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

Published: March 2022

Mediation referrals by VCAT

VCAT may refer some applications, especially bond, compensation and pet applications, to the Dispute Settlement Centre of Victoria. It provides free mediation to help people involved in certain disputes try to reach an agreement without going to a VCAT hearing.

Referrals due to VCAT backlog

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic there is a large backlog of applications to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) waiting for a hearing.

Because of this, VCAT may refer some disputes to the Dispute Settlement Centre of Victoria for mediation to see if they can be resolved more quickly than if people wait for a hearing. The centre is part of the Department of Justice and Community Safety, and provides free dispute resolution services to all Victorians.

VCAT mostly refers rental disputes involving bonds, compensation and pets, and may refer other disputes if they are suitable for mediation.

What mediation is

Mediation is a free, confidential process, where you and the rental provider (landlord), or their agent, can try to resolve disputes by talking through the issues with the help of a trained, impartial mediator.

Mediation aims to help people communicate and to ensure that a fair, reasonable and just agreement is reached.

Referral for mediation

If VCAT thinks your dispute is suitable for mediation it will refer it to the Dispute Settlement Centre of Victoria.

The centre will assign you a dispute assessment officer, who will contact you about the process.

The dispute assessment officer will contact you to make sure you are prepared and to talk about what to expect. They may ask you to provide extra information about the dispute, including evidence you may want to rely on at the mediation to support your side of the story.

If your dispute goes to mediation, the centre will send you an email with the time and date of the mediation hearing, and the attendees.

Evidence

We recommend you prepare your evidence for the mediation in the same way that you would prepare it for a VCAT hearing.

For more information see our page VCAT.

Also see the ‘prepare evidence’ page on VCAT’s website.

You should send copies of any documents or evidence you want to rely on during the mediation to your dispute settlement officer and the rental provider, or the agent, well before the mediation.

How mediation works

The mediation will take place at a phone conference. You will be able to talk to the mediator and the rental provider, or their agent, and ask questions. You will also be able to talk privately with the mediator, if needed. The conference can be put on hold to give you time to consider any offers to resolve the dispute before deciding whether to accept or reject them.

To prepare for the mediation, make a few brief notes outlining what you want to say and get all your evidence together, including a copy of the VCAT application that sets out what the dispute is about. You will not be asked to present evidence at the mediation, but you may want to refer to your evidence and documents during the process. Being organised will help you with the mediation process.

If agreement is reached

If an agreement is reached, the mediator will help you and the rental provider, or their agent, put the agreement in writing, including agreed actions and timeframes, and will email out a copy to everyone.

The mediator will also inform VCAT. Then VCAT will make an order striking out the VCAT application.

However, the order will include a ‘right of reinstatement’, which gives you the option to ask VCAT to reopen the dispute if needed. For example, if you or the rental provider do not follow the terms of the agreement then the dispute can be reopened to be heard by VCAT.

 

Lawyers and support persons

You do not need to have a support person attend the mediation with you. However, if you want to arrange for a support person to attend with you, such as a lawyer, tenancy worker, translator or financial counsellor, you need to talk to your dispute settlement officer about this as soon as possible to make sure you meet all the requirements for this to happen. For example, you may be required to:

  • Give anyone you want to speak on your behalf a written authority to do this
  • Get the agreement of the mediator and rental provider, or their agent, that you can have a support person with you at the mediation

The VCAT website has a template you can use to give someone written authority to speak on your behalf.

Even if you have a support person attending the mediation, it is important that you also attend.

If an agreement cannot be reached

If VCAT refers a dispute for mediation, the VCAT application will still stay in the queue for a VCAT hearing until the dispute is resolved.

If an agreement cannot be reached at mediation the dispute will go back to VCAT for a hearing at a later date.

Mediation is optional

You do not have to agree to mediation.

If you do agree to one, you can opt out of the mediation process at any time.

But a mediation may help you resolve the dispute more quickly, especially given the delays for some VCAT hearings.

Your wait time for a VCAT hearing will not be affected if you:

  • Do not want to attend a mediation
  • Start the mediation process but later opt out
  • Cannot come to an agreement at the mediation

You will still have a VCAT hearing date, but it may take some time.

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