FAQs

Please note the information on this page is not to be taken as specific legal advice. If you need assistance in resolving a dispute, please refer to our dispute applications page.

Commercial Tenancy Relief Scheme - support for tenants and landlords in response to coronavirus (COVID-19) FAQs

1. What support is available to landlords and tenants who have been impacted by restrictions in response to coronavirus (COVID-19)?

1. What support is available to landlords and tenants who have been impacted by restrictions in response to coronavirus (COVID-19)?

The Victorian Government introduced the Commercial Tenancy Relief Scheme (the Scheme) to alleviate financial hardship faced by commercial tenants and landlords as a result of coronavirus.

The Scheme provides:

  • a six-month moratorium on evictions for not paying rent for small to medium enterprises (SMEs) with an annual turnover under $50m that have had a minimum 30 per cent reduction in turnover because of coronavirus, starting from 29 March 2020
  • a freeze on rent increases during the moratorium
  • rent relief in the form of a rent payment waiver or deferral proportionate to the tenant’s reduction in income because of coronavirus, to be negotiated between the tenant and landlord
  • a free mediation service for commercial tenants and landlords, accessed through the VSBC, to support fair tenancy negotiations.

Regulations for the Scheme (COVID-19 Regulations) have been made under the COVID-19 Omnibus (Emergency Measures) Act 2020. These Regulations create temporary requirements for landlords and tenants during the moratorium.

For more information about the Scheme see the Victorian Government’s policy guidance.

2. What if a tenant can’t keep paying rent because of coronavirus?

2. What if a tenant can’t keep paying rent because of coronavirus?

If a tenant is having trouble paying rent because of coronavirus, the Victorian Small Business Commission (VSBC) recommends:

  • they keep paying what they can afford
  • work out what their financial situation is (i.e. what their reduction in turnover is)
  • talk to their landlord as early as possible to communicate their situation and try to reach an agreement on rent relief through negotiating in good faith.

If anything is unclear or if they have concerns, they can contact the VSBC for help. If they cannot reach an agreement, the tenant or landlord can apply to the VSBC for help in resolving their rent dispute through free mediation.

3. Is a tenant entitled to rent relief if they have experienced a loss of business because of coronavirus (COVID-19)?

3. Is a tenant entitled to rent relief if they have experienced a loss of business because of coronavirus (COVID-19)?

A tenant is entitled to rent relief under the Commercial Tenancy Relief Scheme if they:

  • occupy premises under an eligible lease and
  • are an SME with an annual turnover under $50m and
  • are an employer participating in the JobKeeper scheme.

4. What is rent relief?

4. What is rent relief?

Rent relief is any form of relief provided to a tenant in relation to their obligation under a lease to pay rent. It can take the form of a rent waiver, reduction, remission or deferral. An offer of rent relief must be based on all the circumstances of the lease and relate to up to 100 per cent of the rent payable during the relevant period. At least 50 per cent of the rent relief offered must be in the form of a rent waiver unless the landlord and tenant reach a different agreement in writing.

5. What does proportionate reduction in rent mean?

5. What does proportionate reduction in rent mean?

There is an expectation that rent relief should be provided in proportion to the decline in the tenant’s turnover. When determining the amount of rent relief to be provided, all of the circumstances of the lease should be considered, including the landlord’s and tenant’s individual financial circumstances.

If a landlord offers rent relief that is not in proportion to the tenant’s decline in financial circumstances, the landlord should provide documentation of their financial position to the tenant to justify the amount of rent relief offered.

6. What is the period during which rent relief must be provided?

6. What is the period during which rent relief must be provided?

The relevant period is from 29 March 2020 to 29 September 2020.

7. What is an ‘eligible lease’?

7. What is an ‘eligible lease’?

An eligible lease is a retail or non-retail commercial lease or licence under which the tenant (which includes licensees) is an SME and an employer who participates in the JobKeeper scheme. Some farming and agricultural leases are not included.

8. What is not an eligible lease?

8. What is not an eligible lease?

Leases that are not eligible include:

  • some farming and agricultural leases
  • leases where the tenant is a member of (or has a connection with) a group of entities prescribed under the Income Tax Assessment Act 1997 that has an aggregate turnover over $50m.

9. Can a tenant who is not under an eligible lease apply for rent relief and assistance from the Victorian Small Business Commission (VSBC)?

9. Can a tenant who is not under an eligible lease apply for rent relief and assistance from the Victorian Small Business Commission (VSBC)?

Yes. Where a tenant is not under an eligible lease, the Australian Government’s Mandatory Code of Conduct for commercial tenancies to support SMEs affected by coronavirus (COVID-19) (the Code), which is endorsed by the Victorian Government, should be used as a guide by the tenant and landlord. The requirement to negotiate in ‘good faith’ means landlords and tenants should genuinely cooperate to reach agreement.

The VSBC offers a dispute resolution process, which includes a mediation service, to assist businesses that need help in resolving rent relief disputes. At mediation, parties can be reminded of the Code, encouraged to discuss their differences in a safe environment and recognise that genuine hardship has occurred, in accordance with the Code.

10. When requesting rent relief, what document does a tenant need to show to prove they participate in the JobKeeper scheme?

10. When requesting rent relief, what document does a tenant need to show to prove they participate in the JobKeeper scheme?

To prove they participate in the JobKeeper scheme, a tenant can provide a copy of their Business Enrolment for JobKeeper Wage Subsidy ATO receipt that they received after the ATO accepted their application for JobKeeper. A tenant can request a copy of the  receipt from the ATO’s call centre.

11. How is ‘turnover’ defined?

11. How is ‘turnover’ defined?

Turnover is defined as the annual turnover of an SME for a financial year. It is the total of:

  • the proceeds of sales of goods and/or services
  • commission income
  • repair and service income
  • rent, leasing and hiring income
  • government bounties and subsidies
  • interest, royalties and dividends
  • other operating income.

A landlord can request turnover information from the tenant to help inform their offer of rent relief.

12. How is turnover calculated?

12. How is turnover calculated?

Examples of ways a tenant can calculate turnover include:

  • comparing their actual turnover for March 2020 with March 2019 or
  • comparing likely turnover for April 2020 with actual sales for April 2019 or
  • comparing likely turnover for the April to June quarter with actual sales in that quarter in 2019 or
  • comparing actual or likely turnover for a later month or quarter to the same period in 2019 until the end of the relevant period.

