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 is a copy of the application that has been filed with QCAT and stamped with the QCAT seal (official stamp of the tribunal; documents that are filed are stamped with the tribunal’s seal). 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 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.
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.
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 period of time. If you do not, there is a risk the tribunal may make a decision in favour of the applicant without further notice to you. 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 cannot respond to a minor civil dispute application unless it is a minor debt matter (see QCAT's glossary for definition).
If you cannot file a response you may still file:
- submissions, this is presenting in writing your considerations of the application (you will also need to serve your submissions on the other party/ies)
- your own separate claim (please note, this is not a counter-claim) and request that both claims be heard at the same time. Your own separate claim can be filed as a new initiating application or as a counter-claim. (note: you cannot file a counter-application for minor debt matters).
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.
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 or a Form 36 – Response and/ or counter-application .
You cannot file a counter-application for minor debt matter.
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. 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 .
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 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?).