Going to the Tribunal to Solve a Tenancy Dispute
Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT)
The Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT) can hear tenancy disputes covered by the Residential Tenancies and Rooming Accommodation Act 2008 (the Act). QCAT aims to resolve minor civil residential tenancy disputes in a way that is fair, just, accessible, quick and inexpensive. QCAT can make a range of orders to resolve residential tenancy and rooming accommodation disputes.
To access QCAT forms or fact sheets visit www.qcat.qld.gov.au
QCAT is a Tribunal and is not a court. Parties must represent themselves and present their own case. For minor civil dispute-residential tenancy matters legal representation is not allowed unless exceptional circumstances apply.
If you have questions about the QCAT process, or need advice about how to respond to a claim or present your matter, you can contact a free tenant advice service, such as the Tenants’ Union advice service, or your local tenant advice service.
The Tenants’ Union has just developed a series of 5 online videos to provide tenants with tips on resolving tenancy disputes. These videos aim to help tenants understand the tenancy dispute process, including the role of the RTA Dispute Resolution Service and the role of QCAT. The videos also provide tips on how to apply for a QCAT hearing and what to expect when you attend a QCAT tenancy hearing, either as an applicant, or as a respondent.
Part 1 – Tips to solve your tenancy dispute gives an overview of the process, including talking to your lessor or agent, getting advice from a tenant advice service and applying to the RTA.
Part 2 – RTA Dispute Resolution Service explains the role of the RTA in providing free telephone conciliation for tenancy matters, including non-urgent tenancy disputes.
Part 3 – QCAT and tenancy disputes describes the role of the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT) in hearing urgent and non-urgent tenancy disputes.
Part 4 – Applying to QCAT for a tenancy hearing explains how to apply for a QCAT hearing and explains the difference between urgent and non-urgent applications.
Part 5 – Going to QCAT for a tenancy hearing shows how QCAT hears tenancy disputes and gives you an idea of what to expect when you attend a hearing as an applicant or a respondent.
These videos were filmed at QCAT in Brisbane. While the QCAT hearing room in your local Magistrates court building may look very different the process should be similar.
Proceedings in QCAT are guided by the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal Act 2009 which can be viewed on the Office of the Queensland Parliamentary Counsel website
Applying for a tenancy hearing
When you apply to QCAT for a tenancy hearing, you will need to fill in an application form – QCAT Form 2 – Application for minor civil dispute – residential tenancy dispute.
QCAT forms are available online at www.qcat.qld.gov.au or from QCAT or your local Magistrates Court.
Applications must be lodged at QCAT’s Brisbane office or at the local Magistrates Court closest to the rental premises (excluding Brisbane Magistrates Court).
In Brisbane QCAT is located at Level 9, 259 Queen St Brisbane (GPO Box 1639, Brisbane Qld 4001). You can phone QCAT on 1300 753 228.
Urgent and Non-Urgent Applications
Tenancy applications to QCAT can be either “urgent” or “non-urgent” . These are defined under the Residential Tenancies and Rooming Accommodation Act 2008 which lists a number of sections under which parties can apply to the tribunal. Information pages attached to the QCAT application form list all urgent and non-urgent applications.
When you apply to QCAT you will need to write the number and name of the section that relates to the reason for your application (for example s 419 Applications about breach of agreements). QCAT staff cannot assist you to fill in the application form. You may need to seek advice from a tenant advice service regarding which section of the Act is most appropriate for your matter.
“Urgent” applications are defined in the Act. If your dispute is classed as “urgent” you can apply directly to QCAT for a hearing. QCAT prioritise urgent applications which are usually heard within 2 or 3 weeks, depending on how often the tribunal hears matters in your local area, and how busy the tribunal is at the time.
All other applications are “non-urgent”. This means before you can apply to QCAT for a hearing you must first apply to the RTA Dispute Resolution Service for conciliation (mediation).
The RTA Dispute Resolution Service
If your dispute is classed as “non-urgent” you must first apply to the RTA Dispute Resolution Service to try to resolve the dispute, before you can apply to QCAT.
Fill in an RTA Form 16 Dispute Resolution Request form and send it into the Residential Tenancies Authority to apply. An RTA conciliator will contact you to help you resolve the dispute.
The RTA conciliator will act as a neutral 3rd party and help exchange information between you and the lessor to see if agreement can be reached. This is a good opportunity to identify details of the dispute and request copies of any relevant documents, such as receipts and invoices.
If you and the lessor are able to reach a voluntary agreement the RTA can help parties put this agreement in writing. If the dispute relates to a bond matter the RTA will simply get both parties to fill in new Refund of Rental Bond forms that reflect this agreement.
