What happens if an application has been made against me to QCAT?
If an application has been made against you, you will be described as ‘the respondent’. The person who has made the application against you, will be described as ‘the applicant’.
After an application has been filed, QCAT will provide the applicant with a sealed copy of the application. A sealed copy means that the application has been stamped with QCAT’s seal and therefore filed. In most cases, the applicant will need to give you a copy of the sealed application (serve a copy).
In some cases (see more below), you may need to file a response within a certain timeframe otherwise there may be a risk that the tribunal will make a decision in favour of the applicant without further notice to the respondent.
In other cases, after the application has been given to the respondent, QCAT will advise you of what will happen next. The next steps will depend on the type of application, for example, there 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.
What is a response?
A response is essentially 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 the application and 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.
Do I have to respond to the application?
Whether or not you file a response depends on the type of dispute.
When you must file a response
You must file a response if the dispute is:
- a minor debt matter
- an application for debt recovery proceedings by the Queensland Building and Construction Commission
- some building disputes.
These types of applications contain a ‘warning to respondents’ that a response must be filed within a certain timeframe. If a response isn’t filed within the required timeframe, there is a risk that the tribunal will make a decision in favour of the applicant without further notice to the respondent. You should read the application carefully and get legal advice if you are unsure about what you should do.
When you cannot file a response
You can only respond to a minor debt application. All other types of minor civil dispute applications cannot be responded to (see QCAT's glossary for definition) however you may still be able to file:
- submissions – this is where you present in writing your legal argument. This is where you argue your case by identifying the law you believe applies to the facts and explaining how you say the law applies to the facts.
- counter-application – this is where an application is made by the respondent against the application or another party. 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. The tribunal may decide both claims at the same time.
You do not have to make a counter-application, and a counter-application cannot be filed in a minor debt application.
What happens if I don’t respond?
If a minor debt application has been made against you and you have not responded, there is a risk that the tribunal will make a decision in favour of the applicant without further notice to the respondent.
That decision will be enforceable against you in the courts. Access more information on enforcement.
If the tribunal does make a decision because you failed to respond, that decision can only be set aside in certain circumstances. Access Form 55 - Application to set aside or amend a default decision (PDF, 293.2 KB).
A counter-application is an application by the respondent against the applicant or another party.
Depending on your matter you can file a counter-application on a Form 8 – Minor civil dispute – counter-application (PDF, 251.4 KB) or a Form 36 – Response and/ or counter-application (PDF, 311.8 KB). A counter-application should be filed as early as possible, and given (served) on all of the other parties, in advance of the hearing date.
You cannot file a counter-application for minor debt matter.
There is a prescribed fee that must be paid when filing a counter-application. This depends on how much is being claimed in the counter-application.
What if I choose not to attend a proceeding?
The tribunal can make a decision at the hearing in your absence. That decision is enforceable against you in the courts. It is in your best interests to attend and put forward your own side of the story.
Resolving the dispute
Even if an application has been made to QCAT, the parties can still try to resolve the dispute between themselves. 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 can contact your local Dispute Resolution Centre. The centres offer free, impartial and confidential mediation services to help people settle their disputes without going to QCAT or court.
As part of an independent tribunal, QCAT staff members cannot provide you with legal advice, including on whether you should file a response, make a counter-application or what your chances are of success. Access the fact sheet QCAT registry services – what staff can and cannot do.
There are strict time limits for lodging some types of applications (see Do I have to respond to the application?).
All forms or material to be relied on at a hearing must be filed in advance of the hearing and a copy given to all of the other parties.