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Start a minor debt dispute

A minor debt dispute is a disagreement between you and another person, business or company over an agreed and fixed amount of money up to $25,000. In Queensland, minor debt disputes are heard and decided by the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT).

Debt disputes may be started over money owed for:

  • loans not repaid
  • IOUs
  • an unpaid invoice or account
  • dishonoured cheques
  • work done and/or goods supplied with the cost having been agreed beforehand
  • the removal of minor overhanging branches
  • unpaid rental or hire fees (except for residential tenancy matters).

Who can start a minor debt dispute

Any member of the public can start a minor debt dispute, including individuals, businesses and traders.

To start a minor debt dispute in QCAT the debt must:

  • be no more than $25,000
  • have happened in Queensland
  • involve a previous agreement about payment of the money
  • have happened no more than 6 years ago (the date the agreement was made).

If the respondent lives interstate, you can still start a minor debt dispute if the debt happened in Queensland.

Who cannot start a minor debt dispute

You cannot start a minor debt dispute in QCAT if:

  • the debt amount is more than $25,000
  • there was no previous agreement for the money to be paid
  • your dispute is with a consumer or trader, or relates to a contract for the supply of goods and/or services where the amount was not agreed beforehand
  • the debt is for the repair of a defect on a motor vehicle
  • the debt is for damage to property caused by a motor vehicle or from the use of a motor vehicle
  • the debt is for unpaid wages covered under the Fair Work Act.

Debts over $25,000

QCAT cannot deal with disputes involving debts over $25,000.

If someone owes you an amount up to $150,000 you may be able take legal action against them by lodging a civil claim in the Magistrates Court.

If you are owed more than $150,000, you need to have the dispute heard in either the Supreme Court or the District Court.

How to complete this form

To complete this form you will need:

  • the respondent’s full name—the respondent is the person, business or company you want to recover money from. There can be more than one respondent.

    If the respondent is a business or company, you will need to provide the registered business or company name and the ABN/ACN—you should do an ASIC company or business name search to make sure these details are correct.
  • the respondent’s contact details, including the proper address (i.e. not a post office box)
  • details of the debt, including:
    • the date(s) and place it happened
    • the fixed or agreed amount
    • the terms of the agreement
  • supporting documents, including a copy of the agreement
  • if you are claiming interest, the amount of interest and how it was calculated—you can calculate interest using the courts’ interest calculator
  • if you are claiming costs, the amount you are claiming.

Lodging this application

When you complete this form you will be asked to nominate a QCAT location/registry where your form will be lodged. This location is also where your matter will be heard.

Once you complete your application form online you must print it and lodge it at the QCAT location you have nominated. You can lodge it:

  • in Brisbane in person at Level 9, 259 Queen Street, Brisbane or by post to GPO Box 1639, Brisbane Qld 4001
  • outside of Brisbane in person or by post at your nearest Magistrates Court.

Paying the application fee

To finalise your application you need to pay an application fee. At the end of this form you will be automatically directed to a secure payment gateway to pay online using your credit or debit card.

If you choose not to pay online, you must pay the application fee at the counter when you lodge your application in person.

The application fee may be claimable as costs as part of your application.

What you must do next

QCAT will seal your application (i.e. stamp it with the official QCAT stamp). You must give (i.e. serve) a sealed copy to each of the respondents as soon as possible and no later than 28 days after lodging your application. You can do this yourself, or employ a commercial agent, process server or enforcement officer to do it for you.

You can find contact details for commercial agents and process servers in the yellow pages and Magistrates Court registries can give you the names of enforcement officers.

Any fees you pay to serve the documents may be claimable as costs and can be included in your application.

What happens next?

If the respondent pays the money owed when they are served with a copy of your application, this matter will end.

Otherwise, the respondent has 28 days from receiving your application to lodge a response to it. 

If they do not respond within that time, you may be able to apply to QCAT for a default decision to end the matter. There are steps you need to take to apply for a default decision. Contact QCAT or your nearest Magistrates Court registry for more information.

If the respondent lodges a response and the amount you are claiming is more than $3,000 you will be contacted by QCAT to attend mediation. If you don’t attend the mediation your application may continue to a hearing in your absence and a decision may be made on the available evidence.

If the respondent lodges a response and the amount you are claiming is $3,000 or less your matter will be listed for hearing. We will send you a notice to you to tell you the date, time and location of your hearing. You may be required to provide QCAT extra copies of your application before the hearing.

Legal advice

If you are unsure about your legal rights or have any questions about the law in relation to your application you should get independent legal advice before starting this action. 

Contact QCAT

You can contact the QCAT registry by:

Outside of Brisbane CBD, contact the local Magistrates Court, which receives all QCAT applications and deals with minor civil disputes.

Further information

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For debtors

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Last updated
15 December 2015

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