If the RTA cannot assist you to resolve your dispute, they will send you a Notice of Unresolved Dispute with a conciliation number. If you apply to QCAT for a non-urgent hearing you will need to write the conciliation number on your application form and attach a copy of your Notice of Unresolved Dispute.
For bond disputes, if you are disputing a claim against your bond and have lodged a Form 16 with the RTA and they cannot help you resolve your dispute, the RTA will issue you with a Notice of Unresolved Dispute (NURD).
To proceed with the bond dispute you will need to apply to QCAT for a hearing within 7 days, and notify the RTA. If you don’t notify the RTA within 7 days that you have applied to QCAT for a hearing, the RTA will automatically release the bond money according to the bond refund form lodged by the other party.
For Residential Tenancies Authority (RTA) information and RTA tenancy forms visit www.rta.qld.gov.au or phone the RTA on 1300 366 311.
Lodging your application
The QCAT application form lists all the relevant sections of the Act for both “urgent” and “non-urgent” tenancy applications. When you fill in the form, you will need to indicate what section/s you are applying under.
Your QCAT application should also include details of your claim and state the orders you are seeking. You should attach copies of relevant documents or evidence to your application form.
Parties must lodge at least 3 copies of the application with QCAT: one for the Applicant, one for each Respondent (if more than one Respondent, lodge additional copies ) and one for QCAT.
QCAT can hear tenancy claims for amounts up to $25,000.
When you lodge an application for QCAT, you will need to pay a filing fee. The application fees are between $21.50 and $275. The amount you pay depends on how much money (if any) you are claiming in your application. If you are seeking an order, or claiming an amount under $500, the fee is $21.50. A list of fees is available on the QCAT website.
If cost is a problem you can apply to QCAT for a waiver of the application fee. A form is available on the QCAT website. When seeking a waiver of the filing fee you will need to include evidence of your low income and financial hardship, such as a copy of a current pension card, health care card or Centrelink letter.
Can you be represented?
Generally all parties involved in a matter before QCAT must represent themselves. However if you are unable to represent yourself (eg: due to illness, disability etc) or are unable to attend the hearing in person (eg: you have moved overseas or are in hospital or prison) you can nominate someone to attend the hearing and act on your behalf, or can apply to QCAT to attend the hearing by telephone.
If you want to be represented by someone else you must seek permission from QCAT. Representation may or may not be allowed. You will need to provide the person with a signed letter from you saying you have authorised them to act on your behalf in relation to the tenancy matter. QCAT also has an Application for leave to be represented form available on the QCAT website.
The person you appoint as your representative should have a good knowledge of your matter and copies of your evidence.
If you are not attending in person it is a good idea to provide your evidence to QCAT in the form of a sworn Affidavit statement signed by a JP. This ensures your statement can be considered as evidence during the hearing.
If you cannot attend the hearing in person (eg: because you have moved interstate or overseas) you could apply to QCAT to attend the hearing by telephone. The QCAT website has an application form you can use to apply to attend a hearing via remote conferencing. Contact QCAT to arrange this.
If you attend a QCAT hearing by telephone you should also arrange to mail copies of your documents, affidavit statements, or other evidence to QCAT before the hearing, so these documents can be attached to the file and considered by the QCAT adjudicator during the hearing.
If you are the Respondent
If you are notified about a tenancy hearing in QCAT it is important to attend. If you do not attend a decision may be made, based solely on evidence presented by the other party.
If you are the Respondent the Tribunal will send you a copy of the application lodged by the other party. Look carefully at this application, this is what you need to respond to at the Tribunal hearing.
If you disagree with the application lodged by the other party, gather evidence and prepare what you plan to say at the hearing. It is useful to prepare a written statement to take to the hearing, along with your evidence. If you need assistance or advice to respond to a QCAT tenancy matter contact a tenant advice service.
What the Tribunal will decide
At the hearing the Tribunal Member, or Adjudicator, will look at the evidence presented by each party and may make a final decision about the matter, called an “order”. The Tribunal will send each party a copy of this “order”.
The Tribunal has the power to make a range of “orders” in relation to tenancy matters, including;
- termination orders
- orders about rent payments
- orders about repairs
- orders about the payment of compensation
- orders about rent increases or decreases
- orders about bond refunds
Tribunal decisions are final and binding on both parties.
Applying for a reopening, correction or renewal
In some circumstances you can use a Application for reopening, correction, renewal or amendment form to apply to QCAT to have the matter re-heard, or to seek changes to the order.
