Respond to an application - Owners corporations disputes
Formerly known as ‘body corporates’. Disputes about the management and use of common property and areas within subdivided land, such as apartments or units.
What the notice means
If you’ve received a notice from us, someone has made an application against you to VCAT – the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal. This means they have a dispute with you and have come to VCAT to have it resolved.
You are called the respondent. The person who made the application is the applicant.
If you believe you’ve been named by mistake, email or write to us and to the applicant right away.
What the dispute is about
In the application sent to you by the applicant, you can find out what their claim is about.
If you haven’t received a copy of the application form, contact the applicant.
Get help and advice before you come to VCAT
We can’t give you legal advice. These organisations may be able to help you.
Why you should come to VCAT
It’s very important that you don’t ignore the application made against you. At VCAT, you can have your say and explore options to resolve the dispute.
If you don’t come, we may go ahead with the hearing in your absence and make an order against you.
How much VCAT costs
There is generally no fee for you to be involved in the VCAT process, but there may be other costs you need to pay. For example, if you:
- make a counterclaim (your own claim against the other party). We may arrange to hear both cases together.
- decide to use a lawyer
- have expert witnesses prepare evidence for you.
What happens next
You’ve received a notice from VCAT
Read and understand the documents
Carefully read and understand the notice we sent you and the application made against you.
If you haven’t received documents from the applicant (for example, receipts or correspondence) within seven days of receiving the notice from us, contact the applicant directly. Their contact details are in the application.
Send your documents to everyone involved in the case
Send copies of any documents you plan to use in the case to VCAT and all parties in the case.
If you are attending by phone or videoconference, make sure you do this by email and by the deadline we tell you in your notice.
Decide if you want to make your own claim
If you have your own claim against the applicant, you can submit an application with VCAT. This is called a counterclaim. You may need to pay an application fee.
Don’t confuse defending yourself against a claim with making your own claim. If you simply want to defend yourself against the applicant's claim, you don’t need to make your own application.
For example, if the owners corporation has made a claim for unpaid fees, you can’t refuse to pay the fees because you have your own dispute with the owners corporation. You need to make your own claim at VCAT and both cases may be heard together in the same hearing.
Submit your counterclaim as soon as possible before the hearing. We may arrange to have both claims heard together.
Prepare your case
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 and room for your hearing at Today’s hearings after 4.30pm on the day before your hearing.
On the day
Owners corporations disputes are often between neighbours or people who must continue to live with each other after the dispute is resolved.
At VCAT you may have to come to compulsory conference, hearing or other type of dispute resolution. At a compulsory conference you try to reach an agreement with the help of a VCAT member.
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 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
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 Today’s 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.
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 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.
In most cases, we tell you what the decision is, and the reasons for it, at the end of the hearing. We give you a written order on the day or we send it to you a few weeks after the hearing.
All parties must follow VCAT's decision.
Help and support
Should I get a lawyer?
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.
What do I bring to VCAT?
When you come to a VCAT hearing and give evidence at VCAT you need to support what you say with originals of documents.
You must bring these documents with you on the day - you can’t give us new evidence after we make a decision.
Bring copies of your documents for the member (the person who hears and decides cases) and the other people at the hearing. Both sides have a right to a fair hearing so you must show all your evidence to the other people involved in the case. Depending on the type of case, the documents you need could be:
- affidavits, statutory declarations and witness statements
- condition reports, contracts, leases, bond receipts and rental records
- quotes, invoices and receipts
- expert reports
- business diaries and financial records
- letters and notes of conversations or meetings
- photographs and videos
- plans and drawings
- timesheets and job records
- reports from doctors
- reports from social workers and case managers.
If the dispute is about a product, bring it if it’s a manageable size. You can’t print documents at VCAT but you can make photocopies for a small fee.
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 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.
What support can I get on the day at VCAT?
We offer a range of support services including interpreters, disability, security, family violence and Koori support.
Make sure you let us know what support you need to early as possible - when you apply to VCAT or get a notice from us.
If you’ve been in touch with us about support before you come to VCAT, see our customer service staff at the counter or meet the support person at the location you’ve agreed on before the hearing.
If you are coming to VCAT at King Street, Melbourne and you need support or information, you can visit the free services on Level 5 before the hearing:
- Court Network volunteers offer free and independent support, information and referral services. They don’t give legal advice.
- Victoria Legal Aid duty lawyers can help if you are unsure about your options or need advice about your claim.
You can also contact us by phone, email, post or in person. Our staff can help answer questions about the VCAT process, but they can’t give you legal advice about your case or the outcome.
What do I do if I’m the wrong person?
If you get a letter or notice from VCAT to say you’ve been named in a VCAT application but you’re not the right person:
- speak to the person who made the application right away. Their details are in the letter we sent you. Confirm you’ve done this in writing, and send a copy to us
- apply for a directions hearing or order to ask to be removed from the application or to apply for the case to be dismissed
- talk to the member at the start of the hearing.
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.
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.
- five business days before a hearing
- 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.
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 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.
Learn more about how you can settle a dispute outside VCAT