After you apply – Residential tenancy disputes
After you’ve applied, it’s important to understand the VCAT process. Find out what you need to do and what happens next.
Referral from Consumer Affairs Victoria
We can accept your application but we can’t have a hearing unless you have a referral number from Consumer Affairs Victoria.
If you don’t have this at the hearing, it will be delayed (adjourned).
1 Apply to VCAT
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 four weeks to:
- ask for more information if we need it
- let you know if we can't deal with your dispute.
If we accept your application you will receive a notice of hearing within six weeks from when your application was lodged.
For applications considered urgent under the law, we contact you by text or email within 24-48 hours.
What’s an urgent application?
An urgent application is one where the Residential Tenancies Act 1997 directs VCAT to hear the dispute within a very short timeframe (for example, a dispute about urgent repairs must be heard within two business days).
3 You get a notice of hearing
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.
4 Send your documents
You must send copies of the application and any documents you plan to use as evidence to VCAT and all the parties in the case at least 48 hours before the hearing date. (If it’s an urgent application, send them right away.)
If you are attending by phone or video conference you must send this to the other parties and VCAT by email.
If you don’t your hearing may be delayed.
5 Prepare your case
It’s important to prepare for your hearing day so you have the documents you need and you’re ready to present the best case possible.
At the hearing, the member will make a decision based on the facts and evidence you present.
If you can’t come to the hearing and have arranged for someone to come in your place, they must bring or email us a written authority from you.
If you’re a landlord, you must fill in a summary of what your claim is. This is called a 'summary of proofs'. Fill in the form for your application type:
What's a summary of proofs?
A summary of proofs is a written summary of what your claim is. It should have all the information the member needs to make a decision.
6 Ask for any support services you need
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.
You can find out the time for your hearing at Upcoming hearings after 4.30pm on the day before your hearing.
We schedule more than one case for the same time, so allow extra time for your hearing to finish. For example, if your hearing is scheduled for 2pm, it may not start until 3pm.
8 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).
9 On the day
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.)
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:
- register at the customer service counter
- speak to a staff member if you have arranged security, disability support, an interpreter, or technology for your hearing.
While you’re waiting for your hearing to start, you can speak to the other parties about the dispute to see if you can settle before the hearing (for example, agree on a payment plan for unpaid rent). This means the member can make an order for the decision you’ve agreed on.
If you don’t settle, you and the other parties present your case to a VCAT member at the hearing. The member makes a decision based on the evidence presented and the law.
10 Get an outcome
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.
If you want the reasons for the decision in writing, ask the member at the start of the hearing. The member may not agree to give you written reasons.
11 Enforce the order
If other parties don’t follow the order and you have tried to or can’t contact them, find out how you can enforce the order.
Help and support
Who can I bring to VCAT?
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.
Signed:______________ Name:______________ Position:______________
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?
How do I change my VCAT application?
To change your VCAT application you need to ask before the final hearing for the change to be made. We can’t always make every type of change to every type of case. For example, if what you are asking is something we cannot deal with or a time limit has passed.
- Tell us what you want to change (for example, contact details) and your reasons in writing, by post or by email.
Find the right email address for your type of case or send a written letter to GPO Box 5408, Melbourne VIC 3000
Include the application reference number and any documents that support the change.
Tell the other person or business (the other ‘party’) about the change in writing, and send them copies of any new documents.
VCAT must review and accept your change and we’ll tell you the outcome.
Sometimes we’ll arrange a brief session called a ‘directions hearing’ to work out if we’ll allow the change. This often happens when the other person or business involved (the respondent) has a problem with the change.
If you are the permit applicant and want to change your application, you need to send the notice and complete the Statement of Service to confirm you’ve shared your documents.
To find the right contact details relevant to your dispute, see Contacts and locations.
- Tell us what you want to change (for example, contact details) and your reasons in writing, by post or by email.
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 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
Can I cancel my application?
If you are the applicant, you can ask for permission to withdraw your VCAT application at any time before the hearing, for example, if you change your mind. You must let us and the other parties know in writing as soon as possible if you want to apply to withdraw.
For some case types if you are the applicant you may have to pay costs to the respondent if you withdraw your claim.
If you do withdraw your application, in most cases it can’t be reinstated. (This doesn’t apply in cases about guardians, administratrators, and powers of attorney for example.) You may be able to start a new application about the same dispute later. There will be new fees to pay and we may not accept your application.
Cases about guardians, administrators, supportive guardians and supportive administrators
If you want to withdraw your application in a case about guardians, administrators, supportive guardians and supportive administrators:
- Write to us, explaining why orders are no longer needed.
- We consider whether there is any serious risk to the person you made the application about. This is because the law requires us to protect a person who may have a decision-making disability.
Even if an application has been withdrawn, the applicant or anyone else is able to make another application about the same circumstances at any later time.
How do I get an interpreter?
If you need an interpreter, contact us to arrange a professional interpreter (at no cost to you) before the hearing.
Make sure you ask for an interpreter as early as you can.
We connect with a large network of interpreters in 160 languages. Tell us in English what your language is when you ask for an interpreter. It’s best to ask when you apply to VCAT or as soon as possible after we’ve sent you your hearing date.
We don’t allow a relative or friend to interpret for you at a hearing.