Respond to an application – Residential tenancy disputes
When you get a notice (or message) from VCAT about a rental property dispute, find out what this means for you and what you need to do.
What you need to do before your hearing
When you go to VCAT, you'll be able to tell your side of the issue. You should support your argument with evidence.
Make sure you send your evidence to VCAT and the applicant at least three business days before the hearing.
What the notice means
If you’ve received a notice of hearing or text message from us, someone has made an application against you to VCAT – the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal. This means they have a dispute with you and have applied to VCAT to have it resolved.
You are called the respondent. The person who made the application is the applicant.
What the application is about
The applicant explains the dispute in their application form. They need to send you a copy of their application form within seven days of submitting it to us. If it's urgent, the applicant must send you a copy immediately.
Contact the applicant if you haven’t received a copy of the application from them.
There are a few things you can do if you're worried about eviction.
If you’re still unsure what it's about, you can ask the member at the hearing.
Temporary changes to renting laws
Renting laws were changed through the COVID-19 Omnibus (Emergency Measures) Act 2020. For example:
- Landlords can’t increase the rent at any time from 29 March 2020 to 28 March 2021.
- If you’re a tenant you can apply to Consumer Affairs Victoria for a rent reduction and a payment plan.
- Landlords and tenants can apply to VCAT for a reduction in the term of a fixed-term agreement if they are suffering severe hardship.
- If you’re a tenant you can’t be listed on a residential tenancy database (blacklist) for a failure to pay rent if it was due to COVID-19.
- Before making an application to VCAT, in most cases people must now get a referral from Consumer Affairs Victoria.
Get help and advice before you come to VCAT
These organisations may be able to help you.
Consumer Affairs Victoria
Information about your rights and sample notices
Advice, assistance and advocacy for renters and residents
Victoria Legal Aid
Free legal information over the phone
Tenancy Assistance and Advocacy Program providers
Helps renters experiencing financial disadvantage or family violence.
What happens next
1 You’ve received a notice of hearing or text message from VCAT
It’s very important that you don’t ignore the application made against you. At VCAT, you can have your say and explore options to resolve the dispute.
For example, if you’re facing eviction, you may be able to work out a payment plan with the landlord and stay in your rental property. There are a few other things you can do if you're worried about eviction.
If you don’t come to VCAT, we may make a decision that aﬀects you and can be enforced.
2 Make sure we have your correct phone number
It’s important that we can communicate with you about the status of this application. Check that the application form has the correct details about you, including your direct phone number and extension (if this applies). Email us (email@example.com) immediately if it’s incorrect.
3 Try to settle
Even if an application has been made against you, you can still try to resolve the dispute with the other party without going to VCAT, right up until the hearing.
4 Read and understand the documents
Carefully read and understand the notice of hearing and the application made against you. If you don’t understand it, ask one of the organisations that can help.
The applicant must send you the application and copies of any documents they plan to use at the hearing (for example, photos, receipts or correspondence).
Their contact details are in the application.
5 Decide if you want to make your own claim
If you believe you have a claim against the applicant yourself, you can make your own application to VCAT. For example, both the landlord and tenant may want to claim compensation from each other for alleged breaches of the tenancy agreement or the law.
If you want to make a claim after receiving an application from the other party, you need to make your own application (this is called a counterclaim) and you may have to pay a fee. We can arrange to have both claims heard together.
Note that if the landlord makes a claim for the bond, the tenant doesn’t need to make a separate application asking for the bond to be returned to them. The tenant instead needs to defend the landlord’s application at the hearing.
6 Send your documents to the applicant and VCAT
You must send all documents you plan to use as evidence to VCAT and all the parties in the case. Make sure you do this by email to firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
7 Prepare your case
It’s important to prepare for your hearing day. Work out what you want to say at the hearing. Make sure you have all your documents ready to give to the VCAT member so you’re ready to present the best case possible.
8 Check the hearing details
Your hearing will take place by phone or videoconference. Check the time and date of your hearing. This is shown on the notice we send you. It will also have instructions on how to join the phone or videoconference.
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.
9 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.
10 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.)
11 Get an outcome
At 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.
They will usually tell you what the decision is, and the reasons for it, at the end of the hearing.
All parties must follow VCAT's decision.
12 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:______________
What happens if I miss my hearing?
What happens if you miss the hearing depends on if you’re the applicant or the respondent.
- If you’re the applicant and you don’t come to the hearing, the hearing can’t go ahead and your application may be dismissed or struck out
- If you’re a respondent and you don’t come, VCAT may make a decision that affects you and can be enforced by a court. For example, the member could make an order for costs against you.
If you have a good enough reason for not coming, and you didn’t have someone come for you, you may be able to apply for a review and rehearing (called ‘reopening an order’).
You need to make this application within 14 days of finding out about the order. There’s no guarantee that VCAT will agree.
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.
How does VCAT support Aboriginal people?
We offer support to ensure VCAT is culturally safe and inclusive for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
We can help you with:
- booking a Koori hearing room
- organising a Koori Engagement Officer to attend you hearing or mediation with you
- general information and advice about your case.
Call our Koori Helpline to speak to a Koori Engagement Officer on 0417 516 335, Monday to Friday, 8am-5pm.
Read more about Koori support at VCAT
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.