Posts Tagged VCAT jurisdiction

VCAT loses jurisdiction to hear a dispute where a party is not resident in Victoria

Following last week’s High Court decision in Burns v Corbett [2018] HCA 15 the Victorian Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal has lost its jurisdiction to hear and determine a dispute where one of the parties is resident of a State other than Victoria.

This will pose significant problems for VCAT particularly concerning its exclusive jurisdiction to hear and determine a “retail tenancy dispute” under the Retail Leases Act 2003 (2003 Act)[1]. Proceedings in the Tribunal where a party is not resident in Victoria will be affected by the decision. Because VCAT never had jurisdiction to hear and determine a matter where a party was not resident in Victoria, Burns is also likely to have consequences for proceedings that have been heard and determined where one party was not a resident of Victoria.

Where a party is not resident in Victoria, disputes under the 2003 Act will have to be heard and determined in a Victorian court, the Federal Court or an interstate court. Where a “retail tenancy dispute” is heard in a court, a significant issue will be whether the cost regime in the 2003 Act applies or whether the awarding of costs will be governed by court rules. Except in limited circumstances, s.92 of the 2003 Act requires each party to bear its own costs.

In Burns the High Court held that provisions of the Civil and Administrative Tribunal Act 2013 (NSW) were invalid to the extent that they purported to confer jurisdiction upon the Civil and Administrative Tribunal of New South Wales (NCAT) concerning matters between residents of different States.

Chapter III of the Australian Constitution includes ss75 to 77. Section 75(iv) provides that the High Court has original jurisdiction in all matters between residents of different States. Section 76 enables the Commonwealth Parliament to confer additional original jurisdiction on the High Court. Except for the High Court, s.77 permits Parliament to defines the jurisdiction of any federal court including defining the extent to which the jurisdiction of any federal court is exclusive of the jurisdiction of a State court, and gives State courts federal jurisdiction. Section 39 of the Judiciary Act 1903 invests State courts with federal jurisdiction subject to certain conditions and restrictions.

In Burns, Mr Burns complained to the Anti-Discrimination Board of New South Wales about statements made by Ms Corbett and Mr Gaynor which he alleged vilified homosexuals contrary to the Anti-Discrimination Act 1977 (NSW)). Mr Burns was a resident of New South Wales, Ms Corbett was a resident of Victoria and Mr Gaynor was a resident of Queensland.

The complaint against Ms Corbett was referred to the Administrative Decisions Tribunal of New South Wales (predecessor to NCAT) which found that Ms Corbett had breached the Act and ordered her to make an apology. Ms Corbett refused to apologise and Mr Burns commenced a proceeding in the Supreme Court charging Ms Corbett with contempt. Ms Corbett contended that neither the ADT nor NCAT had jurisdiction because she was a resident of Victoria. The complaint against Mr Gaynor was dismissed by NCAT. However, Mr Gaynor obtained leave to appeal to the Court of Appeal in respect of an interlocutory costs order on the basis that NCAT had no jurisdiction to determine matters concerning residents of a State other than New South Wales.

The New South Wales Court of Appeal determined the jurisdiction disputes. The Court had to decide whether NCAT could hear and determine a dispute arising under the Act between a resident of New South Wales and a resident of another State. It was common ground that in determining Mr Burns’ complaints, NCAT was exercising the judicial power of the State despite it not being a “court of a State” within the meaning of Chapter III. The Court held that NCAT had no jurisdiction to hear and determine the complaints against Ms Corbett or Mr Gaynor.

The High Court unanimously dismissed the appeals with a majority deciding that Chapter III permitted adjudicative authority concerning the matters in ss 75 and 76 to be exercised only by a State court. Chapter III would be undermined were a State Parliament able to confer adjudicative authority concerning any of the matters referred to in ss 75 and 76 on a State tribunal that was not a State court.

Parties to current litigation in VCAT need to consider whether the proceeding can continue in the Tribunal.

 

 

 

 

[1]See s.89(4) of the Retail Leases Act2003.

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Franchisees beware of arbitration clauses

There is a translation key(widget) on the mirrored blog for ease of reading for non-English speaking members of the public or professionals. The mirrored blog can be found at http://roberthaybarrister.blogspot.com.au/

 

Prospective franchisees should be cautious about agreeing to the inclusion of arbitration clauses in franchise agreements. It is common for a franchisee to enter into an ‘occupancy’ or ‘licence’ agreement with an entity associated with the franchisor which entity is the lessee of the premises from which the franchisee will conduct its business.

 

At the sane tine the franchisee usually enters into a franchise agreement with the franchisor. The so-called ‘occupancy’ or ‘licence’ agreement commonly has all the characteristics of a lease with the consequence that the agreement is a lease. In Victoria, if the ‘occupancy’ or ‘licence’ agreement is a lease any dispute will constitute a  ‘retail tenancy dispute’ governed by Part 10 of the Retail Leases Act 2003 (2003 Act).

 

VCAT has exclusive jurisdiction to hear and determine ‘retail tenancy disputes’.  If the dispute resolution provisions in the franchise agreement require that disputes under that agreement be referred to arbitration the franchisee could be in the difficult position of having to prosecute or defend two proceedings at the same time – one  in VCAT and another before an arbitrator.

