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

Once you apply to VCAT, you need to send a copy of the application to the other parties. The party you have a dispute with is called the respondent. 

Your case will not progress until you send a copy of your completed application to the respondent.

2 We contact you

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 have put in place a range of measures to reduce our current backlogs and the time it takes to have a hearing. We are gradually reducing the number of cases that have been on hold, and will contact you as soon as it’s possible to take the next steps in your case.

About 8 weeks after we receive your application, we send a VCAT order that sets a timetable for when you need to send us supporting documents about your case. It takes about 9-12 weeks for all the steps to be completed. This helps parties prepare for their case and ensure everyone is ready before we schedule a hearing. At the end of the timetable, we will decide whether your case will be listed for a hearing, a mediation, or a fast-track mediation and hearing.

Fast track mediation and hearing

If we decide your dispute is suitable for Fast track mediation and hearing, the Dispute Settlement Centre of Victoria, who partner with us, contacts you to discuss the process.

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.

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 at least one week 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 email this to us at least one week before the hearing.

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.

The notice you receive from us tells you how we will handle your case. Find out how to prepare for a directions hearing, fast-track mediation, mediation, compulsory conference or final hearing.

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.

    What to expect on the day

    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.)

    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.
    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.  

    About decisions and orders


    Help and support

    • 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

    • 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.

      Read more about how to withdraw 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.

    • 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.

      1. 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
      2. Include the application reference number and any documents that support the change.
      3. 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.

      Planning cases

      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.

      See also: Can I change the amount I’m claiming in my application?

    • 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?

    • 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.

      Apply for a review and rehearing