Residential tenancy disputes – Join a VCAT case
If you want to get involved in a VCAT case about a rental agreement, find out what your options are and what you need to do.
If you have not been named as a party in a VCAT application about a residential tenancy dispute but you have a direct interest in the dispute, you can ask us to add you to the case. We call this being ‘joined as an interested party’.
Who can join a case
We decide if you can be joined to the case as an interested party.
A VCAT member considers your reasons and decides if you can be joined before the hearing or at the hearing.
We join someone when we get information that shows us another person will be directly affected by the decision we make.
Who’s an interested party?
An interested party is someone who will be directly affected by a VCAT decision in a residential tenancy dispute. It is often someone who lives at a property but is not part of the rental agreement (for example a family member of a tenant).
As an interested party, you can participate in the hearing and have your views heard.
Get help and advice before you apply
These organisations may be able to help you.
Consumer Affairs Victoria
Information and advice on renting and accommodation, estate agents, building, shopping and trading.
Advice on renting and your rights. This service is available to tenants of all property types, including caravan parks.
Victoria Legal Aid
Free legal information and legal help for Victorians.
Tenancy Assistance and Advocacy Program providers
Helps renters experiencing financial disadvantage or family violence.
How much VCAT costs
There is no fee for you to join a case as an interested party, but there may be other costs you need to pay. For example, if you want to get an expert report prepared.
You pay your own personal costs such as travel, parking fees or time off work.
How to apply to join a case
If you want to apply to join a case as an interested party:
- If your situation is urgent, contact us or come to the hearing and ask the member
- Email or write to us with the VCAT reference number and the name of the applicant.
When you email us, it’s helpful to include a document that proves you have a direct interest in the case (for example, a bill or something else with your name and the property address on it). Explain why you want to be added as an interested party.
If there is no time to email us, you can come to the hearing and explain your reasons in person.
Ready to apply?
Ask to join a case as an interested party. Include the VCAT reference or case number in your application.
What happens next
1 Ask to join the case as an interested party
2 A VCAT member considers your request
If the member agrees, they make an order to join you as an interested party. If they want more information, you may have to attend a directions hearing where they decide.
3 Attend a directions hearing
If you need to attend to a directions hearing to decide on the application to join, we send you a notice. The notice explains what you need to do next.
The notice gives you the date, time and whether you need to attend by phone or video. If you’re attending by phone, make sure we have your direct phone number and extension to contact you on the day. Email us (firstname.lastname@example.org) immediately if you need us to update your contact details.
At the hearing give us information about why you think you should be joined and we make a decision at this hearing. If you’re joined, the member makes an order to name you as an interested party.
4 We give you a notice of hearing
When you’re joined to the case, we give you a notice for the final hearing.
The notice gives you the date, time and whether you need to attend by phone or video. The notice explains what you need to do next.
Check the time, date and location (if you are coming to VCAT in person). This is shown on the notice or order we gave you.
You can find out the time and room for your hearing at Upcoming hearings after 4.30pm on the day before your hearing.
5 Send your documents to the applicant and VCAT
You must send all documents that support your case to the other parties and to VCAT. Make sure you do this by email three business days before your hearing.
If it’s an urgent application, send them right away.
If the landlord has applied for a termination or possession order because you are behind in your rent we need to know:
- if payment of rent would cause you severe hardship
- if you didn’t pay rent because of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic
- if you are able to pay rent or if you’ll be able to soon.
If you want to talk about these issues at the hearing, you need to give us supporting evidence.
Use the Financial circumstances form to give us information to help us understand how these issues affect you.
You must email this information to the landlord and to VCAT at least three business days before the hearing. We need this information when the hearing starts.
We send you a confirmation email once we receive your documents. If you don't receive confirmation, check you've sent to the correct email address and the size of your email is under 35 MB.
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 need these support services, contact us as soon as you receive your notice of hearing or a copy of the application form.
VCAT cannot give legal advice about your case. If you need legal support see Legal and professional representation.
7 On the day
At a final hearing, all parties can present their case, ask questions and give evidence in front of a VCAT member.
Your hearing may not start at the exact time we give you so allow at least two hours 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.
8 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 that they must take.
All parties must follow VCAT’s decision. If you don’t understand the order, ask the member.
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 can I access documents for a residential tenancy case?
You can look at most VCAT files at our Melbourne office at 55 King Street, Melbourne if you arrange it with us. If you’re not part of the case then you pay a fee.
In residential tenancy cases you can access documents for free if you’re:
- a party in the case (applicant or respondent)
- representing a party at the hearing – for example, you are the renter’s representative or the rental provider’s estate agent
- advising or assisting a party who has given you permission to access documents on their behalf.
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 support can I get on the day at VCAT?
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.
If you are coming to VCAT at King Street, Melbourne and you need support or information, you can visit the free services on Level 5 before the hearing:
- Court Network volunteers offer free and independent support, information and referral services. They don’t give legal advice.
- Victoria Legal Aid duty lawyers can help if you are unsure about your options or need advice about your claim.
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.