To work out likely turnover, tenants need to use a cash or accruals basis to calculate a decline in turnover. However, they must use the same method for both periods. This means that if they used a cash basis to work out turnover in March 2020, they will need to use a cash basis to work out turnover in March 2019 and:

  • make a reasonable estimate and
  • document the reasons for the estimate.

The ATO offers further guidance in calculating turnover.

13. Should payments received under the JobKeeper scheme be included in turnover calculations?

13. Should payments received under the JobKeeper scheme be included in turnover calculations?

Payments that a tenant receives from their participation in the JobKeeper scheme should not be included in turnover calculations to determine the proportion of rent relief, as these payments must be fully paid to the employee by the business.

14. How does a business that has traded for less than 12 months calculate a reduction in turnover?

14. How does a business that has traded for less than 12 months calculate a reduction in turnover?

The ATO offers information on an alternative test that can be taken by businesses that have traded for less than 12 months.

15. How does a tenant request rent relief?

15. How does a tenant request rent relief?

When a tenant requests rent relief from their landlord, the request must:

  • be in writing and
  • be accompanied by a statement that the tenant’s lease is an eligible lease and the lease is covered by the Commercial Tenancy Relief Scheme and
  • include information that verifies the tenant is an SME entity and qualifies for, and participates in, the JobKeeper scheme.

16. What turnover information is appropriate for a landlord to request from the tenant to help inform their offer of rent relief?

16. What turnover information is appropriate for a landlord to request from the tenant to help inform their offer of rent relief?

A landlord can ask the tenant for information:

  • extracted from an accounting system
  • extracted from BAS
  • provided to a financial institution.

17. What turnover information is not appropriate for a landlord to request from a tenant to help inform their offer of rent relief?

17. What turnover information is not appropriate for a landlord to request from a tenant to help inform their offer of rent relief?

A landlord should not:

  • request future cash flow projections
  • request balance sheets, profit and loss or year to date financials
  • request the tenant’s bank balance
  • require the financial information to be verified, examined, assured, audited or provided by a third party such as an accountant
  • require an accountant to provide a letter of comfort or similar on the financial information
  • request financial information for periods other than the ‘relevant period’ (i.e. the period nominated by the tenant as the period for a reduction in turnover).

18. What does a landlord need to do to respond to a tenant’s request for rent relief?

18. What does a landlord need to do to respond to a tenant’s request for rent relief?

A landlord must offer rent relief to an eligible tenant within 14 days after receiving the tenant’s request unless a different time frame has been agreed to by the landlord and tenant in writing.

An offer of rent relief must relate to up to 100 per cent of the rent payable under the lease during the relevant period. At least 50 per cent of the rent relief offered must be in the form of a rent waiver unless the landlord and tenant reach a different agreement in writing.

19. Do landlords and tenants need to negotiate rent relief after the landlord makes an offer?

19. Do landlords and tenants need to negotiate rent relief after the landlord makes an offer?

Once a tenant has received the landlord’s offer, the landlord and tenant must continue to negotiate in good faith with the aim of reaching agreement on rent relief for the relevant period.

20. Does a landlord’s rent relief offer need to directly equal a reduction in turnover?

20. Does a landlord’s rent relief offer need to directly equal a reduction in turnover?

A landlord’s offer of rent relief must be based on all the circumstances of the lease and relate to the relevant period, taking into account:

  • the reduction in a tenant’s turnover associated with the premises during the relevant period
  • any waiver of outgoings provided by the landlord
  • whether a failure to offer sufficient rent relief would compromise a tenant’s ongoing obligations under the lease, including the payment of rent
  • a landlord’s financial ability to offer rent relief, including any relief provided to a landlord by any of its lenders in response to coronavirus (COVID-19)
  • any reduction by a third party to any outgoings levied in relation to the premises.

21. Is a tenant in breach of their lease if they do not pay rent during the relevant period?

21. Is a tenant in breach of their lease if they do not pay rent during the relevant period?

A tenant is not in breach of the lease if they do not pay the required rent during the relevant period providing:

  • the process for requesting rent relief has been followed or
  • during the relevant period the tenant pays the amount of rent in line with any variation to the lease or any other agreement that gives effect to rent relief either directly or indirectly.

22. Can a tenant reduce opening hours or close their business even though they could keep trading in another way e.g. takeaway or click and collect?

22. Can a tenant reduce opening hours or close their business even though they could keep trading in another way e.g. takeaway or click and collect?

A tenant is not in breach of the lease if they reduce opening hours or if they close their business and stop carrying out business at the premises.

23. Can a tenant be evicted for not paying rent or for reducing opening hours or closing their business during the relevant period?

23. Can a tenant be evicted for not paying rent or for reducing opening hours or closing their business during the relevant period?

If a tenant has followed the process for requesting rent relief and is paying the amount of rent agreed to with the landlord, the landlord must not:

  • evict or attempt to evict a tenant
  • re-enter or otherwise recover the premises or attempt to do so.

If the landlord breaches either of the above requirements, they can be fined $3,304.40.

24. Can a tenant apply for mediation if they do not qualify for JobKeeper?

24. Can a tenant apply for mediation if they do not qualify for JobKeeper?

Yes. The Victorian Small Business Commission continues to provide a quick and confidential mediation service to help small businesses, landlords and tenants resolve disputes.

25. How is rent relief agreed to?

25. How is rent relief agreed to?

A landlord and the tenant can agree to rent relief by a variation to the lease or any other agreement between them that gives effect to the rent relief, either directly or indirectly.

26. Can a tenant ask for more rent relief after an agreement has been made?

26. Can a tenant ask for more rent relief after an agreement has been made?

If the financial circumstances of a tenant deteriorate after a variation has been made to the lease or an agreement has been reached, the tenant can make a further request to the landlord for rent relief. To negotiate further rent relief, the landlord and tenant must follow the same process for agreeing to the initial rent relief, though the landlord is not required to offer at least 50 per cent of the further rent relief in the form of a rent waiver.

27. Can rent be increased during the relevant period (including after an agreement has been reached), if the tenant’s situation improves?

27. Can rent be increased during the relevant period (including after an agreement has been reached), if the tenant’s situation improves?

A landlord must not increase the rent payable at any time during the relevant period, unless the landlord and tenant agree in writing that the regulation preventing a rent increase does not apply to their lease. This restriction does not apply to a retail lease where the lease allows rent to be determined by the tenant’s volume of trade.