You can apply for a reopening, correction, or renewal if you were not given an opportunity to attend the hearing (eg: did not get the hearing notice, or were otherwise unable to attend), if new evidence has come to light that was not available at the original hearing, or if a mistake was made on the order that needs to be corrected.
To apply for a reopening, renewal or correction you must lodge this form at the tribunal within 28 days of the original decision.
You may also need to attach an affidavit, or other evidence, to support your reason for the application.
For example if you were unable to attend a hearing because you were in hospital, you could attach a copy of your hospital admission form, or a letter from your doctor.
It is also useful to let the Tribunal know if you have evidence that could lead to the tribunal making a different decision if the matter is reopened. For example: you have rent receipts to show your rent is up-to-date. If you had an opportunity to present this evidence at the hearing it is likely the tribunal would not have made an order to terminate your tenancy, or award bond money to your former lessor.
It is up to QCAT to decide whether or not to agree with your request for a Reopening, correction or renewal of the original decision..
Interim order or injunction
If an order was made at the original hearing, and you are applying for a reopening of the matter, you may need to also apply to QCAT for an interim order or injunction to stop the original order being enforced, until after QCAT makes a decision about the reopening.
The QCAT application for interim order or injunction form is available on the QCAT website. You will need to fill in and lodge this form with QCAT when you lodge your application for a reopening.
You can apply for a reopening of the proceeding if:
- You did not appear at the hearing and had a reasonable excuse for not attending; or
- You would suffer a substantial injustice if the proceeding was not reopened because significant new evidence has arisen that was not available at the original hearing.
- You can apply to QCAT to correct a decision if there is a clerical mistake, error, miscalculation, or mistake in description of matter, person or thing mentioned in the decision.
- You can seek a renewal of a final decision if it is not possible to comply with the Tribunal’s final decision, or there are problems with interpreting, implementing or enforcing the decision.
For QCAT forms and information about going to QCAT, visit their website at www.qcat.qld.gov.au
Can you appeal a QCAT decision?
In some circumstances parties can apply to QCAT to appeal a decision. To appeal a tenancy matter you will need evidence showing that when QCAT heard and decided the matter there was an error in fact or an error in law.
To appeal a tenancy matter you must apply to QCAT using an Application for leave to appeal or appeal form and seek leave to appeal (permission). It is up to QCAT to decide if you have sufficient evidence to appeal the decision.
If seeking leave to appeal you must lodge your application within 28 days of either receiving written reasons for the decision, or if you applied for a reopening, correction, renewal or amendment within 28 days of the day your application was finally dealt with.
To appeal a decision you will need evidence that QCAT has made an error of fact or an error of law in deciding the matter, or evidence that QCAT has not provided you with natural justice in the way the matter was heard. You will need strong evidence to justify your application.
All QCAT hearings are recorded. To appeal a QCAT decision it is advisable to obtain a copy of the recording of your QCAT hearing and refer to this recording or transcript when lodging your Application for Leave to Appeal or Appeal.
To obtain a transcript or recording of the whole hearing, or just the reasons and the final decision, you must apply to QCAT within 14 days of the original hearing. An application form is available on their website. Some costs may apply.
You will need to pay a filing fee of between $275 and $550 when lodging your Application for Leave to Appeal or Appeal with QCAT If your application for leave to appeal is not granted the Tribunal may refund half your filing fee.
If cost is a problem you can apply to QCAT for a waiver of the application fee. A form is available on the QCAT website. When seeking a waiver of the filing fee you will need to include evidence of your low income and financial hardship, such as a copy of a current pension card or health care card.
If QCAT made a order, and you are appealing this decision, you may also need to apply for a stay of the original decision. A stay can stop the original order taking effect before your appeal application is decided. An application for a stay of a decision is available on the QCAT website.
It is costly to appeal a QCAT matter and applications to appeal a QCAT decision are rarely successful. It can also take many months for QCAT to decide your application.
If your appeal application is granted the original order may be set aside or changed, or the matter may be referred back to QCAT for a new hearing. QCAT will only grant an appeal if your application can clearly show that QCAT made an error of fact or law when the original matter was decided.
QCAT publishes appeal decisions online on the Supreme Court website at www.sclqld.org.au/qcat . You can search this website for QCAT tenancy matters. Reading comments and decisions from previous QCAT appeals can give you some indication of how QCAT decides appeal matters.
If you need help to apply to the Tribunal, or to respond to a Tribunal matter, contact the Tenants’ Union of Queensland Statewide Advice Service on 1300 744 263 or contact your local Tenant Advice and Advocacy Service (TAAS).