After you apply – Residential tenancy cases
After you’ve applied, it’s important to understand the VCAT process. Find out what you need to do and what happens next.
How to attend your hearing
To avoid missing your hearing, check your notice of hearing for instructions on how to attend by phone or video conference. If you're joining by phone you need to call VCAT’s teleconference number which you will find on your notice of hearing.
1 Apply to VCAT
2 We contact you
COVID-19 has impacted normal timeframes for residential tenancy hearings. Some cases are taking longer to schedule a hearing than usual. We prioritise cases that the renting laws say must be heard within a certain time, and those we consider urgent. For example, urgent repairs are heard within 2 business days, and applications involving personal or family violence are heard within 3 business days.
It takes about 7 business days to hear cases about non-urgent repairs.
Applications for possession due to danger, damage, or disruption are scheduled for hearing as soon as possible. Possession applications due to unpaid rent are heard in about 5 weeks, and most other applications for possession are heard within 4-8 weeks.
We currently have a large backlog of bond and compensation cases. Some of these cases have been waiting for several months or more. We understand the impact of these delays on our users and are working hard to reduce the backlog. To help you resolve your dispute faster, we may invite you to a mediation facilitated by the Dispute Settlement Centre of Victoria. If we decide your dispute is suitable for mediation, the Dispute Settlement Centre of Victoria (DSCV), who partner with us, contacts you to discuss the process.
If you have not already heard from DSCV or us, we will contact you as soon as we can take the next steps in your case.
We assess your application and contact you to:
- ask for more information if we need it
- let you know if we can't deal with your application.
If we accept your application you will receive a notice of hearing from us or notice of mediation from DSCV.
Mediation is an opportunity to resolve your dispute quicker than waiting for your hearing. It involves talking through the issues with the other people involved, assisted by a mediator from DSCV. If you cannot resolve your dispute at mediation, you go to a VCAT hearing at a later date, where a VCAT member makes a decision about the case. You do not have to pay any fees for this service.
For applications considered urgent under the law, we contact you by text or email within 24-48 hours.
At an urgent hearing, only the urgent issues will be dealt with. Non-urgent issues, such as compensation, will be dealt with when there is more time at a later hearing.
What’s an urgent application?
An urgent application is one where the Residential Tenancies Act 1997 directs VCAT to hear the issue within a very short timeframe.
For example, an application about urgent repairs must be heard within two business days.
3 You get a notice of hearing or mediation
If we can accept your application, you get either a:
- notice of hearing that gives you the date, time and whether you need to attend by phone, video or in person
- a notice of mediation from the Dispute Settlement Centre of Victoria (DSCV) that may help you resolve your dispute quicker.
The notice explains what you need to do next.
4 Send your documents
To avoid a delay to your hearing, you must email all documents you plan to use as evidence to the other parties and VCAT.
Email within the following timeframes:
- a copy of the application to respondent/s no later than seven days after you apply. If the case is urgent send it right away.
- your documents and evidence to VCAT and the respondent/s at least seven days before the hearing. If it’s an urgent application, send them right away.
We send you an automated confirmation email once we receive your documents. If you don't receive confirmation, check you've sent to the correct email address (firstname.lastname@example.org) and the size of your email is under 35 MB.
It’s important you read the instructions on how to organise and send your documents.
5 Prepare your case
It’s important to prepare for your hearing or mediation 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 or mediation 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 rental provider (landlord), in some cases 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:
- Summary of proofs - possession of residential rental property due to rent arrears – use this form if you applied for possession, after serving a Notice to Vacate for rent arrears.
- Summary of proofs - rental provider's claim for bond or compensation
- Summary of proofs - abandonment or vacation
- Summary of proofs - possession of a room in a rooming house – use this form if you're a rooming house operator applying for a possession order
- Summary of proofs - possession of a caravan or site in a caravan park
- Summary of proofs - possession of a Part 4A site in a caravan park
- Summary of proofs - possession of residential rental property for any other reason – use this form if you applied for possession, after serving a Notice to Vacate for a reason other than rent arrears
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
We offer a range of support services, including interpreters, disability, security, family violence and Koori support.
If you haven’t asked for support services when you applied, contact us as early as possible.
VCAT cannot give legal advice about your case. If you need legal support see Legal and professional representation.
7 Check the hearing details
Your notice of hearing tells you the time and date of your hearing. It also tells you if your hearing will take place by phone, videoconference or in person. To avoid missing your hearing, it's important you check the notice we send you for instructions on how to join the phone or videoconference.
You can confirm the time of 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 Hearing fees
You only need to pay a fee if your hearing runs for more than one day. Most residential tenancy cases are resolved within one day.
We will tell you if you need to pay hearing fees which must be paid 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.
Attending by phone or videoconference
To avoid missing your hearing, it's important you check your Notice of Hearing. It tells you if your hearing is by phone or videoconference (Zoom).
If you're attending by phone you must call VCAT using the teleconference number and PIN we give you in the notice.
For more help see: How to join a phone 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.
10 Get an outcome
If you come to a mediation and reach an agreement (settle), the agreement is put in writing and signed by all parties. If you cannot resolve your dispute at mediation, you go to a VCAT hearing at a later date, where a VCAT member makes a decision about the case.
At the end of 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.
They will usually tell you what the decision is, and the reasons for it, at the end of the hearing.
All the parties will also receive a written copy of the order.
All parties must follow VCAT's orders.
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 (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.
- 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?
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're asking is something we cannot deal with or a time limit has passed.
We usually accept changes to your contact details before your hearing. If you're asking to change a name or the details of your claim, you may have to wait until you go to a hearing to find out if we can accept it.
- 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.
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.
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.