If a tenant’s business improves during the coronavirus pandemic, it is not the Government’s intent that a new negotiation is required.

28. If rent is deferred, is the lease extended?

28. If rent is deferred, is the lease extended?

If payment of any rent is deferred by variation of a lease or other agreement between a landlord and tenant, the landlord must offer the tenant an extension to their lease equal to the length of time for which rent is deferred. This extension must be on the same terms and conditions that applied under the lease before the COVID-19 Regulations were implemented.

29. Is a landlord required to reduce or refund outgoings?

29. Is a landlord required to reduce or refund outgoings?

If a third party reduces any outgoings charged in relation to the premises, a landlord must not require a tenant to pay any amount that is greater than the tenant’s proportional share of the reduced outgoing. If a tenant has already paid the landlord an amount greater than a tenant’s proportional share of the reduced outgoing, the landlord must reimburse the excess amount as soon as possible.

30. Can a landlord stop providing services at the premises?

30. Can a landlord stop providing services at the premises?

If a tenant is unable to operate their business at the premises for any length of time during the relevant period, the landlord can stop providing, or reduce the provision of, any service at the premises, provided this is reasonable in the circumstances and in response to any reasonable request of the tenant.

31. If an agreement is reached to defer rent, when is that rent payable?

31. If an agreement is reached to defer rent, when is that rent payable?

A landlord and tenant must vary the lease or otherwise agree to the tenant’s payment of the deferred rent to be spread over the remaining term of the lease (including any extension) or 24 months, whichever is greater. How the deferred rent is paid is to be agreed to by the landlord and tenant.

32. Can a landlord hold the bond until deferred rent has been paid?

32. Can a landlord hold the bond until deferred rent has been paid?

Depending on the terms of the lease or other agreement reached between the landlord and tenant, a landlord might be able to hold the security deposit until after the tenant has finished paying the deferred rent.

33. Can a landlord require the tenant to pay interest or other fees or charges in relation to paying deferred rent?

33. Can a landlord require the tenant to pay interest or other fees or charges in relation to paying deferred rent?

A landlord must not require a tenant to pay interest or any other fee or charge in relation to any payment of rent deferred by varying the lease or other agreement.

34. How can a landlord and tenant resolve a dispute?

34. How can a landlord and tenant resolve a dispute?

If a landlord and tenant need help to resolve a dispute about rent relief, either the landlord or tenant can apply to the Victorian Small Business Commission for help.

Help includes assistance early on, often just over the phone, and where disputes cannot be resolved this way, access to free mediation. At mediation, an experienced and independent mediator will guide both parties in fair tenancy negotiations with the aim of reaching an outcome that both parties accept.

35. When applying for mediation, what are the meanings of the terms ‘applicant’ and ‘respondent’?

35. When applying for mediation, what are the meanings of the terms ‘applicant’ and ‘respondent’?

The ‘applicant’ is the person, business or company applying for mediation. The ‘respondent’ is the person, business or company receiving the application for mediation (i.e. the person, business or company that the applicant is in a dispute with).

36. Is mediation binding?

36. Is mediation binding?

If a landlord and tenant reach agreement at mediation, they can sign binding Terms of Settlement.

37. If a dispute cannot be resolved at mediation can it be determined by the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) or a Court?

37. If a dispute cannot be resolved at mediation can it be determined by the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) or a Court?

If a dispute about a lease cannot be resolved at mediation, a landlord or tenant can apply to VCAT or a Court to determine the dispute. A lease dispute (other than an application for an order in the nature of an injunction) can only be the subject of a proceeding in VCAT or a Court if the VSBC has certified in writing that mediation failed or is unlikely to resolve the dispute.

38. Is the information provided by a landlord or tenant protected by confidentiality?

38. Is the information provided by a landlord or tenant protected by confidentiality?

Yes, a landlord or tenant must not divulge personal information, information relating to business processes or financial information (including information about the business owner’s trade) except where permitted by the COVID-19 Regulations.

39. Does a tenant’s eligibility for rent relief change depending on eligibility for, and participation in JobKeeper at various points in time?

39. Does a tenant’s eligibility for rent relief change depending on eligibility for, and participation in JobKeeper at various points in time?

No. The ATO states that if a business qualifies for JobKeeper payments for the first fortnight because turnover has declined by the required amount, the business remains eligible and does not need to keep testing turnover in the following months. However, the business will have ongoing monthly reporting requirements.

Dispute resolution FAQs

1. What matters are dealt with through preliminary assistance versus mediation?

1. What matters are dealt with through preliminary assistance versus mediation?

This is very much dependent on the issues and the nature of the parties’ dispute. Sometimes, in the case of small amounts of money, or where the legal obligations of one or both parties are clear, preliminary assistance may take place.

Equally, the respondent may receive the letter from the VSBC and decide to fix the problem upon receipt of the letter and the tenant’s application. For example, a landlord who has ignored a tenant’s request to fix a leaking roof may decide to address the issue immediately rather than go through the dispute resolution process with the VSBC.

 

2. Are there any disputes that the VSBC doesn’t handle?

2. Are there any disputes that the VSBC doesn’t handle?

The VSBC may refuse to deal with a complaint that it considers vexatious, trivial, unlikely to be resolved, or more appropriately handled by another body. We will assess this upon receiving an application for dispute or during a preliminary phone call with one or both of the parties.

The VSBC has no definition of ‘small business’ and can deal with any dispute between businesses, with local or state government bodies or not-for-profits.

3. How does the VSBC resolve disputes?

3. How does the VSBC resolve disputes?

If you are interested in dispute resolution assistance from the VSBC you will first need to complete an application form. Before you submit this we encourage you to try to resolve the dispute directly with the other party first.

When we have received an application form from a business, the VSBC will offer pre-mediation services. This process involves a dispute resolution officer who will contact both parties, by phone or email,  and attempt to resolve the dispute by working through the issues.

If this is unsuccessful, the dispute resolution officer will forward the parties to mediation.

For more information, see dispute resolution.

4. How do I notify the VSBC of a dispute?

4. How do I notify the VSBC of a dispute?

If you would like to notify the VSBC of a dispute, complete the appropriate application form:

5. What if the matter is urgent?

5. What if the matter is urgent?

The VSBC has the capacity to handle a dispute if the parties are seeking urgent mediation.

