Join a VCAT case – Building and construction disputes

If you want to involve someone in a VCAT case, find out what your options are and what you need to do.

Join a VCAT case

If you’re an applicant or respondent in a building and construction dispute, you can apply to add (join) someone to your case.

If you ask to have someone added to a case, VCAT must agree. VCAT may also decide to join someone to the case itself.

Who can join a case

A party may be added as an applicant, respondent or a joined party, depending on who you are and their role in the case. This means they can participate in a case, have their views heard and may have orders made which affect them.

You are an applicant applying to add a new respondent

For example, if you are a home owner with a building dispute at VCAT against the builder, and you believe another building practitioner is also responsible.

You are a builder and a respondent to the application or to a counterclaim by the owner

If you believe others are responsible for the incomplete or defective building work, you might ask to join them for the purposes of a proportionate liability defence, or a claim for contribution for any amount you are ordered to pay an owner.

You are an applicant wanting to add another applicant

As an applicant you can’t add another applicant without their consent. A person has to agree to be an applicant and confirm they want to make a claim against the respondent.

When VCAT joins someone to a case

VCAT can add someone as a ‘joined party’ if we are satisfied that their interests are affected and they should be bound by any decision. For example, another home owner in an apartment building development who has also had work completed by the same building company.

If you have your own dispute with someone who is already part of a VCAT case, you can make an application.

If you've been joined to a case

The party who applied to join you should have sent you a copy of the application and documents about the case. If you haven’t received these, contact us.
If we have set a hearing, we send you a notice of hearing.
If you’re joined to a case as an applicant, find out what to do next.
If you’re joined to a case as a respondent, find out how to defend an application against you.

Apply to join someone to a case

In your application for joinder (to join someone to a party), you must give us their name, address, and details of why you say the person should be joined.

Apply to join someone now

What happens after you apply to join someone

1 We receive your application to join someone as a party
2 You send a copy of the application to the party you want to join

Send the original application and your application to the person you want to add to the case and let them know the date, time and location of when the application will be heard so they can attend.

If the person you want to join is a company, you must send it to their registered office shown on the ASIC Current Company Extract.

Until we agree to join them as a party, we don’t send them information about the case. You should send them information so they’re aware they may have to get involved and can attend the directions hearing when the application is heard.

3 We consider your application

The application for joinder will be heard at a directions hearing. We may have set the date for this hearing at an earlier directions hearing, and sent this to you in an order.

Otherwise we will send you a Notice of Directions Hearing.

Learn more about directions hearings.

The notice gives you the date, time  and whether you need to attend by phone, video or in person. The notice explains what you need to do next.

Check the time, date and location (if you are coming to VCAT in person).

4 Send the party you want to join a copy of the notice of directions hearing

If we have scheduled a directions hearing to decide an application to join someone to the case, you must give them the date of the directions hearing and send them a copy of your application as soon as possible.

5 On the day

The party you have asked to join the case can attend the directions hearing and give us information about their involvement in the dispute.

At the directions hearing we tell all parties what they must do next.

Find out what to expect on the day

If you are attending by phone or videoconference

If you are attending by phone or video make sure you’re ready at the time we give you. (It’s too late to ask to attend by phone on the day of the hearing.)

How to attend by phone or videoconference

If you are coming to VCAT in person

Arrive at least 30 minutes early to allow time to get through the security screening (similar to security at the airport) and find your hearing room.

When you arrive:

  • Check your room at Upcoming hearings or speak to a staff member if you need help finding your hearing room.
  • Go to the hearing room and be ready to present your case.
  • Speak to a staff member if you have arranged security, disability support, an interpreter, or need help setting up your devices.

Help and support

  • We can help you understand what the form is asking. If you need to help to fill in the VCAT application form, talk to us.

    • Call us on 1300 018 228, Monday - Friday 9am - 4.30pm. For guardianship cases call us 9am - 5pm.
    • If you’re overseas, call us on +61 3 8685 1462.
    • If you need to speak to someone in your own language you can ask for an interpreter. Call the Translating and Interpreting Service on 131 450.

