Last updated 29 July 2016
A respondent who wishes to dispute a claim for a debt must complete a Response to Minor Civil Dispute – Minor Debt Claim form and file it at the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT) registry within 28 days of being served with the claim.
The response must include a statement answering the assertions made in the application and outlining the circumstances of the debt from the respondent’s perspective (r 45 Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal Rules 2009 (Qld) (QCAT Rules)).
A respondent to a QCAT minor debt claim may not bring a counterclaim (rr 48–49 QCAT Rules), however, details of any counterclaim should be included in the response form. For example, if Clark commenced proceedings against Debra seeking the repayment of a $5000 loan, Debra’s response form could refer to the fact that she had agreed to paint Clarke’s house for $3000 but was never paid. The tribunal may then order that Debra’s claim be dealt with separately, and it may decide that Clark can recover the nett amount of his claim.
After the response form is filed, a sealed copy should be served on the applicant.
The tribunal will then direct the parties to attend a hearing if the claim is for less than $3000 (r 77 QCAT Rules).
At the hearing, if there is any dispute as to the money owing, the QCAT member will direct the parties to attend a compulsory conference (s 67 Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal Act 2009 (Qld) (QCAT Act)).
If the claim is for more than $3000, QCAT will direct the parties to attend a compulsory conference before any trial proceeds.
The purpose of the compulsory conference is to clarify the issues in dispute and encourage settlement of the claim. A QCAT member, adjudicator or registrar will oversee the conference (s 70 QCAT Act). If one party (who has had reasonable notice of the conference) fails to attend, they risk having a final decision made against them at that time (s 72 QCAT Act). If the dispute settles at the compulsory conference, the settlement agreement will be recorded in writing, and the person presiding over the conference will make the necessary orders to give effect to the agreement (s 84 QCAT Act).
If the claim does not settle at a compulsory conference, then evidence of anything said or done at the conference is not admissible later in the proceeding (s 74 QCAT Act).
Disputes that do not settle at a compulsory conference may be referred to mediation or may progress straight to a trial. At a trial, the QCAT member may hear evidence given under oath and will make a final decision in relation to the debt, any interest payable and costs.
The only costs which may be awarded in a minor debt claim are the costs of filing the application, the fee charged by any bailiff or process server for service of the claim and the cost of conducting a business name or company search.