How a bathroom leak washed up a costly QCAT anomaly

EXCLUSIVE

A LEAKY bathroom has exposed a potentially costly flaw in the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal.

The tribunal does not have the power to enforce some of its own orders.

Instead, litigants may have to fork out extra money for lawyers to take their cases to the supreme court or magistrates courts to force compliance.

The tribunal is supposed to offer a lower-cost alternative to court action because disputes are settled without legal representation.

The revelation came to light during a fight over a "defective" bathroom in a Calamvale home built by Archerfield-based Goldfield Projects.

Goldfield claimed a Queensland Building and Construction Commission inspector contributed to the leaks when he "cut" the bathroom's waterproofing membrane while removing a tile.

Goldfield and the QBCC eventually reached what the building company believed to be an enforceable settlement agreement in QCAT.

However, the company returned to the tribunal earlier this year because the QBCC did not follow the agreement's terms.

On appeal, QCAT told the parties that Goldfield would need to ask the supreme court to order the QBCC to comply.

Richard Leahy, a lawyer who has advised many clients seeking justice through the tribunal, said he was "puzzled" as to why the anomaly existed.

"It does seem to be a reasonably deliberate piece of drafting by the Queensland Parliament to limit the ability of QCAT to enforce its own orders," Mr Leahy, of Barry Nilsson Lawyers, told APN Newsdesk.

"I don't know why - I puzzle over this.

"There is express provision in the act that deals with enforcing final orders and it seems to provide that the only way you can enforce final orders - either monetary or non-monetary - is by it being registered in an appropriate court and being enforced by that court."

Attorney-General Yvette D'Ath's office said the problem was out of her hands.

"The issue arises as a consequence of the type of jurisdiction involved, which is ultimately a constitutional matter," a spokeswoman for Ms D'Ath said.

"If parties do not comply with the orders made by QCAT, those orders can be filed in the supreme court, at no cost to the parties, in order for them to be enforceable."

A QCAT spokeswoman said the situation was consistent with other states.

"QCAT's decisions are binding on all parties to the proceeding and legally enforceable," she said.

"The enforcement of QCAT decisions through the courts is consistent with the arrangements in place for tribunals throughout Australia."

- APN NEWSDESK


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