Retail shop lease disputes

Learn about retail shop lease disputes and the application process.

Disputes can arise from disagreements between a tenant (lessee) and landlord (lessor) about a retail shop lease. Disputes can also arise when a tenant and landlord cannot agree on the current market rent value of their lease.

QCAT considers disputes if the Queensland Small Business Commissioner (QSBC) and the parties could not resolve the dispute through mediation. QCAT provides key information you need to consider before you make an application below.

What you need to know about retail shop leases?

Before you start the dispute process, you can learn about retail shop leases and where to find further information.

A retail shop is a premises that is:

  • situated in a retail shopping centre; or
  • used wholly or predominantly for the carrying on of a retail business

A lease is a legally binding contract that outlines the terms of occupying a premises for an agreed fee. Once signed, you must comply with your obligations under the lease such as paying rent, for the full term of the lease.

A retail shop lease is where you have made a legally binding agreement to lease a retail shop.

A retail shop lease does not include a lease of any of the following:

  • a retail shop with a floor area of more than 1,000m2
  • a retail shop within the South Bank corporation area if the lease is entered into or granted by the South Bank Corporation and is a perpetual lease or another lease for a term, including renewal options, of at least 100 years
  • premises used wholly or predominantly for the carrying on of a business by a tenant for a landlord as the landlord’s employee or agent
  • premises in a theme or amusement park
  • premises at a flea market, including an arts and crafts market
  • a temporary retail stall at:
    • an agricultural or trade show; or
    • a carnival, festival or cultural event
  • premises that, if the premises were not leased, would be premises within a common area of a retail shopping centre, but only if the premises are used for 1 or more of the following:
    • an information, entertainment, community or leisure facility
    • telecommunication equipment
    • an automatic teller machine
    • a vending machine
    • an advertisement display
    • storage; or
    • parking

(For the full list of what a retail shop lease does not include please view the Retail Shop Lease Act 1994)

QCAT does not have the power to hear commercial leasing disputes. If you bring a commercial leasing dispute to QCAT it may be dismissed.

You should seek independent legal advice about resolving your commercial leasing dispute or contact the QSBC for further options to resolve a commercial leasing dispute here.

Disputes can arise from a disagreement between a tenant and landlord under or about a retail shop lease.

Your retail shop lease dispute may relate to:

  • compliance with a notice issued by a specialist retail valuer
  • the procedure for rent determination
  • termination of lease
  • assignment of lease
  • outgoings/operating expenses
  • bond/security deposit/bank guarantee
  • condition of the property
  • misrepresentation
  • compensation
  • end of lease negotiations
  • disclosure statements; or
  • financial and legal advice reports

(For further information please view the Retail Shop Lease Act 1994)

In deciding Retail Shop Lease disputes, QCAT has a monetary limit of $750,000.

To assist with your case or if you are conducting a retail shop lease dispute search, you may request a search of the register of proceedings - the list of cases before QCAT - for retail shop lease cases.

You can request a search of the QCAT register of proceedings online via QCAT's search and copy portal.

What is the retail shop lease dispute process?

The Small Business Commissioner Act 2021 (SBC Act) permanently establishes the Queensland Small Business Commissioner to provide mediation and dispute resolution services for retail shop lease disputes made under the Retail Shop Leases Act 1994.

Retail shop lease disputes are resolved through a two-step process which involves:

Step 1: Attempted mediation with the QSBC; and

Step 2: If the dispute is not resolved at mediation, referral to QCAT for further consideration at a hearing.

To commence a Retail Shop Lease Dispute, you must first go through a mediation process with the QSBC. Please visit their website for further information and to apply for mediation.

Before a retail shop lease dispute is mediated with the Small Business Commission (SBC) or considered further by QCAT, if a situation emerges that requires urgent action QCAT can make an interim/injunction order.

An interim/injunction order is an order made in a proceeding before the final decision is made. It may protect a party’s position while the proceeding is running or provide for something to be done to make sure that any final QCAT decision can be effective. These orders are temporary and may prohibit a person from performing a certain action until the case is considered.

If satisfied it is in the interests of justice, QCAT can consider this type of application in the absence of the respondent party.

Whether you have commenced a dispute with the Small Business Commission (SBC) or your dispute is with QCAT for further determination, you must make the interim/injunction application directly to QCAT for determination.

The process to apply for interim/injunction orders is set out below. Please select 'application for interim/injunction orders' at the bottom of the page.

The SBC mediator must refer the case to QCAT if after participating in the SBC dispute resolution process, the dispute is:

  • within QCAT’s power to hear and decide the case; and
  • the parties cannot reach a solution at mediation; or
  • a party did not attend mediation; or
  • the case was not settled within 4 months; and
  • the retail shop lease has not ended more than 1 year before the dispute was lodged.

The SBC mediator will refer the case to QCAT using a QCAT referral form attaching the ‘Notice of Mediation Outcome (NOMO) and mediation documents. A new QCAT file will be created for the dispute and the parties will be notified. No fee is payable for the referral.

If you have participated in the SBC retail shop lease dispute mediation process and the case has been resolved, you do not need to do anything further. Generally, a copy of the mediation agreement will be issued to the parties at the mediation and the dispute closed.

A party may apply to QCAT for an order to resolve a retail tenancy dispute following the SBC mediation process, if the retail shop lease has not ended more than 1 year before the dispute was lodged, and:

  • there was a breach of the mediation agreement; or
  • the SBC is of the opinion that the case was not within QCAT’s jurisdiction and did not refer the case to QCAT

The application should include:

  • evidence that the mediation or attempted mediation has occurred
  • and/or where it is alleged there has been a breach of the mediation agreement, a copy of the agreement between the parties

QCAT sets out how to make this type of application below. Please select 'application for order to resolve a retail tenacy dispute' at the bottom of the page.

