After you apply – Goods and services disputes
After you’ve applied to VCAT, it’s important to understand what you need to do and what happens next.
Whenever you email or write to VCAT you must also send a copy to all other parties involved in the case.
1 Apply to VCAT
2 We contact you
COVID-19 has impacted normal timeframes for goods and services hearings. The current timeframes to get to a hearing after we receive your application are:
- Compulsory conference – 14 weeks
- Directions hearing – 16 weeks
- Disputes between $500 and $10,000 eligible for fast track mediation and hearing – 24 weeks
- Disputes not eligible for fast-track mediation and hearing – between 32 and 44 weeks depending on the duration of the hearing
We understand the impact of these delays to you and are working hard to reduce the backlog. As soon as a case opens, we make directions to get it moving. This means you won’t have to wait for a directions hearing, but you can still apply for one if you think it’s necessary.
We assess your application and contact you as soon as we can take the next steps in your case to:
- give you a date to come to VCAT
- ask for more information if we need it
- let you know if we can't deal with your dispute.
We also send a copy of your application to the other party.
Fast track mediation and hearing
Settling your dispute before your hearing
When we open a case, you can still try to resolve the dispute yourself with the other party, right up until the hearing.
If you do settle, you must contact us to tell us you've come to an agreement and don't need a hearing.
A directions hearing is a hearing where a VCAT member decides how a case should be managed and how much time it will take.
At the directions hearing, the VCAT member may:
- clarify and explore ways to resolve any issues that are raised
- decide whether the case should go to mediation, compulsory conference or hearing
- set dates for parties to send documents to VCAT and to each other
- order physical evidence to be inspected by an expert witness – for example, requiring a car to be inspected by a mechanic
- make a final order to confirm an agreement between the parties or decide any legal issues raised.
3 You get a notice
If we can accept your application, you get a notice that 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.
4 Send your documents
If you’re attending by phone or videoconference
Make sure you send all parties and VCAT the supporting documents you plan to use at VCAT. You must send these by email. The deadline to send documents is in your notice or order.
To confirm you’ve sent these documents, you must fill in a form called a ‘declaration of service’. You must email this to us before the hearing.
If you're attending in person
Send a copy of the documents that support your case to all parties. Don’t send your documents to VCAT – bring them to the hearing.
To confirm you’ve sent these documents, you must fill in a form called a ‘declaration of service’. You must bring this to your hearing.
What’s a 'declaration of service'?
A declaration of service confirms that you've given a copy of your application and supporting documents to the other parties. This declaration must be signed in front of an authorised witness.
5 Prepare your case
You need to be ready to present facts and answer questions about the case. There are documents to organise and decisions to make.
If your claim is under $15,000, we generally don’t allow a lawyer or other professional representative to speak for you at VCAT.
6 Tell us if things change
Tell us in writing if:
- your or your representative’s contact details change
- you settle the dispute before the hearing.
7 Check the hearing details
Check the time, date and location (if you are coming to VCAT in person). This is shown on the notice we send you.
You can find out the time for your hearing at Upcoming hearings after 4.30pm on the day before your hearing.
8 Pay your hearing fee
We tell you in writing if you need to pay a hearing fee. You must pay before the hearing. If you don’t, your hearing won’t go ahead.
9 On the day
At VCAT you may come to mediation, hearing or other type of dispute resolution. At a mediation or compulsory conference you try to reach an agreement with the help of a facilitator.
At a final hearing, all parties can present their case, ask questions and give evidence in front of a VCAT member.
If you are attending by phone or video
If you are attending by phone or videoconference 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.)
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 tell a staff member at the counter that you’ve arrived for your hearing
- 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 technology for your hearing.
10 Get an outcome
If you reach an agreement (settle) at a mediation or compulsory conference, the agreement is put in writing and signed by all parties.
If you come to a hearing, the VCAT member makes a decision and gives an order. An order tells parties how the case has been decided and any action they must take. For example, ordering one party to pay another. All parties must follow VCAT's orders.
We send the order to you after the hearing.
If you want the reasons in writing, ask the member at the hearing before they give the final decision.
Help and support
What happens if we come to an agreement before attending 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.
Can I cancel my application?
If you are the applicant, you can ask for permission to withdraw your VCAT application at any time before the hearing, for example, if you change your mind. You must let us and the other parties know in writing as soon as possible if you want to apply to withdraw.
For some case types if you are the applicant you may have to pay costs to the respondent if you withdraw your claim.
If you do withdraw your application, in most cases it can’t be reinstated. (This doesn’t apply in cases about guardians, administratrators, and powers of attorney for example.) You may be able to start a new application about the same dispute later. There will be new fees to pay and we may not accept your application.
Cases about guardians, administrators, supportive guardians and supportive administrators
If you want to withdraw your application in a case about guardians, administrators, supportive guardians and supportive administrators:
- Write to us, explaining why orders are no longer needed.
- We consider whether there is any serious risk to the person you made the application about. This is because the law requires us to protect a person who may have a decision-making disability.
Even if an application has been withdrawn, the applicant or anyone else is able to make another application about the same circumstances at any later time.
How do I change my VCAT application?
To change your VCAT application you need to ask before the final hearing for the change to be made.
We can’t always make every type of change to every type of case. For example, if what you're asking is something we cannot deal with or a time limit has passed.
We usually accept changes to your contact details before your hearing. If you're asking to change a name or the details of your claim, you may have to wait until you go to a hearing to find out if we can accept it.
- Tell us what you want to change (for example, contact details) and your reasons in writing, by post or by email.
Find the right email address for your type of case or send a written letter to GPO Box 5408, Melbourne VIC 3000
- Include the application reference number and any documents that support the change.
- Tell the other person or business (the other ‘party’) about the change in writing, and send them copies of any new documents.
VCAT must review and accept your change and we’ll tell you the outcome.
Sometimes we’ll arrange a brief session called a ‘directions hearing’ to work out if we’ll allow the change. This often happens when the other person or business involved (the respondent) has a problem with the change.
If you are the permit applicant and want to change your application, you need to send the notice and complete the Statement of Service to confirm you’ve shared your documents.
To find the right contact details relevant to your dispute, see Contacts and locations.
- Tell us what you want to change (for example, contact details) and your reasons in writing, by post or by email.
How do I change my VCAT date?
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.
- 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?
What happens if I miss my hearing?
What happens if you miss the hearing depends on if you’re the applicant or the respondent.
- If you’re the applicant and you don’t come to the hearing, the hearing can’t go ahead and your application may be dismissed or struck out
- If you’re a respondent and you don’t come, VCAT may make a decision that affects you and can be enforced by a court. For example, the member could make an order for costs against you.
If you have a reasonable reason for not coming, and you didn’t have someone come for you, you may be able to apply for a review and rehearing (called ‘reopening an order’).
You need to make this application within 14 days of finding out about the order. We may not agree to your request if you do not have a good reason for not attending.