It is vital to the administration of justice and the rule of law that orders of the Courts and Tribunals are complied with.
The ACT Civil & Administrative Tribunal (Tribunal) has recently fined a litigant for the deliberate flouting of orders: Brynes v Wang (Residential Tenancies)  ACAT 40.
In this case, the Tenant in a residential leasing dispute lodged an application for urgent interim orders in relation to, amongst other things, the reconnection of an electricity service.
The Lessors were ordered to ‘…cause an account for electricity supply to be activated in their names and the lessors shall be liable for costs of connection, supply and consumption of electricity to the premises for the remainder of the tenancy.” (Order).
The Tenant advised the Tribunal had the Lessors not complied with the Order.
One of the lessors was overseas and had not participated in the management of the property in question. The other was subpoenaed by the Tribunal to attend the Tribunal and show cause why he should not be fined under section 74 of the ACT Civil & Administrative Tribunal Act 2008 (ACT) for failure to comply with a Tribunal order.
The Lessor was informed the Tribunal was considering fining him $1,000 and invited him to show cause why he should not be fined.
The Lessor conceded he did not comply with the Order, and was given a further short period of time to take steps to comply with it, which he then did.
The Lessors initial explanations for failing to comply with the Order included that:
- there was no reason why he should have to connect the electricity;
- he did not have a fair hearing and was still in dispute with the Tenant;
- he had personal issues and his “health is more important in this case,” although he had not seen a medical practitioner; and
- he was unable to comply due to financial pressure.
The Tribunal found the Lessor’s opening position was one of defiance and there was no reasonable excuse for his failure to comply with the Order. Disagreeing with the fairness of the hearing or decision is not a valid ground for ignoring an order. Also, the breach of the Order was deliberate and had the potential to deny the tenant access to an essential service.
The Lessor was fined $750 payable within 28 days and had to comply with the Order in any event.
The parties, in this case, were self-represented. Those who are in doubt as to their rights and obligations would do well to seek legal assistance in relation to legal proceedings immediately.
If you are legally represented, please take responsibility for ensuring orders by which you are bound are complied with and give your lawyer instructions in a timely way.