A SHORT NOTE ABOUT CLAIMS in the QCAT
Effective 1 December 2009 the Department of Justice made amendments to the rules effecting claims for debts up to $25000.00 that fall within the category of a Minor Civil Dispute.
If you are at the stage where a debtor has failed or refused to pay you and you feel that you are in the right, you have the option in certain cases to file a claim in the Queensland Commercial and Administrative Tribunal. (QCAT). A judgment of this court is just as effective as a judgment in the Magistrates Court and is enforceable in the same way.
- It is a court for laypersons and, as such, neither you nor the defendant can have legal representation unless there are exceptional circumstances but this also means you have to appear yourself at the mediation and at the hearing with your witnesses.
- All paperwork and documentation is now prepared and lodged electronically by this office on your behalf. It then has to be personally served on the respondent which we also arrange.
- If the respondent does not file a defence to your claim within 28 days of being served with your claim, then usually court appearances by you are not required. We seek judgment by default on your behalf.
What if it is defended?
- Any party to a legal action has the right to defend a claim made against him or her even if you do not believe they have a defence. To do so they have to complete a particular form setting out the grounds and serve a copy on us.
- The new QCAT rules make provision for compulsory mediation if the matter is defended. This will be explained further if it gets to that point but often the fact that the mediation is set may be enough to get some parties to agree to settle. It also means a hearing is imminent.
- As the mediation is compulsory, you must attend as must the respondent. This usually happens at the court house and within a few weeks of the defence being filed. The Mediator will assist to resolve the matter or at least define the issues for the court. If the matter is resolved, it is noted by the mediator on the court file and that becomes the court order. If it is not settled, a hearing date is set by the court. At the time of writing, most hearings are about 4-6 weeks after mediation.
- If the tribunal orders that you be paid a sum of money (or judgment by default is obtained for a sum of money), then that judgment is enforceable as a court order. We usually make a further demand on the defendant to pay and then take action to enforce payment.
Can the decision be appealed?
- Appeals from QCAT are possible but have to be approved by the Principal Registrar first and fees apply for lodging the appeal. You cannot appeal just because you are unhappy with a decision, you must have valid legal grounds to do so.
What is the cost?
- This process keeps the costs to a minimum For example, the scale cost for a solicitor to issue and file a claim for a $3000.00 debt in the Magistrates Court is about $750.00 plus ongoing preparation and legal and hearing fees. For this office to file a claim in the QCAT for $3000.00 will cost about $350.00-$400.00 and this includes the filing fees. The fees are even cheaper if your claim is less than $1000.00 and there are no other ongoing fees up to the judgment stage. Some of these fees are also able to be claimed from the respondent. If you have a written credit agreement requiring the debtor to pay your collection costs, make sure you tell us as so we can also claim the document preparation fees and our commission.
- We charge a fee for preparation of your claim and that fee also includes advices re the mediation and hearing or entering default judgment so there are generally no other costs after you pay the fees to us to go to the Tribunal and up until judgment. If the respondent fails to pay after the court order, then an enforcement hearing is usually carried out. There are costs associated with this but will be explained on a case by case basis.
Additional Fact Sheets will be supplied relating to the Mediation or Court Hearings
This is a general guide only.