This information is a guide and should not be used as a substitute for professional legal advice.

Published: December 2021

Disputes involving interstate residents

VCAT hears rental disputes in Victoria, but not if any of the people involved live interstate. The Magistrates Court of Victoria deals with such cases.

Magistrates’ Court hears disputes when someone lives interstate

The Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) usually hears disputes under Victoria’s rental laws, the Residential Tenancies Act 1997, between rental providers (landlords) and renters about rental properties in the state.

However, if either the rental provider or renter lives in a different state, any application about a rental dispute must be made to the Magistrates’ Court of Victoria, not VCAT.

This came about because of a constitutional issue about the power of tribunals such as VCAT to hear ‘interstate’ matters.

This new process was introduced on 29 November 2021.

When to apply to the Magistrates’ Court

Apply to the Magistrates’ Court if either the renter or rental provider lives in Victoria, and the other is a resident of another state. This also applies when there are more than one renters or rental providers, and at least one of them lives in another state.

The process only applies when the renter or rental provider lives in another state. It does not apply if they live in the Northern Territory or Australian Capital Territory, or overseas.

It also does not apply if the rental provider Is a body corporate, a state government body such as the Office of Housing, or a community housing provider.

In these circumstances disputes are heard at VCAT

Your rights

Generally, you have the same rights and responsibilities you would have if the application went to VCAT. The same limitations that apply to VCAT also apply to the Magistrates’ Court.

Time limits

If there is a time limit for an application to be made to VCAT that same limit will apply to an application made to the Magistrates’ Court, such as bond applications, which are required to be made within 14 days of a rental agreement ending. See our page Bonds.

The same time limits also apply to both VCAT and the Magistrates’ Court for applications that need to be heard within a certain time frame. For example, applications to get urgent repairs done are still required to be heard within 2 business days of the application being made.

However, the time limit to make an application or to hear certain applications can be extended if an application should have been made to the Magistrates’ Court, because someone in the application lives in another state, but was accidentally made to VCAT then had to be remade to the Magistrates’ Court. Where the application relates to something that should be heard quickly, such as an application to get urgent repairs done, the Magistrates’ Court will hear it as soon as possible.

Fees and costs

The fee to apply to the Magistrates’ Court is the same as the fee to apply to VCAT.

The Magistrates’ Court can only make orders about costs or about reimbursement of fees if those orders would have been made by VCAT if it was hearing the application.

Fee waivers

You are eligible to have the application fee waived if you hold a Health Care Card.

If you are experiencing financial hardship but do not hold a Health Care Card you may be eligible for a waiver of the application fee. To apply for a fee waiver, please request a fee waiver form from the Magistrates’ Court Registry, or the court’s Self-Represented Litigant Coordinator at srlcoordinator@courts.vic.gov.au.

Application information

For more information on the application process or to apply to the Magistrates’ Court see the ‘Federal Jurisdiction’ page on the court’s website, which sets out proceedings between residents of different states that cannot be heard at VCAT. This page includes the forms for applying to the court.

If you do not have a lawyer, and after reading the Magistrates’ Court website need more information about the process, you can contact the court’s Self-Represented Litigant Coordinator at srlcoordinator@courts.vic.gov.au.

If you need legal advice about your rights, please contact the Tenants Victoria legal team.

Magistrates’ Court of Victoria (MCV) – proceedings between residents of different states
Contact Tenants Victoria
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