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.

Important
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.

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:

  • VCAT
  • everyone involved in the case.

If you’re attending VCAT by phone or videoconference make sure you do this by email.

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.

The order you receive from us tells you how we will handle your case. Find out how to prepare for a practice day hearing, preliminary hearing, compulsory conference or final hearing.

We will also tell you in the initiating order if you should prepare your case as a major case, a short case or a case that will be determined ‘on the papers’.

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 Today’s hearings page after 4.30pm on the day before your hearing.

6
Pay your hearing fee

We contact you in writing to tell you if you need to pay hearing fees. You must pay before the hearing. If you don’t, your hearing will be postponed (adjourned).

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 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.
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.

Help and support

  • 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. 
      

    1. 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. 
       
    2. 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). 
       
    3. 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. 

    Download a form to book technology 

  • 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.

    Find out how to ask for permission

    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.

    Date xx/xx/xx

    Signed:______________ Name:______________ Position:______________

    See also: Who can represent the owners corporation at VCAT?

  • 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 hearing day.

    If you want more information or need to tell us about an alternative number or party name, call 1300 01 8228.

    Make sure you check today’s 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.

    Find out how to join a video conference

  • 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

  • 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.

    Find out how to prepare an expert report

    See also: How do I send documents to other people in the case?