QSBC assistance for small businesses

The Queensland Small Business Commissioner (QSBC) provides information, assistance, and advocacy support to Queensland small businesses to enable and empower them to succeed.

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Watch our series of short videos to help you do business better. These videos have been developed by industry experts and advocates to provide you with advice on a range of topics and emerging issues.

Tips from the Commissioner

Contact the Commissioner if there is a business topic you'd like us to focus on.

Read our QSBC small business help and support guide for information, support, and service options for small businesses, including topics:

  • grants, loans and rebates
  • services
  • health and wellbeing
  • employer information
  • training and skills
  • resources and tools.

Read about running a business and advice and support for small businesses.

Tips from the Commissioner

Contact us for help if you can't find the support or service you need.

We provide personalised information and one-to-one assistance when responding to your enquiry. If we can't help you, we'll try to connect you with someone who can.

Contact us to make an enquiry.

If there's a broader problem affecting your small business, you can contact us about this. Depending on the subject, we may:

  • help communicate your views and experiences through the right channels
  • connect you with someone who can help
  • work to inform policy change and advocate for red-tape reduction
  • advocate on your behalf to the relevant government agency
  • work collaboratively with business groups and government on a project to address the matter.

Tips from the Commissioner

We can assist with disputes about small business leases, or about the use or occupation of the leased premises. The first step is to request dispute assistance and we will attempt to find an informal resolution to the matter.

If you seek assistance from us about a small business lease dispute, and you are still unable to reach an agreement, you may be eligible to access our mediation service.

Small business lease disputes are defined under the Small Business Commissioner Act 2022 (SBCA). The Commissioner considers a small business to be a business that identifies as a small business and would be reasonably considered to be small in size, regardless of structure. A retail shop lease is not considered a small business lease under the SBCA. The approved forms we use are online forms, to seek assistance with lodging digitally you can find a local 'Be Connected' service provider. They may help with how to use technology, not the content of your application.

Depending on the subject, we may:

  • provide you with information and connect you with other services that can help you
  • work with both parties to help you reach an informal resolution
  • provide access to a mediation service to help you reach an agreement (if eligible).

Tips from the Commissioner

  • Try to resolve your leasing issue first before requesting assistance from the QSBC.
  • Learn more about how to resolve business disputes.
  • To prevent leasing issues becoming a dispute, try negotiating an agreement with your landlord first.

Submit a request for dispute assistance for a small business lease.

The Retail Shop Leases Act 1994 (RSLA) sets out laws and dispute processes which apply to retail shop leases in Queensland. The RSLA defines a retail shop lease in detail, with criteria including but not limited to:

  • premises used for retail purposes
  • is located within a retail shopping centre (where 5 or more retail shops are located)
  • has floorspace of less than 1,000sqm
  • and the lease term is greater than 6 months.

You may need to seek your own independent legal advice to determine if your lease is considered a retail shop lease under the RSLA.

If you have an eligible retail shop lease dispute, 1 party may lodge an application for mediation (dispute notice) and both parties must pay the fee in equal shares ($175 each, for 2 party disputes). The lodged application for mediation and an invoice for the fee will be provided to both parties after the form is submitted. The approved forms we use are online forms. To seek assistance with lodging your form online (digitally), search for a local 'Be Connected' service provider. They may help you with how to use technology, not the content of your application.

Mediators cannot mediate a dispute about matters excluded in the RSLA including: the amount of rent or outgoings payable under the lease; a dispute that is before or has been decided by a court or arbitration; or if the amount, value or damages in dispute is more than the amount specified in section 68 of the District Court of Queensland Act 1967 ($750,000).

Submitting a request for dispute assistance with us first can assist with:

  • ensuring the dispute is able to be mediated
  • preparing both parties for mediation
  • explaining the requirement to pay the fee in equal shares.

After lodgement, the QSBC will nominate a mediator to work with you to try to reach an agreement. Our mediators are all accredited under the National Mediation Accreditation Standards. The mediator must refer the dispute to the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT), and notify us, if:

  • no agreement can be reached in writing at mediation
  • or
  • a party doesn't attend mediation
  • or
  • it's been with the mediator for 4 months
  • and
  • the lease is current (or has not expired, been surrendered, or terminated more than a year ago)
  • and
  • the dispute is within QCATs jurisdiction.

The Commissioner has expectations that both parties to a retail shop lease dispute should cooperate, act reasonably and in good faith in all discussions. This can be achieved by:

  • paying the fee
  • responding to each other's requests in a reasonable way
  • being honest and providing information that is accurate
  • making a genuine attempt to reach an agreement
  • taking reasonable steps to resolve a dispute (such as attending mediation)
  • ensuring the person attending mediation has the authority to settle the matter and sign an agreement on behalf of their party to the lease.

Depending on the subject, we may:

  • provide you with information and connect you with other services that can help you
  • work with both parties to help you reach an informal resolution
  • provide access to a mediation service to help you reach an agreement (if eligible).