However, if you are seeking an urgent injunction (an order requiring one party to do, or stop doing, certain things), you may need to go directly to VCAT or the Courts.

6. What happens if I decline to participate in dispute resolution?

6. What happens if I decline to participate in dispute resolution?

If you decline to participate in dispute resolution or the mediation process, the VSBC can issue a certificate stating that you have refused to participate. The outcome of this differs depending on which legislation your dispute falls under.

For retail leasing, goods and freight owner drivers , and taxi, hire cars and rideshare disputes, the VSBC may issue a certificate stating that reasonable attempts have been made to arrange mediation or another form of alternative dispute resolution but have been unsuccessful because the:

  • applicant/respondent refused to take part in mediation
  • applicant/respondent withdrew from mediation
  • applicant/respondent cannot be contacted
  • respondent agreed to mediate but was unavailable for mediation for an extended period of time
  • applicant/respondent failed to attend scheduled mediation session

This certificate is necessary for the matter to be referred to VCAT.

In the case of disputes relating to small businesses, if a party refuses to engage with the VSBC in trying to resolve the complaint and the VSBC determines that refusal is unreasonable, we may issue a certificate to that effect and publish details of that certificate in the VSBC’s Annual Report to Parliament.

The certificate may be admitted as evidence in proceedings before the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) or a court.

The Commissioner has developed Operational Guidelines on what is considered ‘unreasonable refusal’ for disputes under the Small Business Commission Act 2017.

In the case of farmers in default on a farm debt, if the farmer seeks mediation through the VSBC, the creditor requires a certificate from the VSBC to enable it to take enforcement action.

If a certificate relating to retail leasing, owner driver/forestry contractor dispute or taxi driver and operator dispute states that a party refused to mediate or withdrew from mediation, VCAT has the discretion to award costs against that party if the matter proceeds to VCAT.

7. Do I need to respond to a letter from the VSBC?

7. Do I need to respond to a letter from the VSBC?

If you have received an initial letter or email from the VSBC in regards to a complaint, you will be requested to make contact with the VSBC by the date specified in the correspondence.

If you are unsure about the letter or the complaint, Contact Us.

8. Can the VSBC help me?

8. Can the VSBC help me?

The VSBC can help if you are a small or medium business operator and need assistance on any matter relating to unfair market practices or commercial dealings. At least one party to the dispute needs to be in Victoria.

If you are unsure if our services are right for you,  Contact Us or call us on 13 VSBC (13 8722).

You can discuss your concerns with a dispute resolution officer who may suggest that you complete an application or other means for resolving the dispute.

9. Who is a respondent?

9. Who is a respondent?

A respondent is someone who receives notification from the VSBC asking that they engage with the VSBC to resolve a dispute. It is important to remember that, even if you are the respondent, the VSBC does not take sides. Our aim is to find a resolution that is acceptable to both parties.

10. Who is an applicant?

10. Who is an applicant?

An applicant is a person or business applying for dispute resolution services.

Mediation FAQs

1. How much does mediation cost?

1. How much does mediation cost?

For most business disputes, each party currently pays $195 per session for mediation, making it a very low-cost alternative to litigation. The exceptions are owner driver and forestry contractors, and taxi, hire cars and rideshare driver and operator disputes, which currently cost $95 per party.

If either side wants to bring along their own lawyer they can do so, but at their own cost.

Payment must be made on the day of mediation (EFTPOS or cheque) or prior to mediation by contacting the VSBC offices.

2. What happens if mediation is successful?

2. What happens if mediation is successful?

If the mediation is successful, both parties sign a Terms of Settlement.

The Terms of Settlement are legally enforceable – that is, if either party breaches the agreement (for example, by not paying money as per the agreement), the other party may take the agreement to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) or the courts for enforcement.

3. Can mediation be rescheduled?

3. Can mediation be rescheduled?

Yes, within reason (such as medical reasons). The rescheduled mediation must occur within 30 days of the original mediation date.

If a mediation session is arranged and you cannot participate on the day, or do not want to proceed, the VSBC must be notified at least five working days prior to the scheduled date. For any notice period of less than five days, you will be invoiced the full cost of mediation ($900).

4. What if a party doesn’t turn up?

4. What if a party doesn’t turn up?

Occasionally this will happen. In most cases, a certificate is issued stating this. The mediator engaged for the session will invoice the party who has not attended the full cost of the mediation ($900).

5. Where does mediation take place?

5. Where does mediation take place?

Victorian Small Business Commission mediation rooms:

Level 2, 121 Exhibition Street
Melbourne Victoria 3000

For disputes in regional areas, mediations can be arranged in a location that suits both parties.

The VSBC will arrange for a mediator to travel to regional locations and organise the venue. Some VSBC mediators are regionally based.

6. What happens if my dispute is not resolved at mediation?

6. What happens if my dispute is not resolved at mediation?

The answer to this question depends on what type of dispute you have. In general the VSBC has the capacity to issue a certificate stating that the mediation was unsuccessful. This certificate can enable a party to progress the matter to litigation for some disputes.

7. What documents do I need to bring?

7. What documents do I need to bring?

If you have extra documents in addition to the ones already provided to the VSBC and you plan to refer to those during the mediation, either send them to the mediator or have them available on the day of the mediation.

You don’t have to share documents with the other party, but this occurs in most cases as it can help the mediation. Sometimes, for example, a party may choose to provide documentation to the dispute resolution officer or mediator as background information only.

If you need to clarify any issues about the delivery of the documents, contact the mediator using the contact information provided in the invitation.

Reference documents relevant to the dispute may be provided to all parties before mediation.

8. How long does mediation take?

8. How long does mediation take?

The average length of mediation is around three to four hours, but it can sometimes take longer. Consider this when making your plans for the day and, if you travel by car, be sure to make appropriate parking arrangements.

9. How should I prepare for mediation?

9. How should I prepare for mediation?

It is important you are well prepared to make the most of the mediation as it may be your last opportunity to meet with the other party to try and resolve the matter before litigation. For more information about how you can prepare for your mediation see our mediation checklist.

10. What if English is my second language?

10. What if English is my second language?

If you believe you might have some language difficulties, contact the VSBC and ask for an interpreter to be at the mediation. The VSBC will provide this service free of charge. You may also have a friend or family member present to translate, if needed.

