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Someone owes me money

If someone owes you money and they are refusing to pay, there are several things you can do to try and recover your money.

When someone owes you money, you are known as a creditor and the person who owes you money is a debtor.

If they refuse to pay, you may need to apply to court to get an order saying that they owe you the money. If they still refuse to pay, there are ways to enforce a court order

There are time limits that apply to collecting debts. If you wait too long to pursue recovering your debt from the debtor, you may be barred from pursuing them for the money.

If someone owes you money and they are refusing to pay, there are several things you can do to try and recover your money. You can:

  • contact the person and try to come to another agreement
  • send a letter demanding payment (called a letter of demand)
  • if the loan is to a company, there may be more options available to you. You should get legal advice.

If they still don't pay and you want to try to recover  your money, you'll need to take legal action.

If your dispute is with another person, a business or a company and is for a fixed sum of money less than $25,000, you may be able to apply to the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT).

If the amount owed to you is more than $25,000 you can apply to court.

Applying to the QCAT

QCAT is an independent tribunal which is accessible, quick and inexpensive to use. It has information about handling debt disputes, including information on what steps you can take on your own to recover your money and how to apply to QCAT.

You should get legal advice before applying to QCAT.

Applying to court

Which court you apply to will depend on how much money is in dispute.

You’ll need to apply to:

  • the Magistrates Court for claims up to $150,000
  • the District Court, for claims up to $750,000, or
  • the Supreme Court, for claims over $750,000.

Queensland Courts has information for people representing themselves about money disputes in the Magistrates Court, District Court, or Supreme Court. This includes information about how to lodge your claim, defend your claim, and how to get your money after the court makes a judgment.

You should get legal advice before you file documents.

Enforcing a money order

If the court or tribunal agrees that someone owes you money, they will make an order saying that they owe you money.  If the debtor still refuses to pay after the court has made an order (money order), you’ll need to apply to court to enforce the order to get your money.

QCAT has information on how to enforce a decision, including how to enforce a minor civil dispute decision.

Queensland Courts also has information about getting your money after judgment.

One thing you can't do is have the debtor sent to jail for not paying you.

Time limits

You have 6 years (extendable up to 12 years) to enforce an order of a court or QCAT. If it’s more than 6 years since the debt was owed, you should get legal advice.

Do I need legal advice?

You may need legal advice if you:

  • are considering applying to QCAT or court to resolve a debt dispute
  • have an order from QCAT or the court that someone owes you money, but they still won't pay.

How to get legal advice

We may give legal advice about recovering personal debts. We can’t give advice to businesses, or give advice about recovering debts on behalf of a business or company.

The following organisations may be able to give legal advice:

Community legal centres give legal information and advice on a range of topics. Contact them to see if they can help with your problem.

QPILCH Self Representation Service (Federal) gives legal advice and help to people involved in civil proceedings in the Federal Circuit Court or Federal Court for matters involving bankruptcy and consumer law. The service may also help with drafting documents and correspondence relating to your legal matter. They don’t provide representation.

QPILCH Self Representation services (State courts) gives free legal advice and help to people who are involved in civil proceedings before the Brisbane District Court, Brisbane Supreme Court or Queensland Court of Appeal. The service may also help with drafting documents and correspondence relating to your legal matter. They don’t provide representation.

QPILCH Self Representation Service (QCAT) gives free legal advice and help to people at the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal. The service may help with drafting documents and correspondence relating to your legal matter. They don’t provide legal representation

Queensland Law Society can refer you to a specialist private solicitor for advice or representation on personal or business matters.

Who else can help?

These organisations may also be able to help with your matter. They don’t give legal advice.

Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) have information and guidelines about debt collection.

Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) have powers to protect consumers against misleading or deceptive and unconscionable conduct affecting all financial products and services, including credit.

Australian Financial Security Authority (AFSA) gives information about bankruptcy, including how to become bankrupt, making a person bankrupt, what debts are covered, consequences of bankruptcy and more.

Office of Fair Trading gives information about rights and responsibilities about credit and finance.

Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT) can hear debt disputes, consumer and trader disputes and other minor civil disputes, if the amount is under $25,000. You should try to resolve your dispute with the other party before asking QCAT to hear your dispute. 

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