Tips from the Commissioner

  • Try to resolve your leasing issue first before requesting assistance from the QSBC.
  • Learn more about how to resolve business disputes.
  • To prevent leasing issues becoming a dispute, try negotiating an agreement with your landlord or tenant first.
  • Read our key information and tips about mediation.
  • Watch our videos about mediation, including what is mediation, the role of the mediator, and how to participate effectively in mediation.
  • Read the Queensland Small Business Commissioner mediation and fees policy to find out how to request a fee waiver due to financial hardship.

Submit an application for mediation.

Small business lease disputes are defined under the Small Business Commissioner Act 2022 (SBCA). The Commissioner considers a small business to be a business that identifies as a small business and would be reasonably considered to be small in size, regardless of structure. A retail shop lease is not considered a small business lease under the SBCA.

To be eligible to access mediation, both parties to a small business lease dispute must:

  • have sought informal assistance to resolve the dispute first. If you haven't already, request dispute assistance from us and we will attempt to find an informal resolution to the matter.
  • agree to mediate the dispute and share the cost of mediation equally ($175 per party).

Details on how to make the payment will be provided to both parties after the application for mediation form is submitted. If payment is not received from both parties by the due date, the lodgement will be considered incomplete and any party that has paid their fee will be refunded the full fee.

Mediators cannot mediate a small business lease dispute about matters excluded in the Act including:

  • the amount of rent or outgoings payable under the lease
  • a dispute that is before or decided by a court or arbitration
  • or
  • if the amount, value or damages in dispute is more than the amount specified in section 68 of the District Court of Queensland Act 1967 ($750,000).

Making an enquiry with us first can assist with:

  • ensuring the dispute is able to be mediated
  • preparing both parties for mediation
  • explaining the requirement to share the application fee equally.

After payment of the fees by both parties, we will nominate a mediator to work with you to try to reach an agreement. Our mediators are all accredited under the National Mediation Accreditation Standards. If no agreement can be reached in writing at mediation, you may need to seek your own independent legal or financial advice as to your further options.

Tenants and landlords should try to resolve business disputes by working together first. The Commissioner has expectations that both parties to a small business lease dispute should cooperate, act reasonably and in good faith in all discussions. This can be achieved by:

  • responding to each other's requests in a reasonable way
  • being honest and providing information that is accurate
  • making a genuine attempt to reach an agreement
  • taking reasonable steps to resolve a dispute (such as attending mediation)
  • ensuring the person attending mediation has the authority to settle the matter and sign an agreement on behalf of their party to the lease.

Tips from the Commissioner

Submit an application for mediation.

If your business suffered a reduction in turnover due to COVID-19, you may be able to negotiate rent relief and other conditions with your landlord.

Read about:

If your negotiation is unsuccessful and you're unable to agree on an outcome, we may be able to help you to informally resolve your dispute. We may also provide access to a mediation service to help you reach an agreement.

Tips from the Commissioner

Submit an enquiry to request assistance with an affected lease dispute.

If you have another type of small business issue, you should first attempt to resolve it yourself.

If you are unable to resolve the issue yourself, you can use the dispute assistance finder to help find the most appropriate service that can assist you. If you're still not sure, you can contact us and we will help you find the best solution.

Contact us for assistance with another type of small business issue.

Mediation – when to go to QSBC and when to go to QCAT

The Small Business Commissioner Act 2022 (SBCA) permanently establishes the Small Business Commissioner to provide mediation and dispute resolution services for retail shop lease disputes made under the Retail Shop Leases Act 1994 (RSLA).

To commence a Retail Shop Lease dispute, you must first go through a mediation process with the Small Business Commissioner (QSBC).

The QSBC can informally assist with any type of dispute involving a small business; however we can only provide mediation services for commercial lease disputes which fall under either of these pieces of legislation:

  • retail tenancy disputes under the RSLA
  • or
  • other small business tenancy disputes under the SBCA.

To commence a Retail Shop Lease dispute, you must first go through a mediation process with the QSBC. Our dispute resolution service follows this process:

  1. Seek informal dispute assistance by completing our request for dispute assistance form which prompts the applicant to provide key information.
  2. QSBC assigns a case manager who makes initial contact with the applicant by phone.
  3. Make application for mediation – this is the most common entry point for retail tenancy disputes under the RSLA.
  4. QSBC's case manager makes initial contact with each party by phone.
  5. Mediation fee will be sought from each party to the dispute if the application is eligible ($175 per party).
  6. A mediator is nominated once all parties have paid their mediation fee.
  7. Mediation outcome is finalised – if the matter is successfully resolved at the mediation and/or a mediation agreement is signed by the parties, the mediator will notify QSBC and that is the end of the process with us.

If you choose to apply to QCAT for a Retail Tenancy Dispute your application may be returned or your matter dismissed if you do not include evidence to show that you have attempted mediation through the QSBC first.

Note: The Queensland Small Business Commissioner provides general information and guidance for small businesses in Queensland. We do not provide specific financial or legal advice. We cannot compel people to do certain things and cannot make rulings or decisions about disputes.