Responding to an application
What happens if an application has been made against me to QCAT?
If an application has been made against you, the QCAT form and any information from QCAT will describe you as ‘the respondent’. The person who has made the application against you will be described as ‘the applicant’.
Most types of applications require that the applicant or QCAT provides you with a ‘sealed copy’ of the application. A sealed copy means a copy of the application that has been filed with QCAT and QCAT has stamped it with the QCAT stamp. When you are given a copy of the application that is called ‘service’ of the application.
In some cases, after service of the application, you will receive a notice from QCAT telling you what will happen next. Depending on what kind of application it is, the next step may be a directions hearing, mediation, a compulsory conference, or sometimes an application will be listed for a final hearing. The notice will tell you what will happen next and where and when it will happen.
However, in other cases you must file a response in a certain time or there is a risk the tribunal may make a decision in favour of the applicant without further notice to you.
Resolving the dispute
Even if an application has been made to QCAT, you can still try to resolve your dispute yourself. This may include approaching the person you are in dispute with, and trying to negotiate a solution. If you are unable to reach an agreement, you may wish to contact a Dispute Resolution Centre. The Centres offer free, impartial and confidential mediation services to assist people to settle their disputes without having to go to QCAT or to a court.
What is a response?
A response is where you say whether you agree or disagree with the applicant and what they say in their application. It lets the tribunal know what your position is in relation to what the applicant says.
You may disagree with some or all of the application. For example, for a minor debt application, you may respond by saying that you agree that you owed the debt to the applicant, but you may disagree that the debt is still owed, because you have repaid it all.
Do I have to respond to the application?
For some types of applications such as minor debt applications, application for debt recovery proceedings by the Queensland Building Construction Commission, and some building disputes, you must file a response in a certain time or there is a risk the tribunal may make a decision in favour of the applicant without further notice to you. These types of applications contain a ‘warning to respondents’ that they must file a response. You should read the application carefully and get legal advice if you are unsure about what you should do.
There are some applications where the respondent is not allowed to make a response, such as for minor civil disputes (other than minor debt claims).
In other cases you may wish to file a response or you may wish to file a counter-application. For example, in a building dispute, a builder may have made a claim against a homeowner for money they are owed. The homeowner may choose to make a counter-application against the builder for defective work.
You do not have to make a counter-application and in minor debt claims you cannot file a counter-application.
What happens if I don’t respond?
If you are required to respond and you don’t, the tribunal may make a decision in favour of the applicant without further reference to you. That decision will be enforceable against you in the Courts.
If the tribunal does make a decision because you failed to respond, that decision can only be set aside in certain circumstances.
What if I choose not to attend a proceeding?
Whether you file a response or not, you should still attend the hearing if you are notified a hearing has been listed.
The tribunal can make a decision that you have to do something even if you don’t attend the hearing.That decision will be enforceable against you in the Courts. It is in your best interests to attend and put forward your own side of the story.
As part of an independent tribunal, QCAT staff members are unable to provide you with any legal advice – including whether you should file a response or make a counter-application or your chances of success. You can get independent legal advice about your rights from a private solicitor or a community legal centre.
For some types of applications, there are strict time limits for lodging a response or counter-application.