QCAT: finding a respondent’s address

Dec 2016

When there are issues with tenants and these tenants vacate a property, an unfortunately common question is: "I’m applying to QCAT for compensation but I don’t know the respondent’s address – what do I do?".

Although Section 205(2) of the Residential Tenancies and Rooming Accommodation Act 2008 (RTRAA) requires a tenant when leaving premises to provide a forwarding address, there are many occasions where one is not provided. This can make service of proceedings difficult.

If the tenant’s address is unknown, it is prudent to put that in the application rather than list the address as that of the rental property the tenant has vacated. The Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT) will not accept returned mail as evidence of service.

Responsibility for providing an address for service rests with the applicant, however there are avenues where QCAT and the RTA can help.

If the tenant pays a bond for another property, the Residential Tenancies Authority will have an updated address for the tenant that is provided on application to the Tribunal (see s515(2) of the RTRAA).

Where the address of the tenant is unknown, staff of the various QCAT registries will make this request and if an address is available, arrange service on the tenant.

Section 93 of the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal Act 2009 permits QCAT to hear and decide an application in the absence of a person if the tribunal is satisfied that the person cannot be found after reasonable enquiries have been made.

Where the tenant’s whereabouts are unknown, QCAT regularly makes orders for the appropriate enquiries that an applicant should undertake to satisfy QCAT that the tenant cannot be located.

These orders are generally along the following lines:

  • The Applicant provide a current address of the Respondent to allow the Registry to serve the Application on the Respondent. The Registry serve the Application on the Respondent at the address provided and list the matter for hearing in accordance with the rules after such service is affected.
  • Should no current address be known and provided, the following orders shall apply.
  • The Applicant file with the Tribunal sworn evidence of all reasonable enquires made to locate the Respondent including;
    • Details of and the attempts made to contact the Respondent via all addresses, email, mobile , texts, social media etc;
    • Enquiries made to next of kin and emergency contacts;
    • Enquiries to places of work;
    • The results of internet searches, telephone directory searches and any other valid method sufficient to satisfy the Tribunal under Section 93 of the QCAT Act that the Respondent cannot be found after reasonable enquiries have been made.

Once the orders are made, the application will then be adjourned pending provision of the required information and/or an application for substituted service.

You do not need to wait for QCAT orders to make relevant enquiries. You can submit evidence of your efforts to find the respondent and/or a substituted service application when you file your compensation application.

If QCAT is not satisfied reasonable enquiries have been made, then it may adjourn the application or, where there has been non-compliance with the directions within the time provided, dismiss the application (see Ingram v Sheppard [2015] QCAT 289).

When filing evidence to comply with these orders, it is important that parties provide as much detail as possible.

As a preventative measure, agents should ensure that at the time a tenant applies for a tenancy they obtain a comprehensive list of contact information.