11. Can I bring along a friend or relative?

11. Can I bring along a friend or relative?

Yes, you may wish to have a support person to either attend mediation with you, or be on the phone during the process. If you intend to bring along a person for support, you must provide the name and role of the person to the VSBC prior to mediation. See see Authority to participate in VSBC mediation.

12. Can I have a lawyer present?

12. Can I have a lawyer present?

You may wish to have legal or other professional representation. If you believe you will need such representation, make sure you can afford it and make all the arrangements well in advance so these representatives can prepare and make themselves available for the mediation. You must also notify the VSBC with the names and roles of the people who will attend the mediation. See see Authority to participate in VSBC mediation.

There is no requirement for you to be represented – you make the decision.

13. Do I need to attend mediation in person?

13. Do I need to attend mediation in person?

The process of mediation works better if the parties themselves are present. However, you can have representatives in your place, as long as those representatives can make a decision, and sign a written settlement agreement at the end of the mediation on your behalf.

If you are unable to attend your mediation, you need to arrange for another person to have authority  to make decisions on your behalf. For more information see Authority to participate in VSBC mediation.

14. How long does it take to get my case to mediation?

14. How long does it take to get my case to mediation?

Mediation is generally held around 6-8 weeks after the dispute is referred to the VSBC. It can be organised much faster if both parties are agreeable, or the matter is urgent.

15. How do I get my case to mediation?

15. How do I get my case to mediation?

To apply for mediation, complete an application form.

Small business FAQs

1. Does the VSBC arrange mediation for all small business disputes?

1. Does the VSBC arrange mediation for all small business disputes?

The VSBC will first attempt to resolve a dispute through preliminary assistance and some ‘shuttle negotiation’ between the parties. Where this is not possible, the VSBC will determine if mediation is appropriate for the particular dispute. Factors taken into account include the amount in dispute, and whether the nature of dispute lends itself to a negotiated outcome.

2. Is there a limit to the amount in dispute the VSBC can deal with?

2. Is there a limit to the amount in dispute the VSBC can deal with?

No. The VSBC can assist with any amount in dispute, ranging from hundreds of dollars to millions of dollars.

3. Can the VSBC refuse to accept an application from a business?

3. Can the VSBC refuse to accept an application from a business?

The VSBC can determine not to deal with an application if the dispute appears trivial, vexatious or not within the VSBC jurisdiction. Otherwise, the VSBC accepts disputes from all types and sizes of businesses. There is usually a small or medium sized business involved in any dispute.

4. Does a general commercial dispute have to be brought to the VSBC?

4. Does a general commercial dispute have to be brought to the VSBC?

No. There is no statutory obligation for general commercial disputes to come to the VSBC. But they can be. Resolution rates for these types of disputes is high, keeping both parties out of expensive and distracting litigation.

5. What happens if my business dispute is not resolved at mediation?

5. What happens if my business dispute is not resolved at mediation?

If mediation takes place and a dispute is not resolved, the VSBC can issue a certificate stating that alternative dispute resolution has been attempted but has been unsuccessful. For some disputes, this certificate is necessary for the matter to proceed to litigation.

6. What happens if I don’t engage with the VSBC in a general business dispute?

6. What happens if I don’t engage with the VSBC in a general business dispute?

The VSBC cannot compel a party to engage under any Act. If a party refuses to engage with the VSBC in trying to resolve the complaint and the VSBC determines that refusal is unreasonable, they may issue a certificate to that effect and publish details of that certificate in the VSBC’s Annual Report to Parliament.

This certificate may be used before the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) or a court.

The VSBC has developed Operational Guidelines on what it deems as ‘unreasonable refusal’.

7. What if I am a franchisee and have a dispute?

7. What if I am a franchisee and have a dispute?

If you are a franchisee and you have a dispute, the VSBC can help you by offering low-cost, speedy and high-quality mediation services.

Under the Franchising Code of Conduct, mediation of a dispute is mandatory. The VSBC mediation service satisfies the requirements of the Code.

You can find out more on our how mediation works page.

If the issue relates to your lease agreement, see the entering into a retail lease page.

8. What is a general business or commercial dispute?

8. What is a general business or commercial dispute?

A general business or commercial dispute can be described as a conflict arising from any commercial agreement between businesses, or between businesses and government or not-for-profit organisations.

9. What types of small business disputes does the VSBC handle?

9. What types of small business disputes does the VSBC handle?

The VSBC is not constrained by any legislated definition of ‘small business’. We receive complaints from businesses about all forms of commercial dealings, including disputes with other businesses, not-for-profits, and local and state government entities. We can also resolve disputes that do not fall under the jurisdiction of the other Acts administered by the VSBC. These may involve franchises, non-retail leases, buying a business, intellectual property, distribution agreements, licences, supply chains, partnership break-ups, etc.

Retail tenants and landlords FAQs

1. Does a tenant have to pay GST under the lease?

1. Does a tenant have to pay GST under the lease?

If a landlord is registered for GST then GST is payable on rent and outgoings. However, often there can be confusion about whether a lease is inclusive of exclusive of GST. It is therefore important that a lease specifies whether GST is inclusive or exclusive.

The landlord’s disclosure statement for new leases (Schedules 1 and 2) makes provision for the landlord to outline whether GST is inclusive or exclusive.

More information about how GST applies to outgoings for retail leases can be found on the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) website or by contacting the ATO on 13 28 66.

2. What happens if a tenant receives a notice of default from the landlord?

2. What happens if a tenant receives a notice of default from the landlord?

If a landlord deems that a tenant has breached the lease, the landlord may issue a notice of default to the tenant. Default notices are often given to tenants for non-payment of rent. The process for issuing a notice of default will usually be what is outlined in the lease, i.e. the lease may state that if a tenant is behind in rent, the landlord may issue a breach notice to the tenant giving the tenant 14 days (or another time period reflected in the lease) to remedy the breach, otherwise the landlord may re-enter the premises.

Relevant legislation is Section 146 of the Property Law Act 1958 which covers restrictions and relief against forfeiture of leases and under-leases.

If a tenant has concerns that the landlord may re-enter the premise, the matter can be referred to VCAT for an urgent injunction.

3. What happens at the end of a lease?

3. What happens at the end of a lease?

If no option exists, the landlord must notify the tenant in writing within 6-12 months of the date the lease expires whether the landlord will offer a lease renewal or not, and if so, the terms of any renewal.

