After you apply - Owners corporations disputes

After you’ve applied to VCAT, it’s important to understand what you need to do and what happens next.

1 Apply to VCAT

Go to next step.

2 We contact you

Due to COVID-19 these timeframes do not apply. It will take longer to hear from us about the next steps in your case.

We assess your application and contact you within 10-12 weeks 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.
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.

We also tell you if your case will be decided 'on the papers'.

4 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.

For example, the member may ask you to give us and the other parties a document called a ‘points of claim’. This is where you explain what the dispute is about and what outcome you want.

Owners corporations disputes are often between neighbours or people who must continue to live with each other after the dispute is resolved.

We may decide to hold a compulsory conference before a hearing. 

In some complex cases, you may have to come to a directions hearing before the final hearing.  

The notice you receive from us tells you how we will handle your case. Find out how to prepare for a directions hearing, compulsory conference or final hearing. If your application is about fee recovery, you must fill in and sign or declare a document called a summary of proofs. You must give this to us at least two business days before the hearing date.

5 Tell us if things change

Tell us by email or post if: 

  • you or your representative’s contact details change
  • you settle the dispute before you come to VCAT.
6 Send your documents

You must send by email to VCAT and the other party:

  • copies of all fees notices a final fee notices relating to the amount claimed
  • completed summary of proofs. 

You must do this no later than two business days 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.

If we tell you your case is being decided 'on the papers' or you are attending your hearing by phone or videoconference, you don't need to come to VCAT.

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 may be postponed (adjourned), or struck out.

9 On the day

If you are attending by phone or video

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.

We send an email with details on how to join the call or videoconference.

If you are coming to VCAT in person

If you are coming to VCAT, find out about what to expect on the day – including how to behave, and how the hearing works. 

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 compulsory conference, the agreement is put in writing and signed by all parties.   

If you go to a hearing, when we make a decision, we make an order in writing that states what must happen. For example, ordering one party to pay another. We send the order to you after the hearing.

All parties must follow what the order says. 

If you want the reasons in writing, ask the member at the hearing before they give the final decision. 

All parties must follow VCAT's decision. 

11 Enforce the order

If other parties don’t follow the order, contact them. If they still don’t comply or you can’t contact them, find out how you can enforce the order.

Help and support

  • 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
     

  • 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:______________

  • If you can’t come to VCAT in person or on the scheduled date for a serious reason (for example, you have a disability, are away or unwell) you have a few options. You can: 

    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:______________

  • VCAT fees are lower if you hold a current Health Care Card issued by the Federal Government. This is the only card we accept for concession fees.

    Health Care Card

    Provide a colour copy, front and back, of your Health Care Card when you apply.

    You aren’t automatically entitled to concession fees if you have a Pensioner Concession Card, Seniors Health Card, student concession card or other type of concession card. You can apply to have fees waived or reduced if paying them will cause you financial hardship. This is called an application for fee relief.

    Apply for fee relief using a concession card.

    Pension Concession CardCommonwealth Sentiors Health Card

    Find out more about fees

    See also: What can I do if I can’t pay the fees?

  • 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 good enough 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. There’s no guarantee that VCAT will agree. 

    Apply for a review and rehearing

  • The way VCAT handles your information is based on the legal principle that justice should usually be administered in public, with principles of privacy. 
     
    This means there is a balance between the information we must share and keeping your information confidential.  
     

    • We store information about people who have been involved in cases at VCAT. This can include names, addresses and phone numbers 
    • If you give information to us for a case we are hearing, the law generally requires it to be given to the other parties in the case (unless it's protected information). 
    • If you want to provide information to us in confidence you must first apply for confidentiality
    • Most VCAT hearings are open to the public, including journalists  
    • People who are not part of the case can apply to see VCAT files 
    • VCAT written decisions for some case types are published on the AustLII website
    • Confidentiality is a priority in guardianship cases. We decide what access to information is given, who to and on what conditions. 

    Learn more about your privacy at VCAT