We can help small business operators in Western Australia to resolve a wide range of disputes, including those related to:
- leasing business premises
- non-payment or non-performance of goods and services
- government departments and agencies
Every small business has to deal with contracts; most business relationships will involve some sort of contractual commitment or obligation.
Ensuring contracts are put in writing and that each party understands their obligations can help you avoid disputes. If you are using contracts, making sure a dispute resolution process and a way for handling complaints are included, will make it easier to resolve problems if they arise.
Before entering a contract you are recommended to always seek independent legal advice.
If you are in a contractual dispute it is advisable to:
- check your contract to be clear on your facts
- discuss the issue with the other party or parties
- note any discussions or agreements in writing
- write to the other party
- if you cannot reach agreement, contact us for further assistance, including access to our alternative dispute resolution (ADR) service
- seek legal advice.
If disputes between tenants and landlords arise it’s important they are resolved as cost-effectively, and with as little damage to the relationship, as possible.
The first step is to read the lease and other associated documents to understand your rights and obligations. In many cases, a well-written lease will make it clear what both parties have agreed.
If the lease or other documents do not clarify the issue contact one of our commercial leasing advisers for guidance or seek independent legal advice.
Retail shop lease disputes
If your dispute relates to a retail shop lease you can contact us for help to resolve the matter. Our case managers will assist both parties to clarify or resolve the issues through negotiation and mediation.
In relation to most retail leasing disputes you will need to first attempt to resolve the issue through our alternative dispute resolution process, before you can make an application to the State Administration Tribunal (SAT).
TIP: To determine whether your retail shop lease dispute requires a certificate or can proceed directly to the SAT, use the SAT application wizard. (Select the Commercial Tenancy (Retail Shops) Agreement Act 1985 as the legislation you are applying under).
Under Australian Consumer Law (ACL) your business is considered to be a ‘consumer’ when you purchase goods and services that are:
- valued at less than $40,000
- valued at over $40,000 and are normally bought for personal, domestic or household use
- vehicles and trailers used mainly to transport goods on public roads
In these instances you may be entitled to a range of remedies under the ACL consumer guarantees provisions if something goes wrong.
If a dispute arises in relation to goods or services provided in the course of your business our alternative dispute resolution service may be able to help.
TIP: If your business supplies goods and services to customers you must provide consumer guarantees as set out in Australian Consumer Law.
Non-payment in the construction industry
In Western Australia, the Construction Contracts Act 2004 provides a rapid adjudication process to resolve building and construction sector payment disputes. The Act allows for the appointment of an adjudicator (a registered, trained professional who is experienced in construction contract administration and dispute resolution) and sets a strict time limit on the process so decisions can be made quickly and payment is not held up.
Adjudication claims must be made within 90 business days of the payment dispute arising; this could include the amount being in dispute, payment not being made on time or not paid in full.
TIP: The Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety website has more information on payment disputes in the construction industry.
Sometimes a dispute may arise between a business and a government department or agency. Our alternative dispute resolution service may be able to help by contacting the relevant government body with a view to clarifying the issue and resolving the dispute.
Most franchise agreements will include an obligation for both parties to attempt to resolve issues through a process of dispute resolution, including mediation. Parties covered by a franchise agreement also have rights and obligations under the Franchising Code of Conduct to consider. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) administers and enforces the Code and can be contacted for further information. The Office of the Franchising Mediation Adviser (OFMA) provides information and assistance and our dispute resolution service is also available. Like OFMA, our mediators can assist to resolve a franchising dispute.