If an option exists, the landlord must notify the tenant of the last date the tenant can exercise the option, 6-12 months prior to that date.

An option may not be exercisable by the tenant if the tenant has not remedied any notified lease default or has persistently defaulted throughout the lease term.

If an option is exercised or the lease is to be renewed, the landlord must provide a disclosure statement at least 21 days prior to the end of the lease.

The landlord must return the security deposit plus interest as soon as practicable after the lease ends provided the tenant has performed all of its obligations under the lease.

See Options and Renewals and Security Deposits for more information.

4. What happens during a lease?

4. What happens during a lease?

During the term of a lease:

  • If the lease provides for a rent review, it must state when the review is to take place, and the basis on which the review will be made.
  • A lease cannot prevent the reduction of the rent when rent is reviewed or adjusted.
  • A tenant is only liable to pay outgoings specified in the estimate of outgoings and the lease.
  • The landlord must provide estimates of outgoings and statements of outgoings during the course of the lease.
  • Capital costs relating to the premises are not recoverable from the tenant.
  • Land tax is not recoverable from the tenant.
  • The landlord is responsible for maintaining the premises in a condition consistent with the condition of the premises when the lease was entered into. This includes the structure and fixtures, plant and equipment; and appliances, fittings and fixtures relating to specified services.
  • The tenant may arrange for urgent repairs, subject to complying with prescribed procedures.
  • The landlord must notify the tenant in writing at least 60 days prior to any proposed alterations or refurbishments that may affect the tenant’s business. The tenant may be entitled to compensation.
  • A landlord may be liable to pay a tenant compensation for loss or damage resulting from the landlord’s actions or in-actions affecting the tenant’s trading at the retail premises.

See the Retail Tenants and Landlords section for more information.

5. What happens if I wish to sell the business?

5. What happens if I wish to sell the business?

If you are selling the business and assigning (transferring) the lease:

  • A landlord is only entitled to withhold consent to the assignment (transfer) of a lease in certain, limited circumstances.
  • An assignment of a lease is taken as a continuation of that lease.
  • A landlord can recover from the tenant reasonable legal and other expenses incurred in connection with an assignment (or sublease).

See Assigning a retail premises lease for more information.

6. Can a tenant be prevented from assigning a lease?

6. Can a tenant be prevented from assigning a lease?

No, provided none of the limited grounds in section 60 of the Retail Leases Act 2003 exist on which a landlord may withhold consent to assignment.

Section 61 of the Act contains the procedure that a tenant must follow in order to obtain consent to assign the lease. The landlord has an obligation to act reasonably in consenting to a transfer of lease (section 144 of the Property Law Act, 1958).

See Assigning a retail premises lease for more information.

7. Does a ‘repainting’ clause mean the tenant has to repaint to a new condition even though the condition was poor to start with?

7. Does a ‘repainting’ clause mean the tenant has to repaint to a new condition even though the condition was poor to start with?

Yes, if this is what the tenant has agreed to in the lease. It is very important that tenants check a lease’s ‘make good’ and maintenance requirements. Wherever possible, tenants and landlords should agree on a Condition Report at the start of a lease to avoid future disputes.

8. What should I be aware of before entering a lease?

8. What should I be aware of before entering a lease?

Before entering into any contractual leasing arrangement, you should understand your rights, responsibilities and expectations. If you are unsure, seek legal advice.

Be aware, too, of the following:

  • A copy of the lease must be provided to the tenant at negotiation stage, together with a copy of Retail Leases -Important facts for tenants.
  • A Disclosure Statement must be given to the tenant at least seven days before entering into the lease.
  • A lease must be in writing and signed by all the parties to it, and the landlord must provide to the tenant a copy signed by both parties.
  • The landlord cannot pass onto the tenant the cost of preparing the lease or disclosure statement.
  • A lease term under the Retail Leases Act 2003 (including any options) must be at least five years, although a tenant may request a shorter term.

However, the Act (other than the dispute resolution provision) does not apply to a lease with a term of less than one year and where the tenant has not been in continuous occupancy for more than one year.

Money paid as a security deposit must be held by the landlord in an interest bearing account. Interest forms part of the security deposit.

See Retail Tenants and Landlords section for more information.

9. What happens if my retail leasing dispute is not resolved at mediation?

9. What happens if my retail leasing dispute is not resolved at mediation?

For disputes under the Retail Leases Act 2003, if mediation at the VSBC is unable to resolve the dispute, a certificate can be issued to enable a party to proceed to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT).

The VSBC can also certify that a party has refused to participate in the mediation or alternative dispute resolution process and this may have cost implications at VCAT for the party that refuses to participate.

10. Does the Retail Leases Act 2003 apply to offices?

10. Does the Retail Leases Act 2003 apply to offices?

This depends on the use of the premises under the terms of the lease. If the use is wholly or predominantly for the retail provision of services and the premises are wholly located within the ground, first and second storey, then yes.

A service business on the third storey (where there is a ground, first and second storey) and above is not covered by the Act, though the dispute resolution provisions do apply (Part 10 of the Act).

See VSBC Guidelines ‘What are “retail premises”? for more information.

11. Do all outgoings have to be listed in a commercial lease to enable the tenant to be charged?

11. Do all outgoings have to be listed in a commercial lease to enable the tenant to be charged?

Yes, this is provided for under section 39 of the Retail Leases Act 2003.

See Outgoings for more information.

12. When does a variation of a lease become a new lease?

12. When does a variation of a lease become a new lease?

This depends on the variation involved. In certain circumstances a variation can constitute a new lease, but it would depend on the variation in question.

A variation of lease occurs when a substantial change to the original lease is made.

Many variations will not necessarily cause a surrender and re-grant of a lease. If it is not the intention of the parties to create a new lease, legal advice should be obtained before a lease is varied, especially if such variations are to be extensive.

Note: If a new retail lease is created via a variation, the landlord must provide the tenant with a new Disclosure Statement.

13. Can a landlord force a tenant to move premises?

13. Can a landlord force a tenant to move premises?

The landlord can only force a tenant to move premises if a there is a relocation clause in the lease.

If the lease does not contain a relocation clause, the landlord cannot move the tenant.

If the lease does contain a relocation clause, it should specify the conditions under which the landlord can relocate the tenant.

