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The usual rule in NTCAT proceedings is that the “parties bear their own costs in a proceeding before the Tribunal” as reflected in section 131 of the Northern Territory Civil and Administrative Tribunal Act.

This sets NTCAT apart from the Courts, where the usual rule is that costs ‘follow the event’ – in other words, the successful party will usually recover some or all of its costs.

The issue of costs was addressed in the decision of NTCAT in the matter of Dos Santo v Gallwey [No.2] [2015] NTCAT 9, where the tribunal noted:

“that something more than success or failure in an ordinarily conducted NTCAT proceeding will need to be established by a party seeking a costs order under section 132. In NTCAT proceedings – in contrast to the usual position in Courts – costs do not ‘follow the event”.

The NTCAT rules (see rule 10) recognise a limited exception to the usual rule in cases where non-recovery of out of pocket expenses (such as the application fee and costs associated with serving documents) would mean that a successful applicant is substantially deprived of the fruits of their success – in other words, where those expenses are disproportionate to the amount being claimed. In practical terms, the exception only operates in respect of smaller debts.

  1. Despite the rules that affect costs in NTCAT proceedings, a party remains entitled to make an application for a costs order under section 132 of the Northern Territory Civil and Administrative Tribunal Act.