the hearing and costs, and that the dispute must meet the threshold requirements set out by the RLA. For example, the claim must not exceed $750,000 (where a lease has been signed after 1 July 2017).
The courts rarely deal with retail lease disputes as normally the NCAT would deal with these matters. If an application is made to a court, it will usually transfer the matter to the NCAT unless it is considered that it is in the interests of justice to hear the matter, such as the need for an urgent court order to prevent the other party from terminating the lease.
Contact our Retail Lease Dispute Solicitors Sydney, NSW
At Szabo & Associates, Solicitors, our team of property dispute lawyers has extensive experience in the wide range of property dispute matters. We represent clients in all aspects of retail and commercial lease disputes both at the NCAT and in the courts. For more information about navigating retail lease disputes please contact us on 02 9281 5088 or fill in our online contact form.