Under the Retail Leases Act 2003 certain conditions for relocation apply to the lease. For example:

  • the new premises must be ‘reasonably comparable’ to the existing premises
  • the rent for the new premises is to be generally the same as for the existing premises
  • the landlord must pay the tenant’s reasonable costs of the relocation

In addition to the lease, the Act also provides that the Disclosure Statement (provided by the landlord to the tenant) must specify whether the lease contains a relocation clause and if the landlord has any plans for the building in which the premises are located during the term of the lease which may invoke the relocation clause.

Section 55 of the Act covers the issue of relocation of the tenant’s business.

14. Under what circumstances can a tenant claim compensation from a landlord?

14. Under what circumstances can a tenant claim compensation from a landlord?

Under the Retail Leases Act 2003, a tenant can claim reasonable compensation for interference from a landlord under the following circumstances:

  • if a landlord inhibits the tenant’s access to the premises
  • unreasonably taking action that causes significant disruption to the tenant’s trading at the premises
  • failing to rectify as soon as is practical any breakdown of plant or equipment that is not under the tenant’s care or maintenance.

Section 54 of the Act covers the issue of relocation of the tenant’s business. Disputes over compensation can be referred to the VSBC for dispute resolution.

15. Who determines the rent for a retail lease?

15. Who determines the rent for a retail lease?

For new retail premises leases, the rent will be negotiated and decided upon by the landlord and prospective tenant.

For existing leases, the rent will be determined by the rent review provisions in the lease and specifications in the lease.

Rental increases may occur throughout the lease – if the lease provides for it – by a fixed percentage or amount, or by a certain figure determined by the consumer price index (CPI).

If renewing a lease, the lease usually provides for a market review of the rent to determine the value. In this case a range of factors are considered, for example, the location, size and condition of the premises. If the parties cannot agree on the rental for the new term, the parties may require a valuer to determine the rent. If the parties cannot agree on the valuer’s appointment, the VSBC can assist parties in appointing a specialist retail valuer.

16. What should a tenant do if the landlord won’t maintain the premises?

16. What should a tenant do if the landlord won’t maintain the premises?

The landlord is obliged to maintain the premises consistent with the condition of the premises at the start of the lease. This requirement under the Retail Leases Act 2003 overrides any lease provisions to the contrary.

It is the landlord’s responsibility to repair the premises so the tenant can carry on their business uninterrupted.

See Repairs and maintenance for more information.

17. What if a tenant leaves the premises without notifying the landlord?

17. What if a tenant leaves the premises without notifying the landlord?

A retail lease is a legal document and is binding to all parties who sign it.

If a tenant must still fulfil obligations under the lease, but has left the premises without notifying the landlord and is no longer paying rent, then the landlord has:

  • a legal right to re-enter and terminate the lease on the grounds that the tenant has abandoned the premises
  • the right to take action against the tenant to recover any money lost because of the tenant’s departure

We may suggest taking part in mediation with the tenant, or obtaining an order from the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) that the tenant pay the outstanding money.

Contact us to discuss your options.

18. What if a tenant wants to get out of a retail lease?

18. What if a tenant wants to get out of a retail lease?

A retail lease is a legally binding document and therefore both parties must agree to end a lease.

If the landlord does not wish to end the lease, the tenant may be responsible for the landlord’s reasonable out-of-pocket expenses in finding a new tenant.

The actual amount the tenant is responsible for is a matter of negotiation between the parties, but the costs may include rent until the premises are re-let and the agent’s re-letting fees.

19. What if a landlord won't provide a tenant with a copy of the lease?

19. What if a landlord won't provide a tenant with a copy of the lease?

Under the Retail Leases Act 2003 a landlord must give the tenant a copy of the lease signed by both parties within 28 days of the date of the tenant giving the signed lease to the landlord.

If this does not happen with the 28-day timeframe, a tenant may give the landlord notice to terminate the lease.

See the Retail Leases -Important facts for tenants for more information.

20. What can a tenant do if a landlord or real estate agent won’t return the security deposit?

20. What can a tenant do if a landlord or real estate agent won’t return the security deposit?

A landlord or real estate agent must return a tenant’s bond if the tenant has performed all his/her obligations under the lease. This usually happens once the tenant vacates the premises.

Subject to this, the landlord or real estate agent should return the bond as soon as possible after the lease ends.

If the bond (and any accrued interest) is not returned, or only part of the amount has been returned and the tenant feels entitled to receive the bond back in full, the matter can be referred to the VSBC for dispute resolution.

See Security deposits for more information.

21. Who is responsible for paying land tax under the Retail Leases Act 2003?

21. Who is responsible for paying land tax under the Retail Leases Act 2003?

Section 50 of the Retail Leases Act 2003 states that a landlord cannot pass on land tax to a tenant.

22. What are retail premises?

22. What are retail premises?

Retail premises are more than just ‘shops’. The Retail Leases Act 2003 also covers premises used for consumer, business, trade services or hire of goods (for example, estate agents, doctors and mechanics). This excludes any area intended for use as a residence.

Premises that do not constitute retail premises are defined in Ministerial Determinations.

See VSBC Guidelines What are “retail premises? for more information.

23. What is the coverage of the Retail Leases Act 2003?

23. What is the coverage of the Retail Leases Act 2003?

Retail leases legislation applies to premises that are used wholly or predominantly for the sale or hire of goods by retail or the retail provision of services, and where the occupancy cost is less than $1 million per year (the occupancy cost of retail premises is the combined cost of rent and outgoings).

Retail leases legislation does not apply to:

  • tenants in the business of wholesaling, manufacturing or storage
  • tenants that are listed corporations or subsidiaries of listed corporations
  • leases for a term of less than one year unless consecutively renewed
  • premises or businesses that are excluded under Ministerial Determinations.

See VSBC Guidelines What are “retail premises? for more information.

Owner drivers and forestry contractors FAQs

1. What does the Owner Drivers and Forestry Contractors Act 2005 cover?

1. What does the Owner Drivers and Forestry Contractors Act 2005 cover?

The Act regulates and promotes best practice in the relationship between small business owner drivers (including gig economy couriers), forestry contractors, haulage contractors and their hirers.

The Act provides a dispute resolution mechanism accessed through the Victorian Small Business Commission (VSBC).

