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Consumer Claims in Queensland

Debt Recovery (Qld)

There are many situations that may give rise to proceedings for debt recovery in Queensland. A debt may arise due to an unpaid invoice or account, a dishonoured cheque, work that has been carried out and not paid for, unpaid rent or a contract for goods or services. This page deals with debt recovery in Queensland.

Matters that are not debt recovery

If an amount that one party owes to another party is in dispute, or there is an issue over whether the party is liable to pay, it is likely that the matter is not a debt recovery issue. Instead, the matter is a more complicated contractual issue and legal advice should be sought.

Letter of demand

If you believe you are owed a debt and wish to commence debt recovery in Queensland, there are a number of options available to you.

The first step should always be to attempt negotiation with the other party. You should send a letter to the debtor (the person you believe owes you a debt) explaining the details of the debt, including how much they owe you, what they owe you the sum for, how you wish to be paid and the consequences of non-payment (ie that you will institute proceedings). Your letter of demand should nominate a date by which payment is demanded.

A letter of demand must not be harassing, threatening or intimidating, and should not purport to mimic an official court document. 

When a debtor receives a letter of demand, they can respond or ignore the letter. If they do not respond, or they respond unsatisfactorily, you can pursue the matter in the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT) or in the courts. The appropriate forum for a claim depends on the monetary value of the debt.


In Queensland, QCAT handles debt recovery matters valued at up to $25,000. Debt recovery matters over $25,000 and up to $150,000 are heard in the Magistrates Court. Matters of between $150,000 and $750,000 are heard in the District Court, The Supreme Court hears matters involving over $750,000. 

Before you proceed to QCAT or to court, you can attempt mediation through the Department of Justice and Attorney General’s Dispute Resolution Branch.

Debt recovery proceedings in QCAT

To commence a complaint with QCAT you must file an application, and then serve this application on the respondent (the person you believe owes you a debt) within 28 days of filing the application.

The respondent may then provide a response within 28 days.

If no response is filed, the applicant can request that QCAT make a default decision in favour of the applicant.

If a response is filed, QCAT will list the matter for mediation. If the mediation is not successful, the matter will go to a hearing for determination. However, if the matter involves less than $3000 no mediation will occur, and the matter will go directly to a hearing, unless QCAT orders otherwise.

 QCAT only has jurisdiction to hear matters where the debt arose in Queensland. 

Enforcing a QCAT debt recovery decision

If QCAT finds in favour of the applicant in a debt recovery matter, the respondent must pay the debt. If the respondent does not adhere to QCAT’s judgment, an enforcement warrant may be sought.

Once a QCAT decision is registered in the Magistrates Court, the magistrate can order an enforcement warrant which allows for seizure and/or sale of the debtor’s property in order to pay the debt they owe under the QCAT judgement.

Debt Recovery in Queensland Courts

If a debt is for more than $25,000, proceedings need to be initiated in court. The court to file the application depends on the amount in dispute (see above).

Civil court procedures in Queensland are set out in the Uniform Civil Procedure Rules 1999. To initiate proceedings, you must file a claim and a statement of claim setting out the details. These documents must then be served on the debtor.

The debtor may wish to defend themselves against this claim and may do so by filing and serving defence documents. The applicant may then respond to the defence or request a trial date.

In many cases the matter will be referred to mediation or another form of alternative dispute resolution which is conducted on a ‘without prejudice’ basis with a view to settling the matter.  A registrar may refer the matter to mediation or a party may do so themselves.  If mediation is unsuccessful the matter will be listed for hearing and a judge will determine whether you can recover the debt owed. Note that court proceedings are more complicated and expensive than tribunal proceedings so it is prudent to seek legal advice before commencing proceedings for debt recovery in Queensland.

If you require legal advice or representation in any legal matter, please contact Go To Court Lawyers.


Michelle Makela

Michelle Makela is a Legal Practice Director at Go To Court Lawyers. She holds a Juris Doctor, a Bachelor of Science (Psychology) and a Master of Criminology. She was admitted to practice in 2006. Michelle has over 15 years experience in the legal industry, working across commercial litigation, criminal law, family law and estate planning. 

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