So, what is a debt dispute in QCAT and how does Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal handle it?
Debt disputes can be quite serious, so it is important you know your rights, responsibilities, and what actions you can take if you are involved in a debt dispute-related matter.
QCAT, or the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal, is a Queensland-based independent tribunal that works to resolve disputes for a wide range of matters. The purpose of the tribunal is to help the people of Queensland solve their civil issues in a fair, cost-efficient, educated manner.
As stated on the website, their goal is to create fair and just outcomes for all matters brought to them, no matter the nature of the situation. They further “resolve disputes and review decisions” for a variety of circumstances, including:
- adult administration and guardianship
- administrative decisions
- building disputes
- children and young people
- consumer disputes
- debt disputes
- minor civil disputes
- occupational regulation
- other civil disputes
- residential tenancy disputes
- retail shop leases
- tree disputes.
What is a Debt Dispute in QCAT
A debt dispute is a civil disagreement involving two or more parties regarding an agreed-upon sum of money, valued up to $25 000.
A debt dispute may include:
- unpaid accounts or invoices
- goods or work supplied that had an agreed-upon price beforehand.
- Dishonoured charges
- Rent arrears, excluding arrears of rent for a residential tenant.
What to Consider Before Making a Debt Dispute Application
It is important to make sure you are informed about the possible outcomes and your responsibilities in the matter.
This is why it is important to do adequate research before deciding on a route for your debt-related issues. Making an application may cost you money, money that can be saved with free mediation services and other similar assistance services.
It is important that you apply relevant laws to your matter also. Time limits apply to making applications and it would be unwise to invest your time and money into an out-of-date cause.
Evidence and/or eye witnesses are necessary for making your claim, so be sure to collect relevant information prior to applying.
Furthermore, it is important that you consider whether or not the matter would be worth your while. Legal proceedings can be incredibly stressful and, depending on the amount of the debt and the cost of legal fees, may simply not be worth your time.
Making an Application to Collect Debts in QCAT
So, where do I start? Well, as mentioned prior, the most important step of this entire application is making sure the QCAT route is the one that best suits your needs.
Research is crucial in this part of the process. Once you are absolutely certain that you wish to take your matter to QCAT, there are a number of options you have.
As stated directly on the QCAT site, you can:
save time and complete and pay for your minor debt application online.
OR you can complete and lodge Form 3 - Application for minor civil dispute - minor debt.
When lodging a debt dispute you can make a claim against a person who lives interstate if the debt occurred in Queensland.
If your claim is against a trader or company, their correct business details (including full name and address) must be completed on the application form.
This ensures you take action against the right organisation.
Responding to an Application for a Debt Dispute in QCAT
Have you been served with an application? Try not to panic! If you have had an application served on you, you (the respondent) may file a response.
You may also complete and file a Form 7 – Response to Minor Civil Dispute.
In your response, there are a number of things that you should include.
The main purpose of a response is to disprove what the other party has stated as facts in the original claim.
Once the original claim has been served, you as the respondent will have 28 days to respond.
If you do not file a response within this time, it is within the rights of the opposing party to file for a default judgement, meaning the decision will be made without any of the input or evidence that you may have.
How to Collect the Debt in QCAT
Before escalating matters to a courtroom, you may want to try face to face or over the phone communication with the parties the dispute involves.
Fees will apply if you take the matter to QCAT, so an open negotiation with the involved parties can help.
Negotiation is an important part of handling debts and, when done properly, can result in satisfaction among all of the parties.
Once you have come to an agreement, it is wise to have all parties sign a copy and keep it for records, just to ensure no one involved denies the agreement.
Keeping a copy of the agreement may also assist if your matter ends up in QCAT, as proof of an agreement in the past, provided you were following the discussed terms, can help if other parties ignore the terms and wish to sue.
If you are unable to come to an agreement that suits all involved, you may want to consider other options. You may want to:
- Invite the other party to a mediation. A mediation can help to settle your issues without taking legal action, a route that will generally work out better for both parties.
- Take the matter to a Magistrates Court. A magistrate’s court, while it may assist in solving your issue, will likely be less cost and time efficient than pursuing action through QCAT.
- Apply to QCAT.
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