 

This is the consequence of the Court of Appeal’s decision in Subway Systems Australia v Ireland [2014] VSCA 142. In that case the franchisee conducted its business from premises in Doncaster, Victoria.  The arbitration clause in the franchise agreement required the arbitration to take place in Queensland. VCAT held that the “licence” agreement was a sub-lease with the consequence that that dispute will be determined as a ‘retail premises dispute” in VCAT in Victoria under the 2003 Act.

 

VCAT also decided that it  could hear and determine the dispute under the franchise agreement. The Court of Appeal held that VCAT did not have jurisdiction to hear and determine the dispute under the franchise agreement which will have to be heard and determined by an arbitrator in Queensland.

 

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VCAT is a “court” and therefore arbitration clause effective

There is a translation key(widget)  on this blog for ease of reading for non-English speaking members of the public or professionals. http://roberthaybarrister.blogspot.com.au/

 

In  Subway Systems Australia Pty Ltd v Ireland [2013] VSC 550 Croft J held that a requirement in a franchise agreement that disputes be referred to arbitration did not prevent VCAT hearing and determining the dispute.

The matter came before Croft J as an application for leave after a VCAT member declined to find that the Tribunal was bound by  s.8 of the Commercial Arbitration Act 2011 (Vic)) (CAA) to refer the dispute to arbitration.

In broad terms s.8 of the CAA requires a court before which an action is brought in a matter which is the subject of an arbitration agreement to refer the matter to arbitration if one of the parties makes that request. Croft J held that VCAT was not a “court” for the purpose of s.8(1) and therefore VCAT was not bound to refer the dispute to arbitration.

In Subway Systems Australia Pty Ltd v Ireland [2014] VSCA 142 the Court of Appeal allowed an appeal from Justice Croft’s decision. Maxwell P and Beach JA held that VCAT was a “court” for the purposes of s.8 of the CAA. Kyrou AJA dissented. This means that the dispute must now be referred to arbitration. The Court of Appeal’s decision can be found here:

Subway Systems v Ireland_merged_17114[1]

 

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Landlord’s consideration of proposed assignment must be “reasonable”

 

There is a translation key(widget)  on this blog for ease of reading for non-English speaking members of the public or professionals. http://roberthaybarrister.blogspot.com.au/

 

Section 60 of the Retail Leases Act 2003 prescribes when a landlord can withhold consent to a proposed assignment of a retail premises lease. The most significant provision is sub-section 60(1)(b) which provides that:

“(1)           A landlord is only entitled to withhold consent to the assignment of a retail premises lease if one or more of the following applies –

….

(b)             the landlord considers that the proposed assignee does not have sufficient financial resources or business experience to meet the obligations under the lease;”

 

On its face s.60(1)(b) appears to give the landlord unfettered power to withhold consent – that is the landlord’s subjective view is all that matters. Despite the wording of the section VCAT has implied a requirement that the landlord must act “reasonably” in undertaking its consideration. In AAMR Hospitality Group Pty Ltd v Goodpar Pty Ltd [2009] VCAT 2782 Deputy President Macnamara held at [45] that:

“With the utmost hesitation however I consider that the words ‘reasonably’ or ‘acting reasonably’ should be read into section 60(1)(b)……. The overriding policy evident in the Retail Leases Act is to provide special protection to a limited class of commercial tenants, namely those who are tenants of small retail tenancies and do not have the clout that say a listed corporation would have. The provisions of the statute are aimed at providing protection to this class of tenant and constraining and restricting a largely unrestricted power which landlords of these premises at common law and before the enactment of special retail tenancies legislation had available. To construe a provision such as section 60(1)(b) such that one of the protected class of tenants was to be at the mercy of the purely subjective determination of a lessor would not be conducive to the statute’s overall policy, per contra it would tend to subvert the wider policy of the statute, …”

In a recent decision Member Farrelly said  that he agreed with Deputy President Macnamara’s reasoning and construed s.60(1)(b) as if it the word “reasonably” appeared before “considers”. See: Villa v Emaan Pty Ltd [2014] VCAT 274 at [47]- [48].

 

My clerk can be contacted via this link for bookings  http://www.greenslist.com.au/

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Arbitration clause ineffective to oust VCAT’s jurisdiction

In a fascinating decision given today the Supreme Court of Victoria held that an arbitration clause in a lease could not oust VCAT’s jurisdiction under the Retail Leases Act 2003 (2003 Act).  In Subway Systems Australia  Pty Ltd v Ireland [2013] VSC 550 Croft J held that VCAT was not a “court” within the meaning of the Commercial Arbitration Act 2011 (Cmlth).  The matter came before Croft J after a VCAT member declined to find that the Tribunal was bound to refer the dispute to arbitration under s.8 of the CAA. In broad terms s.8 of the CAA requires a court before which an action is brought in a matter which is the subject of an arbitration agreement to  refer the matter to arbitration if one of the parties  makes that request.  Croft J held that VCAT was not a “court” for the purpose of s.8(1) of the CAA and therefore VCAT was not bound to refer the dispute to arbitration.  His Honour also accepted that  by the time s.8 of the CAA might be said by a party to a lease to be engaged, s.94 of the 2003 Act  had already rendered void the clause requiring disputes under the lease to go to arbitration. Section 94(2) of the 2003 Act provides that a provision in a retail premises lease is void to the extent that it purport to exclude the application of a provision of the 2003 Act  or to limit the right of a party to a lease to seek resolution of a retail tenancy dispute under Part 10 of the 2003 Act.

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