An application for minor debt is a claim to recover a debt in relation to an agreed and fixed amount of money, or liquidated demand, up to $25,000 (excluding interest) from another person, business, or company.
(This amount is prescribed in Schedule 3 of the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal Act 2009)
Below you can learn about when you can and cannot make a minor debt dispute application to QCAT, how QCAT will decide a minor debt application and steps you need to consider if you are named as the respondent.
What do you need to know about Minor Debt Disputes?
Anyone can make a minor debt dispute application, including individuals or entities such as businesses or corporations.
To do so, the minor debt dispute application must:
- be for an amount no more than $25,000 (excluding interest)
- involve a previous agreement about payment of an amount of money
- have happened no more than 6 years ago (the date the agreement was made)
If the respondent lives interstate you can still make a minor debt dispute application with QCAT providing the agreement was initiated in Queensland.
Debt disputes may be started relating to money owed for:
- loans not repaid
- an unpaid invoice, account or demand
- dishonoured cheques
- work performed and/or goods supplied when the cost was agreed beforehand (except if the dispute is with a consumer or trader)
- unpaid rental or hire fees (except for residential tenancy matters)
- the cutting and removal of overhanging branches
A minor debt dispute application cannot be made if:
QCAT cannot decide disputes involving debts worth more than $25,000 (excluding interest).
If the amount owing is more than $25,000 the applicant may choose to reduce the claim to $25,000 to lodge it with QCAT.
Disputes involving debts worth more than $25,000 are heard by other courts. Claims for amounts:
- up to $150,000 can be commenced in the Magistrates Court
- between $150,000 and $750,000 can be commenced in the District Court
- for any amount over $750,000 can be commenced in the Supreme Court
The applicant should seek independent legal advice about how to proceed.
A minor debt dispute application also cannot be made if:
- there was no previous agreement for the money to be paid
- the dispute is with a consumer or trader or the debt is related to a contract for the supply of goods and/or services where the amount was not agreed beforehand (consider consumer/trader disputes), for example the debt relates to:
- repair of a defect on a motor vehicle
- damage to property caused by a motor vehicle or from the use of a motor vehicle
- unpaid wages covered under the Fair Work Act
- a claim against a builder for losses associated with residential building work
- a dispute about a bond held by the Residential Tenancies Authority
What is the minor debt dispute process?
Before you begin the minor debt dispute process, it is important that the applicant and respondent understand their obligations and how a case is progressed by QCAT. This includes the applicant serving the application and the respondent making a response within set time frames or a decision can be made in their absence.
If you decide to make a minor debt dispute application, you need to be aware that you are required to ‘serve’ a copy of the application to the respondent. Serve means the act of giving documents to a person or business (such as a copy of an application you made about them). When serving (giving) any document to QCAT you should always serve (give) a copy to the other parties to the case.
There are specific procedures and rules for serving a document and you must ensure you understand and follow these when you apply.
When you apply below, step 4 of the application process sets out the rules and obligations you must follow to personally give a copy of the application to the respondent.
QCAT considers minor debt dispute applications in two ways:
- if your claim amount is less than $1,500, your matter will be listed for a hearing, without the need for mediation
- if your claim amount is greater than $1,500, your matter will be listed for a mediation, and if not resolved, listed for a hearing after
Mediation is a timely dispute resolution service in which a mediator assists parties to discuss their differences and find a solution that suits all parties to the dispute.
The mediator acts as an independent third party and guides the participants through a structured mediation process. The mediator is not there to make a decision about who is right or wrong, but rather, assists both parties in reaching an agreement.
If the parties do reach an agreement, the mediator may record the terms of the agreement in writing and each party will then sign the mediation agreement and receive a copy.
The parties may request that the agreement be made an order of QCAT.
If no agreement is reached at mediation, the matter will be set down for hearing on a different day.
If you have received an application for minor debt dispute and you are named as the respondent, it is important to understand the process you need to follow.
In minor debt disputes:
- you cannot make a counter claim against the applicant. You may be able to file another application type about the same dispute if you choose to do so. Consider obtaining independent legal advice in these circumstances to understand your options
- you are required to respond to the minor debt dispute application within specific timeframes and give the applicant a copy. If you do not respond and give the applicant a copy within 28 days of receiving the minor debt dispute application, the applicant can ask QCAT for a ‘decision by default’. A decision by default means a decision on the case will be made by QCAT in your absence and from the paperwork received
QCAT sets out the forms you need in order to respond to a minor debt application and the process for how minor civil disputes are decided after responding.
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 minor debt dispute and finalise your case can be found on our expected timeframes page.
How do I make an application regarding a Minor Debt Dispute?
To make an application, please select your case type from the list below:
Help and further information
Queensland legislation related to QCAT debt disputes includes the:
- Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal 2009
- QCAT Rules
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 minor debt disputes. This includes previous decisions made by:
- Small Claims Tribunal before 1 December 2009
- QCAT and QCATA after 1 December 2009 which can be found on the Supreme Court of Queensland Library website
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:
Law Right 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 and Tribunal Services to self-represent or in limited circumstances, be given representation.
If you are unsure whether you are eligible for assistance from LawRight or wish to make an enquiry, contact the service via phone on 07 3564 7561, or email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 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
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Service (Qld) Ltd (ATSILS) is a community-based organisation established to provide professional and culturally proficient legal services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people across Queensland. You can access website information or contact ATSILS on(07) 3025 3888.
Community Legal Centres Queensland can help you find the nearest community legal service available to you. You can also contact them on (07) 3392 0092.
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 is a community legal centre that provides free legal advice and information to women in Queensland.
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 matter and provide general information. Please see below what registry staff can and cannot do to assist with your matter.
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 matter – this depends on your individual matter