    We can:

    • ask you questions about what you want
    • explain what the questions mean
    • explain what documents you need
    • explain the process.

    We can’t give you legal advice. This means we can’t:

    • tell you what to write
    • give you advice on how to present your case
    • give you advice on how to win the case.

    If you do choose to get legal advice, you’ll need to pay their fees (if any).

    If you want to talk about what you should do, you can access free or low-cost legal advice or find a private lawyer.

    See also What support can I get on the day at VCAT?

  • VCAT cannot give legal advice. If you do choose to get legal advice, you will need to pay any costs. 

    If you want to talk about what you should do, you can access free or low-cost legal advice or find a private lawyer.
    If you want a lawyer or other professional representative to speak on your behalf at VCAT, let the other party know in writing before the hearing and ask permission when the hearing starts. You will need to explain why. 

    For some case types you have an automatic right to representation.

    If the claim is for goods and services under $15,000, we generally don’t allow a lawyer or other professional representative to speak for you at VCAT. 

    If you do choose to get legal advice, you’ll need to pay any costs. 

    Read more about legal and professional representation

  • A change to the date of a directions hearing, mediation, compulsory conference or hearing is called an ‘adjournment’. 
    If you can’t come to VCAT on the date we give you, you can ask for a change of date (adjournment). 

    First, ask the other parties in the case to agree using the Request for consent to an adjournment form

    Then, send us an adjournment application form no later than: 

    • two business days before a directions hearing, mediation or compulsory conference
    • two business days before a hearing for a residential tenancy case
    • five business days before a hearing for all other cases.

    You must: 

    • give us good reasons for the change, like a sudden illness, accident or bereavement in the family
    • give us evidence in writing to support your reasons (for example, a medical certificate)
    • ask for the change in writing no later than two business days before the directions hearing, mediation or compulsory conference or five days before a final hearing. 

    We may not agree to change the date, even if every person involved in the case agrees. Ask for an adjournment as soon as possible.

    A change of date isn’t always possible, and we can’t change the date simply to speed things up. The hearing will go ahead as scheduled if we don’t confirm a new date and time with you.
    Download the Adjournment Application Form

    See also: What happens if I can't come to VCAT?

  • You can contact the other party (or they can contact you) at any time to try to come to an agreement before the hearing. If you do reach an agreement, you and the other parties must let us know in writing, and copy in the other party, as soon as possible. 

    If you make an offer to settle and you want to keep it confidential, make it in writing to the other party and use the words ‘without prejudice’ in your offer. 

    This means that if your offer is not accepted by the other party, it cannot be discussed at a hearing. 

    You can try and resolve the dispute without VCAT right up until the day of the hearing, and for residential tenancy disputes, in the hearing.

    After you settle, if you’re the applicant you can end your case by asking us:

    • to withdraw your application
    • to strike out your case with the right to apply for reinstatement (except in a review of a planning decision) 
    • for consent orders. 

    Learn more about how you can settle a dispute outside VCAT

  • You can bring someone with you to your hearing for support. This support person could be anyone you choose, including a friend or family member. They can’t usually speak on your behalf, but they can help explain what you need (for example, ask for a break). 

    You can’t bring someone to translate for you.

    If you need an interpreter you must ask us for a VCAT interpreter

    Support for people affected by family violence

    If you are a protected person or responding to a case and under a family violence intervention order, you can choose to bring a support person to VCAT. The support person can be anyone you choose, including a lawyer, social worker, family member or friend.

    Find out more about support for people affected by family violence at VCAT

    If you want someone to speak on your behalf, you must ask for it in writing.

    Template of written authority for someone to represent you

    Use this template to give someone authority to represent you. We call this person an ‘agent’.

    I, <NAME> (or Your Company Pty Ltd, if a company), a party in the VCAT case reference number xxxxx/20xx wish to be represented at VCAT.

    I give permission for <representative's name and occupation> (add 'employed by the company' if you're a company) to represent me.

    The agent has sufficient knowledge of the issues in dispute and has my permission to bind me to any settlement.

    Date xx/xx/xx

    Signed:______________ Name:______________ Position:______________