Retail disputes

Even when both parties have been fair in the establishment of a retail lease, disputes may still arise between a landlord and a tenant.

If you can't resolve it between yourselves, use the following process to find a resolution:

1. Read the lease and disclosure statement

The first thing to do whenever you think there's a problem is to read the lease and disclosure statement. These are the key documents in resolving a dispute as they state the rights and responsibilities of each party.

2. Contact the Victorian Small Business Commission

If the answer is not clear from the lease, disclosure statement – or other lease documents – then you should get in contact with the Victorian Small Business Commission (VSBC) who assist small business by offering:

  • preliminary assistance
  • investigation
  • mediation.

The VSBC is a State Government organisation set up to provide information and guidelines to tenants and landlords on retail leasing and commercial disputes. The VSBC can assist retail tenants with low cost mediation in retail tenancy matters.

Any or all parties to a retail premises lease may refer a retail tenancy dispute to the VSBC for mediation. Retail lease disputes must first be referred to the VSBC before they can progress to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT).

In the case of disputes, the VSBC arranges lost cost mediation or alternative dispute resolution by a suitably qualified, independent person.

If this process fails to resolve the dispute, the VSBC may certify in writing that mediation or another appropriate form of dispute resolution has not or will not resolve the dispute, and the matter may be referred to VCAT.

3. To avoid disputes, read and understand the contract

Many commercial disputes between businesses arise when the contract is not understood by one the parties.

Commercial disputes

If you have a commercial dispute, contact the VSBC

The VSBC provides a quick – no cost or low cost – independent dispute resolution service for business disputes with:

  • other businesses
  • local or state government
  • non-profit bodies.

The VSBC assists small business by offering information, preliminary assistance, investigation and mediation.

The VSBC handles all types of commercial disputes including franchise, lease, supply chain, distribution, licensing, business purchase and even partnership and shareholder disputes. The VSBC also provides statutory dispute resolution for disputes between:

  • Retail tenants and landlords
  • Owner drivers and hirers
  • Farmers and creditors
  • Taxi drivers and operators.

Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal

The Building and Property List of the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) gives the tribunal the power to resolve disputes between a landlord and tenant about a retail premises lease.

The tribunal can order a party to do something or not do something relating to the premises or the lease, for example:

  • pay compensation
  • correct the lease
  • recovery of possession by the landlord.

Each party is to bear their own costs at the tribunal – unless a party:

  • has acted in a vexatious way
  • has unnecessarily disadvantaged the other party
  • refused to take part in – or withdrew from – mediation or alternative dispute resolution.

Either the landlord or the tenant can bring a retail premises dispute to VCAT by filing an application form and paying a filing fee. Hearing fees also apply.

Generally your solicitor or another legal professional can represent you at the tribunal. If you don't have representation, it is the duty of the presiding tribunal member to give you guidance and acquaint you with the procedural rules.

The VSBC may also intervene in proceedings before the tribunal and become a party to the proceeding.