If the SBC mediator has referred the dispute to QCAT, a copy of the referral will be sent to each party to the dispute by QCAT at the commencement of the proceedings.

QCAT may then:

  • issue directions to the parties. Directions are instructions to the parties involved on how the case will proceed. The directions will include time for filing of evidence, other material and joining of further parties if required
  • list the case for a directions hearing or further dispute resolution proceeding to assist the parties to reach agreement if required
  • ask the parties to gather and file their evidence to support their side of the argument. This may include a requirement for the parties to engage experts to provide expert evidence for consideration by QCAT
  • Where the parties have engaged experts, it will usually be necessary for the experts to meet with a QCAT decision-maker at a conclave to identify the areas where the experts agree and disagree. Following the conclave, a joint report by the experts is prepared and filed
  • list the case for a hearing, after the parties have filed their evidence (including any joint expert report)
  • After the hearing, QCAT will then make a final decision based on the law and the evidence provided by the parties.

Participating in the retail shop lease dispute process can take a considerable length of time and resources and parties should consider seeking to resolve the dispute through SBC mediation with the other party before making an application to QCAT.

There are some key steps you need to take as the respondent in a retail shop lease dispute case. You must:

  • respond or file a counter application to the dispute using the correct response form; and
  • read the above information and understand the QCAT process and how the case will be progressed to a final hearing.

To learn more about what happens next in the process and how to respond please click here.

If the landlord and tenant cannot agree on the current market rent at the time of the rent’s annual review QCAT can appoint a specialist retail valuer.

The parties are required to file a request for the appointment of a specialist retail valuer. Both parties must agree to appoint a valuer and sign the application form. QCAT will then select and appoint a specialist retail valuer who is independent of the interests of the landlord and the tenant to determine the current market rent.

The nominated specialist retail valuer will then contact both parties and advise them of their fee. The parties are expected to share this cost equally.

Once the fee has been paid, the valuer will ask the parties for written submissions about the current market rent of the retail shop

The process to apply for the appointment of a specialist retail valuer is set out below.

The time for QCAT to finalise a case may vary depending on QCAT’s workload and the number of steps to be completed by parties as required by QCAT to resolve the dispute. The current average time to consider a retail shop lease dispute and finalise your case can be found on our expected timeframes page.

How do I make a retail shop lease application?

To make an application, please select your case type from the list below:

Help and further information

Queensland legislation related to retail leasing includes the Retail Shop Leases Act 1994.

The Act is available on the Office of the Queensland Parliamentary Counsel website.

You can access a range of databases which keep records of previous decisions about retail shop lease disputes. This includes previous decisions made by:

For Legal advice:

* Contact the private solicitor of your choice

* Use Queensland Law Society’s Find a Solicitor service.

* Contact Legal Aid Queensland on 1300 65 11 88

* Contact Community Legal Centres Queensland for details on your local community legal centre on 07 3392 0092

For assistance in legal proceedings:

LawRight Court and QCAT Services

LawRight is an independent, non-profit community based legal organisation that coordinates pro bono legal services for individuals and community groups. Parties with proceedings in QCAT may be able to obtain assistance from LawRight’s Court & Tribunal Services to self-represent or in limited circumstances, be given representation.

If you are unsure if you are eligible for assistance from LawRight or wish to make an enquiry, contact the service by phone on 07 3564 7561 or by email at or by writing to PO Box 12217, George Street QLD 4003.

To apply for help from LawRight, please complete the application form here. If you are unable to complete the online form, contact LawRight to discuss alternative arrangements

Community legal centres

Caxton Legal Centre
The Caxton Legal Centre is an independent, non-profit community organisation providing free legal and social work advice, assistance and referrals to the general public. Please note that the Caxton Legal Centre does not provide advice about building or other business and commercial disputes.

Women's Legal Service
Women's Legal Service is a community legal centre that provides free legal advice and information to women in Queensland.

Youth Advocacy Centre
The Youth Advocacy Centre offers free confidential legal and welfare assistance to young people under 17 years who live in or around Brisbane. Telephone support is also provided to young people outside of Brisbane and throughout Queensland.

The Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT)’s registry is here to administer your case and provide general information. Please see below what registry staff can and cannot do to assist with your case.

Registry staff can:

* answer questions about QCAT processes

* provide information about QCAT’s different types of forms that are available for your consideration

* provide you with information and support about how to lodge an application

* refer and/or process any request to access the QCAT register of proceedings (a publicly available list of QCAT cases) or the record of proceedings (the case files themselves)

* advise on fees and allowances, and how to apply for a waiver of fees

* guide you in checking your forms are complete before lodgement (e.g. signed in the correct places)

* give you information on legal organisations that could help.

Registry staff cannot:

* provide legal advice

* advise on whether you should submit an application and whether you are filing under the correct legal area (eg minor civil dispute – consumer or trader or minor civil dispute – minor debt)

* tell you if you should lodge an appeal or a counter-application

* recommend a specific lawyer to assist you

* instruct you on how to word your application, supporting documents or what to say at a proceeding

* contact a QCAT member or adjudicator directly on your behalf

* predict likely outcomes of a case or appeal

* help you prepare your case

* advise what orders or decisions you should seek

* explain what you should do to follow QCAT directions

* recommend your next steps regarding enforcing an order or tribunal decision

* advise on exact timeframes for resolution of a case – this depends on your individual case