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.

Respond to a VCAT case image

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.

Consumer Affairs Victoria (CAV)

Information and advice on renting and accommodation, estate agents, building, shopping and trading.

Victoria Legal Aid

Free legal information over the phone. Call 1300 792 387, Monday to Friday from 8am to 6pm.

Federation of Community Legal Centres

Help for people facing economic, cultural or social disadvantage who have been impacted by legal issues.

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

1 You’ve received a notice from VCAT

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

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

2 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.

3 Make sure we can contact you

You must give us your email address so we can contact you.

4 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.

5 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.

6 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. Your first step may be a directions hearing, compulsory conference or final hearing.

If your hearing is ‘on the papers’ you must send a ‘points of defence’ to VCAT and to the other party.

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 by phone or videoconference, you don't need to come to VCAT.

You can find out the time and room for your hearing at Upcoming hearings after 4.30pm on the day before your hearing.

8 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.

What to expect 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

    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.
    9 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

    • 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

    • 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. 

      We strongly recommend you bring a mask if you need to come to one of our venues. If you're attending a hearing, you may be instructed to wear a mask during part or all of the hearing.

      Find out more about preparing for your hearing

      See also: Can I bring my own tech devices to the 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.

      Apply for a review and rehearing

    • 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.

        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.

        Who you can bring to VCAT

      • 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.     

        Find out about our commitment to a fair hearing for all parties

      • 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