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

VCAT

The Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) hears disputes between rental providers (landlords) and renters. It is not a court, but it can make decisions that must be followed by rental providers and renters. It is intended to be informal and cheap, and to resolve disputes quickly and fairly.

Applications

It is best to try to resolve your problem by talking to your rental provider (landlord) or real estate agent. But if you have a problem with your rental provider that you cannot resolve, you can apply to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal. VCAT’s Residential Tenancies List hears such disputes. If you decide to apply, you can contact us for advice.

To make an application, you must fill out the VCAT application form. There is also an application form for people experiencing personal or family violence.

For more information see our page Applying to VCAT.

Application fees

The application fee to apply to VCAT from 1 July 2020 is $65.30. However, there is no application fee for applicants who:

  • Have an intervention order
  • Have a health care card
  • Are under 18 years of age
  • Are in prison or another public institution
  • Are represented by Victoria Legal Aid, a community legal centre, a Tenancy Assistance Advocacy Program (TAAP) provider, or a recognised provider who has deemed the applicant eligible through a means test

Applicants can also apply for a fee waiver if they are experiencing financial hardship, even if none of the above apply to their circumstances.

For more information see the VCAT website.

VCAT Lawyer Service

In urgent situations Tenants Victoria’s VCAT Lawyer Service offers a lawyer to represent renters at VCAT when they face losing their rental property, and also in urgent matters related to health or safety. Find out about the service and whether you are eligible on our page VCAT Lawyer Service.

Notice of hearing

You will receive a notice from VCAT telling you when and where your hearing is to take place. The amount of time you will have to wait for a hearing depends on the type of application and how busy VCAT is.

If you need an interpreter, or have any other special needs, you should contact VCAT to let them know before the date of the hearing.

Changing a hearing date – adjournment

If you will be unable to go to the hearing on the date it is scheduled for you can ask VCAT to change the hearing date. This is called requesting an adjournment.

There is no guarantee that VCAT will agree to an adjournment. However, if you can first get the rental provider’s approval there is a good chance VCAT will agree to a delay. So it is best to approach the rental provider to see if you can get their agreement before asking VCAT to change the date.

You must lodge the request for adjournment with VCAT, on its adjournment application form, by no later than 4pm at least 2 business days before your hearing. For example, you need to lodge the adjournment application form by 4pm on Tuesday if your hearing is on Friday.

You must also lodge any documentation that supports your request, such as a medical certificate.

If VCAT refuses to change the hearing date, we strongly recommend you do what you can to attend the hearing as you will usually get a better outcome if you are present.

For more information, and for VCAT’s adjournment application form, see the VCAT website.

If you miss a hearing – reviews

If you miss a hearing and find out orders were made, you can apply to VCAT to review the decision. You must apply within 14 days of finding out an order was made.

There is no guarantee VCAT will grant a review. You will need to show you had a good reason for not attending the hearing, such as a medical reason, and that you have a case to argue that could make a difference to the order (decision) that VCAT has already made.

For more information see the VCAT website.

Prepare your case

When you make an application to VCAT, you are responsible for proving your case. This means that you will have to provide evidence to support your claim. The type of evidence will depend on the situation.

You should make sure any evidence you want to use at the hearing has been included with your application and that you take copies of your evidence to the hearing with you. VCAT will not adjourn (delay) your case because you have not got your documents with you. See our page Applying to VCAT.

To prepare for the hearing, make a few brief notes outlining what you want to say and get all your evidence together including a copy of your application form. Being organised is the key to presenting a good case.

For more information on using evidence to support your application see the ‘prepare evidence’ page on VCAT’s website.

Witnesses

If you have witnesses who can support your application, you should arrange for them to attend the hearing. VCAT will not adjourn (delay) your case because your witness is not present, and will not make calls to verify your claims.

It is better to have someone give evidence at the hearing in person.

If a witness refuses to attend the hearing and you believe that their evidence is important, you can ask VCAT to issue an order that makes the person attend the hearing and give evidence, called a witness summons. You must apply for this before your hearing date. Be aware that VCAT may make you pay the witness’s travel expenses and other allowances.

If a witness does not attend in person, they can still give their evidence in a letter or a statutory declaration.

How to make a statutory declaration

If you need representation

Generally, each person involved in the matter is required to present their own case at VCAT. However, you may be represented by a professional advocate, such as a tenancy worker, when:

  • The rental provider is trying to have you evicted
  • The rental provider is a professional advocate
  • The rental provider is represented by a professional advocate
  • VCAT allows you to be legally represented

If you believe that you will need representation you can contact us, your local Tenancy Assistance and Advocacy Program (TAAP) service for people in private rentals, Tenancy Plus provider for renters in public and community housing, community legal centre or Victoria Legal Aid.

Hearings

In response to COVID-19, most hearings are being held by phone or videoconference. VCAT will contact you to know whether your hearing will be by phone, videoconference, or in person and explain what you need to do to prepare.

If you have been advised that your hearing will be in person, make sure that you arrive at VCAT on time. If you are late, the hearing will go ahead without you so plan to get there at least 15 minutes before the hearing time.

If your hearing will be by phone, it is a good idea keep your phone charged. Do not make other calls while waiting for your hearing. As hearings may not start on time, also leave plenty of time free before and after your scheduled time. VCAT hearings are recorded.

During the hearing

The way in which your case is heard will depend on the particular VCAT Member, who is the person who will decide on your case. However, usually the person who made the application will be asked to present their case first.

During the hearing never lose your temper. Keep your arguments clear and to the point and try not to be intimidated by the rental provider, agent or Member. Make sure you are given the opportunity to mention everything you believe is relevant to your case before the Member makes their decision.

If during the hearing you want to have a private negotiation with the agent or rental provider, you can ask the Member to hang up and call back at an agreed time

Orders (decisions)

VCAT will usually make a decision, an order, on the day of the hearing. This will be made verbally at the hearing then put in writing and given to everyone in the application. Usually, the orders are made in writing on the same day as the hearing.

If VCAT makes an order and you do not understand the order, ask the Member to explain it to you slowly.

Written reasons for orders

You can ask VCAT to provide written reasons for any decision. These are not the same as the order itself. Rather, they are the reasons VCAT has come to the decision they made about the orders, recorded in writing.

If you want VCAT to provide written reasons for any orders they make you need to ask for these at the start of the hearing, or at the very least before the hearing ends. You will not be able to ask for written reasons after the hearing is over.

If you ask for written reasons at the hearing, these must be given to you within 60 days of the date of the order.

Appealing a decision

If you are unhappy about a decision VCAT made, you may be able to make an appeal, but only in very limited circumstances.

Appeals must be made to the Supreme Court, and this can be very expensive. You must lodge your appeal within 28 days of the date of the order.

If you want to appeal, you should get legal advice as soon as possible.

Also see the VCAT website on appealing decisions.

Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal
55 King Street Melbourne 3000
Phone: 1300 01 8228 (1300 01 VCAT)
Fax (03) 9628 9822
Open 9.00am to 4.30pm Monday to Friday

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