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Retail lease and commercial disputes

Resolving retail lease disputes.

On this page

  • Read the lease
  • Understand your contract
  • Contact the Victorian Small Business Commissioner
  • Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT)

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 you should use the following process to find a resolution:

Read the lease

The first thing to do whenever you think there’s a problem is to read the lease. The lease contract is the key document in resolving a dispute as it states the rights and responsibilities of each party.

If the answer is not clear from the lease or other lease documents then you should call the Victorian Small Business Commissioner (VSBC). The VSBC assists small business by offering preliminary assistance, investigation and mediation.

Contact the Victorian Small Business Commissioner

The Victorian Small Business Commissioner (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 Small Business Commissioner for mediation.

Retail lease disputes must first be referred to the Victorian Small Business Commissioner before they can progress to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT). 

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

If this process fails to resolve the dispute, the Small Business Commissioner 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.

To avoid disputes read and understand the contract

Many commercial disputes between businesses arise when the contract is not understood by one the parties. It is very important that you do no sign any contract unless you fully understand all the terms and conditions, and that the contract includes everything you have discussed with their business. Don't rely on oral assurances - get it in writing.

Commercial Disputes 

If you have a commercial dispute, contact the Victorian Small Business Commissioner

The Victorian Small Business commissioner (VSBC) provides a quick, no cost or low cost, independent dispute resolution service for business disputes with other businesses, local or state government or 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 drovers and operators.


Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal

The Building Property List of the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) gives the tribunal the power to resolve disputes between a landlord and tenant to do with 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 do not have representation it is the duty of the presiding tribunal member to give you guidance and acquaint you with the procedural rules.

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

Case Study: Solving problems with your landlord

'Thorough planning is essential for anyone looking into a retail lease. Knowing what you’re getting into means there’s less chance of surprises down the track.'
Courtney Joel Patterson, Cup of Truth Cafe

Read more about solving problems with your landlord.

Courtney Joel Patterson and Jonathan Freeman stand next to a counter with coffee and sugar on it and the Cup of truth sign hanging behind