After you apply – Planning 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 VCAT reviews your application
We assess your application and contact you within two weeks to:
- give you a date and time to come to VCAT
- ask for more information if we need it
- let you know if we can't deal with your dispute.
2 You receive an initiating order
We send an initiating order to you, the responsible authority, and other parties. The initiating order tells you the date of your hearing and whether you need to attend by phone, videoconference or in person, and explains what you need to do next.
You must follow the instructions in the initiating order and send documents as it tells you to.
You usually receive an initiating order in 14 days. If you have a Fast Track case, you’ll receive your initiating order within 9 business days.
What's an initiating order?
The first order that we send you.
The initiating order tells you the date of your hearing and what happens next. It sets out the steps you need to take to progress your application.
3 Send your documents
Instructions on how to send documents and when are outlined in the initiating order. Usually you need to send copies of any documents you plan to use in the case to:
- everyone involved in the case.
If you’re attending VCAT by phone or videoconference, make sure you send documents by email. Learn how to address your email to VCAT.
Whenever you communicate with VCAT about your case, you must also copy in all other parties involved in the case.
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.
We may order you to submit a tribunal book.
5 Check the hearing details
Check the time, date and location (if you are coming to VCAT in person). This is shown on the initiating order that we send you.
If we've told you that your case is being determined '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 and room for your hearing on Upcoming hearings page after 4.30pm on the day before your hearing.
6 Pay your hearing fee
We have changed the way hearing fees are paid online.
If you need to pay a hearing fee, we'll send you an email with the fee you must pay and a link to the online payment system.
If your matter requires multiple hearing days, the fee will be the total amount for all hearing days.
You must pay your total hearing fees upfront before your hearing. If you don’t, your hearing may be postponed (adjourned).
If your hearing finishes early, we’ll refund the balance of hearing fees you paid as soon as we can. There’s no need to request a refund.
7 On the day
If we’ve told you that your case is being determined 'on the papers' or you are attending your hearing by phone or videoconference, you don’t need to come to VCAT.
If you are attending by phone or videoconference
If you are attending by phone or videoconference make sure you are 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 you information on how to join the call or videoconference before your hearing.
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.
8 Get an outcome
You may reach an agreement (settle) before the hearing. This agreement is put in writing and signed by all parties. VCAT makes a consent order.
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. All parties must follow VCAT's orders.
We send the order to you after the hearing. This takes approximately 6 weeks. We will always give you reasons for the order we make.
In a VCAT case, each party usually pays their own costs and fees. We only award costs or reimburse fees in some circumstances. Find out how to apply for costs or reimbursement of fees. We may not grant your request.
Help and support
Can I bring my own technology to the hearing?
You can use your own electronic device at a hearing, for example a laptop, tablet, smartphone or USB.
There is no Wi-Fi at many VCAT venues, so if you need an internet connection you need to have your own.
- Bring your device to the hearing
Bring your own device to the hearing, including a charger or power cord, and access to Wi-Fi.
If you want to use a USB, you need to bring your own laptop or tablet as private USB devices can’t be connected to VCAT equipment.
- Bring an adaptor
If your device is an Apple product, for example, an iPhone, iPad or MacBook, you need to bring a HDMI or VGA adaptor if you need to connect to VCAT’s equipment (such as a screen).
- Test your device
If you want to connect to VCAT equipment in the room, test your device before the hearing to make sure it works.
VCAT also has projectors, DVD players, LCD screens and other equipment you can book to use at the hearing.
- Bring your device to the hearing
Can I have someone speak for me?
If you want someone else to represent you, for example, a family member or friend, you must put this in writing and give it to them. They must bring this document to the hearing.
You must make sure the person who represents you:
- has first-hand knowledge of the dispute so they can present your case
- has your permission to agree on a settlement
- can make promises to VCAT relating to a decision.
The VCAT member decides if they can represent you.
In most cases you need to ask our permission for a lawyer or other professional to represent you.
If you’re a company, you must nominate someone to represent the company. Put this in writing and have the director of the company sign it. They must bring this document to the hearing.
Template of written authority for someone to represent you
Use this template to ask 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.
Signed:______________ Name:______________ Position:______________
My case is being heard by phone or videoconference, what is the process?
VCAT will contact you to let you know the scheduled time for the hearing.
A phone hearing or videoconference is no different to a hearing in person, so ensure you are in a quiet location and have any relevant paperwork at hand.
Find out more information about what to expect on your hearing day.
Make sure you check upcoming hearings to keep up to date with your hearing time. Due to capacity issues, we may not be able to remind you when your upcoming hearing is.
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.
What’s expert evidence?
When you present your case at VCAT you can include evidence from experts to support your side of the story.
An expert report is a written report from an expert that a party uses as evidence in a VCAT case.
The expert must provide an impartial opinion based on their area of expertise. They must make an oath that their report is written to the best of their knowledge and expertise.
Any party in a VCAT case can organise and submit an expert report as evidence. For example:
- a person involved in a dispute about house renovations may ask a building consultant to provide an expert report
- in a planning case, a party (including objectors) may ask for a report from an aborist or heritage architect
The expert is generally expected to come to the hearing to explain key elements of the report. It allows the member and the parties to ask questions about the report. We tell you if we don’t expect the expert to attend, or you can ask us whether they need to come to VCAT.
How do I prepare a tribunal book?
VCAT may direct you to submit a tribunal book if your Planning and Environment case involves many parties and expert witnesses.
A tribunal book contains documents which parties intend to rely on. You can submit one even if there is no VCAT order requiring it.
One party – usually the applicant – should co-ordinate the preparation of the tribunal book. Provide it as an electronic copy.
A tribunal book should:
- be a a single PDF document that is text-searchable or unlocked
- include documents all parties will rely on throughout the case, including (but not limited to):
- an index of its contents
- copies of the applications
- documents that set out the grounds or issues in dispute between the parties
- documents that set out any agreed chronology or statement of facts
- the application for the permit or statutory approval, if relevant
- the decision under review, if relevant
- documents referred to under Practice Note - PNPE2 - Information from decision-makers (eg. an officer report or assessment)
- other documents a party will rely on as a submission, evidence in chief or in cross examination (eg. plans, witness statements, joint expert reports, exhibits and other documentary evidence)
- any background documents any party will refer to or rely on at the hearing
- copies of all statutory provisions, authorities and case law that will be referred to in submissions
- copies of submissions you must provide before the hearing, where possible
- avoid superseded documents and unnecessary duplication of documents
- have stamped page numbers that correspond with the electronic display showing page numbers
- have documents grouped where convenient. Groupings must have clear divisions, and all pages indexed and numbered sequentially.