QCAT and Minor Debt Disputes

Previously we’ve shared a couple of articles about QCAT. In the first, we explained what QCAT is and the disputes they deal with. This was then followed by an article discussing one of the most common disputes to reach QCAT – neighbours and fence issues. This article is going to cover another common dispute that finds its way to QCAT – minor debt disputes.

What is a minor debt dispute?

Minor debt disputes refer to debts of less than $25,000 and can involve situations such as unpaid loans, credit card bills, or other small debts. These types of disputes can often be sorted through communication between the parties involved, but if a resolution can’t be reached, then QCAT may be the next course of action.

For QCAT to hear the matter, the following conditions must be met:

  • the value of the claim can not be more than $25,000 (excluding interest)
  • the dispute must relate to an agreement to pay a debt – the person claiming needs to state they have an agreement with the defendant for owed money
  • the agreement to pay must be less than 6 years old (a requirement under the statute of limitations)

You can find a more detailed understanding of what’s considered a Minor Debt Dispute, here in the ‘Dictionary’ of the QCAT Act 2009 and also in the QCAT Rules 2009, here.

What is a ‘Debt’ or ‘Agreement to Pay Money’ with regard to a QCAT Minor Debt Dispute?

  • a debt is considered to be a clear agreement between two parties that one will pay money to the other in exchange for something of value.
  • once the value has been provided (the service or goods etc) the debt is created and there’s an obligation to pay.

It’s important to note, though, that not all cases of one party providing something to another result in the creation of a debt.

To explain it in simpler terms, imagine this scenario:

Tom decides to buy a hammer from ACME Hardware’s online shop.

He uses his credit card to pay for both the hammer and its delivery. ACME Hardware then ships the hammer to Tom’s address.

However, when Tom receives the package, he finds out that the hammer is a different type, and is cheaper than the one he thought he was buying online.

In this case, Tom feels wronged because he didn’t get what he paid for.

However, his dispute with ACME Hardware isn’t about a debt, where ACME Hardware owes him money in the traditional sense. Instead, it’s about Tom wanting to be compensated because ACME failed to deliver what they had agreed (promised) — they broke their contract.

Tom can’t start a Minor Debt Claim against ACME Hardware for this.

His case is more about getting compensated for not getting what was promised, which falls under what’s known as a ‘Minor Civil Dispute’.

This sort of dispute is also dealt with by QCAT and can include other issues like disagreements between landlords and tenants, disputes between neighbours (like arguments over fences or trees), problems with building work, or matters to do with builders’ licenses.

Each of these cases has its own procedures and forms to be followed, which are different from those used for Minor Debt Claims.

Commencing Your QCAT Minor Debt Claim

Now with an understanding of what constitutes a minor debt dispute and how it’s different from other types of claims, the next step is to explore how to begin one.

(1) Prepare the Paperwork:

Grab a ‘Form 3’ from QCAT’s website to start your claim.

You’ll need to include the following

  • the name and contact details of both parties
  • the date and how the agreement was made (verbal agreement, written contract etc)
  • the date payment was due

If you wish to claim interest and QCAT costs you’ll also need to include:

(2) Lodging the application with QCAT

Lodge your completed paperwork – the original form and two copies

  • by mail to QCAT in Brisbane at QCAT, GPO Box 1639, Brisbane, QLD 4001
  • in person at your closest Magistrates Court. If on the Sunshine Coast, this could be the Maroochydore Magistrates Court, Cornmeal Parade, Maroochydore, QLD 4558

Your forms cannot be emailed to QCAT.

Once filed, you’ll get back stamped copies—these are your proof of filing and are now considered legal documents.

(3) After Filing Your Claim:

  • You must ‘serve’ the other party with a stamped copy of the Form 3 Application.
  • It can be a copy and not the original, as long as it’s a version with the Court stamp on it.
  • How you serve it depends on whether they’re an individual or a business. If you are filing against an individual it must be given to them personally. In the case of a business, you must give it to someone at the place where the business operates..

(4) What happens once the other party has been served?

  • They must file a ‘Form 7’ Response to your claim, and give you a copy. This will let you know their ‘defence’ to your application and if they plan on contesting it.
  • After the respondent has filed the From 7 Response, QCAT will generally arrange a telephone mediation (at a mutually convenient time) in an attempt to settle the matter.
  • The QCAT mediator is not a lawyer and has no interest in the outcome of the application. Their role is just to facilitate an opportunity for an agreement to be reached on the claim, in an attempt to prevent it from requiring a hearing.

(5) Heading to a hearing if mediation is unsuccessful

  • If mediation isn’t successful, a QCAT hearing at the local Magistrates Court will be the next step.
  • On the day of the hearing, many cases are heard—yours will be one of them.
  • If the respondent is a no-show, you generally win by default and will be awarded what your claim asks for (as long as QCAT has the jurisdiction to make such orders)
  • The QCAT member (judge) who has studied all the claim documents will give an initial indication of their thoughts as to which party, according to law, has the strongest argument.
  • This isn’t a binding decision, but a final chance for the parties to again see if they can agree on a settlement.
  • If no agreement is reached, the hearing proceeds, with each party presenting their case.
  • The hearing won’t be formal like a criminal court case; it’s intended to be a quick and efficient process. In our experience, most cases are resolved fairly.

What happens after you’ve won your QCAT hearing?

Congratulations! The respondent will be ordered to pay you the amount of the QCAT judgement.

  • The respondent is expected to pay promptly after the judgement.
  • If they don’t pay, enforcing the judgement is your next move, and this then happens in the Magistrates Court.

Would you like support throughout the QCAT Minor Debt Disputes process?

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by lodging a QCAT Minor Debt Dispute application, we can support you throughout the process. We specialise in dispute proceedings and offer a competitive, fixed-fee service to assist with your claim.

Reach out to us today for a free consultation and find out how we can help you get the outcome you deserve.

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