Other relevant resources include:

2. What does alternative dispute resolution under the Owner Drivers and Forestry Contractors Act 2005 include?

2. What does alternative dispute resolution under the Owner Drivers and Forestry Contractors Act 2005 include?

Alternative dispute resolution under the Act includes free assistance early on (over the phone or via email) and low-cost mediation and arbitration.

Mediation with the VSBC is $95 per party for each session.

When mediation isn’t successful or where both parties agree it’s unlikely to succeed, the VSBC can arrange for a binding arbitration. The cost of arbitration is $290 per party.

3. What is arbitration?

3. What is arbitration?

Arbitration is a dispute resolution process where parties in a dispute present arguments and evidence to an independent person (the arbitrator) who will make a final and binding decision. The arbitration process is less formal, quicker and cheaper than going to court.

4. What is the difference between arbitration and mediation?

4. What is the difference between arbitration and mediation?

Mediation is a dispute resolution process where an independent person (the mediator) helps both parties to reach their own legal binding agreement. In arbitration the arbitrator makes a final, binding decision.

5. Can we go directly to arbitration or do we need to do mediation first?

5. Can we go directly to arbitration or do we need to do mediation first?

Arbitration can only happen if both parties agree. You can make an application for arbitration instead of going to mediation or in instances where you went to mediation but it wasn’t successful in resolving the dispute.

6. What is the process for arbitration?

6. What is the process for arbitration?

The VSBC appoints a qualified independent and neutral arbitrator to carry out the arbitration under the Act. The arbitrator will decide whether a conference or hearing with the parties is needed. Where this isn’t needed, the arbitrator will make a decision by evaluating the facts, relevant law and evidence provided by the parties.

At the start of the process you will be provided with the arbitration rules which set out the timeframes that need to met. When an arbitrator is appointed, you will be provided with copy of the Arbitration Agreement that needs to be signed before proceeding. For more information, refer to the Arbitration Rules.

7. How much does arbitration cost?

7. How much does arbitration cost?

The cost of arbitration is $290 per party, making it a low-cost alternative to going to court. Both parties will be asked to pay this fee after the arbitration agreement has been signed.

8. What happens if my owner driver and forestry contract dispute is not resolved at mediation?

8. What happens if my owner driver and forestry contract dispute is not resolved at mediation?

Where mediation is unable to resolve a dispute under the Act, the VSBC will write to both parties to offer arbitration. In arbitration, both parties agree to enter into this dispute resolution process, the outcome of which is a decision that is final and binding.

Alternatively, a certificate can be issued to enable a party to proceed to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT).

The VSBC can also certify that a party has refused to participate in the alternative dispute resolution process (ie. assistance early on, mediation or arbitration). This may have cost implications at VCAT for the party that refuses to participate.

9. Can I have legal representation?

9. Can I have legal representation?

There is no requirement for you to be represented – the decision is yours to make.

If you are a contractor, you can be represented by an association, including a trade union, that represents contractors or a class of contractors.

If you are a hirer, you can be represented by an association that represents hirers or a class of hirers.

If you can’t attend your mediation session, you will need to arrange for another person to have authority to make decisions on your behalf. For more information see Authority to participate in VSBC mediation.

10. How do I apply for a waiver certificate for the minimum period of notice of termination?

10. How do I apply for a waiver certificate for the minimum period of notice of termination?

Under the Act owner drivers and forestry contractors who have been in an ongoing engagement for more than three months are entitled to a minimum period of notice of termination of their contracts (except in cases of serious and wilful misconduct). The period of notice may be worked out, or paid in lieu.

The minimum period required to be given by either party to terminate a contract is:

  • three months’ notice for vehicles in excess of 4.5 tonnes gross vehicle mass
  • one month’s notice for other vehicles.

If this notice requirement does not suit the owner driver or forestry contractor, the requirement can be waived by the owner driver or forestry contractor obtaining a waiver certificate from the VSBC.

To apply for waiver, download the Waiver request form.

Farmers and farm creditors FAQs

1. What happens if my farm debt mediation dispute is not resolved at mediation?

1. What happens if my farm debt mediation dispute is not resolved at mediation?

If the mediation was conducted under the Farm Debt Mediation Act 2011, a creditor may request an exemption certificate to commence debt recovery proceedings if the VSBC considers satisfactory mediation has occurred.

However, if the VSBC considers a creditor has refused to mediate, or failed to mediate in good faith, it can issue a prohibition certificate, which prohibits the creditor from taking further recovery action for up to six months.

If the VSBC considers a farmer has refused to mediate, or failed to mediate in good faith, it can issue an exemption certificate to the creditor enabling it to commence recovery action.

2. Where can I find out more about the process?

2. Where can I find out more about the process?

All details relating to the process for mediation under the Act can be found on the Agriculture Victoria website.

The farm debt mediation scheme is administered by Agriculture Victoria — please contact the Farm Debt Mediation Officer on 136 186 for further information.

3. What is the VSBC role with farm debt matters?

3. What is the VSBC role with farm debt matters?

The VSBC mediates farm debt disputes under the Farm Debt Mediation Act 2011.

The legislation aims to resolve farm debt disputes efficiently and equitably by requiring a creditor to provide a farmer with the option to mediate before taking possession of property or other enforcement action under a farm mortgage.

There are two types of mediation available under the Act. The first is creditor-initiated mediation, which results from a creditor issuing a notice under section 8 of the Farm Debt Mediation Act 2011. The second is farmer-initiated mediation, where a farmer takes the initiative to request mediation with their creditor.

Read more on the VSBC’s  farm debt mediation page

Taxi, hire car and rideshare FAQs

1. When can applications for mediation with the VSBC for taxi driver and operator disputes be lodged?

1. When can applications for mediation with the VSBC for taxi driver and operator disputes be lodged?

Applications must be lodged with the VSBC within 30 days of a certificate being issued by the Commercial Passenger Vehicles Victoria (CPVV). The application form must be accompanied by a copy of the CPVV certificate.

2. How does the VSBC deal with disputes between taxi, hire car and rideshare drivers and their operators?

2. How does the VSBC deal with disputes between taxi, hire car and rideshare drivers and their operators?

Disputes between drivers and operators over a Driver Agreement must first be lodged with the Commercial Passenger Vehicles Victoria (CPVV). If the CPVV is unable to resolve the dispute and it is amenable to mediation, the CPVV will issue a certificate for the parties enabling them to lodge an application for mediation with the VSBC.

Related information