How to respond to a case
If an application has been made against you, the VCAT application form and the documents associated with your case describe you as the respondent. The person who made the application is described as the applicant.
A reference number appears on documents we send you about the case. Include this reference number whenever you contact us or the other people involved.
If you need help understanding the documents you have received, there are free or low-cost legal services that can offer help and information.
Your copy of the application
When VCAT or the applicant sends you a copy of the application, we call that 'serving the application on you'. This is the legally correct way of saying that you have been given the application as part of the formal VCAT process. Sometimes VCAT or the applicant also send a copy of any supporting documents.
If you have not received a copy of the application, contact the applicant.
Instructions from VCAT
If you are a party to a case, we ensure you know what will happen next, as well as where and when it will happen.
Depending on the type of application, the first step may be a directions hearing, a mediation, a compulsory conference, or sometimes an application will be listed for a final hearing.
How to respond
A response is a statement from you saying whether you agree or disagree with the applicant and what they say in their application. You may hear this called a defence, 'points of defence' or ‘statement of grounds’ by the member in the hearing, in orders and directions and in reasons. It lets VCAT and the applicant know what your position is in relation to what the applicant says.
Read the documents you receive from us carefully. In some cases you must send us a response.
There may be a timeframe for filing a response. This will be clearly stated in our notice to you. You must file within the stated timeframe.
Can someone represent me?
In most VCAT cases, you do not need to be represented by a lawyer or professional representative. Many people choose to represent themselves at VCAT.
Seek legal help if you are unsure about your options or need advice about your claim.
Witness statements and supporting documentation
You may also need to send us and the other party witness statements and other supporting documents. The directions from us may state what you need to send us and when. Alternatively, in the case of expert evidence, you must comply with the requirement set out in Practice Note PNPEVCAT2 – Expert Evidence.
Other ways to resolve the dispute
Even if an application has been made to VCAT, you can still try to resolve the dispute yourself. This may include approaching the person you are in dispute with, and trying to negotiate a solution.
Before coming to VCAT the Dispute Settlement Centre of Victoria (DSCV) may be able to help you. The DSCV is a free dispute resolution service funded by the Victorian Government.
Lodging a counterclaim
If you believe you have a claim against the applicant, you can lodge your own claim with VCAT. This is called a counterclaim. Most case types allow a counterclaim but for some case types it is not possible.
When completing your own application, write the reference number of the application made against you. This will ensure that both claims can be heard together. When you receive the hearing notices, contact us if both claims are not listed at the same date and time.
Do not confuse your defence to a claim with a counterclaim. A counterclaim is your own separate application where you make a claim against the applicant. If you simply want to defend the applicant's claim, you do not need to make your own application.
Attending the hearing
Whether you file a response or not, you should still come to the hearing.
VCAT can make a decision that you have to do something or pay money to the other party even if you don’t come to the hearing. It is in your best interests to attend and tell your own side of the story.
You do not have to pay a fee if an application is made against you. You may need to pay a fee to lodge a counterclaim or a statement of grounds if you wish to become a party. Read more about fees at VCAT.
Some details of the steps to follow during a VCAT case vary for different case types.