Retail and Commercial Leases
VCAT hears and decides cases about retail tenancies and commercial leasing disputes.
The steps you must take to apply vary depending on the type of application you are making.
If your matter concerns an application to prevent another party from doing something or compelling another party to do something and it is urgent you can apply for an injunction. Typical examples of an injunction application are to prevent a landlord from taking possession of leased premises or if you are a landlord, regaining possession of retail premises. Complete the relevant section in the application form if you wish to apply for an injunction.
Cases VCAT can hear
VCAT can hear all types of disputes concerning retail and commercial tenancies. These disputes include:
- injunction applications
- relief from forfeiture of lease applications
- recovery of rent and outgoings in arrears
- rent review disputes
- whether options to renew have been exercised
- recovery of key money
- damages to leased premises
- compensation for interference or disruption to trading.
Cases we can't help with
We can’t accept:
- some cases where one party lives in another state or is a Commonwealth government organisation
- cases heard under federal law instead of Victorian law.
Before you apply
Before applying to VCAT, you must find out whether you need to attach a certificate issued by the Small Business Commissioner to your application. You can also contact the Victorian Small Business Commissioner (VSBC), who can help you understand your rights and obligations under the Retail Leases Act 2003. They also provide information and assistance to resolve disputes.
When making an application to VCAT, provide the following supporting documents:
- If you are seeking damages or relief you must attach a certificate issued by the Small Business Commissioner under section 87 of the Retail Leases Act 2003. The certificate confirms that mediation or another appropriate form of alternative dispute resolution has failed or is unlikely to resolve the dispute. We cannot process your application if you do not attach the certificate
- If you are seeking an injunction you must attach a copy of the lease (if available).
Check if you need a certificate issued by the Small Business Commissioner
Unless your dispute is about rent relief under the COVID-19 Omnibus (Emergency Measures) Act 2020 or the regulations made under that Act, you do not need a certificate issued by the Small Business Commissioner if any of the following apply:
- your claim relates solely to the recovery of outstanding rent
- you are seeking an injunction
- the dispute relates to a commercial tenancy, rather than a retail tenancy
- you are seeking to enforce a settlement agreement reached at the Small Business Commission.
Time limits may apply. If your claim is under the Retail Leases Act 2003 and/or the Australian Consumer Law and Fair Trading Act 2012 then generally you must apply within 6 years of the date on which the dispute arose.
Application for damages or relief
If your dispute concerns a retail tenancy and you are seeking an order that the other party pay you damages or you are seeking some other form of relief - other than an order in the form of an injunction - you must attach a certificate issued by the Small Business Commissioner under section 87 of the Retail Leases Act 2003 to your application before VCAT is able to hear your case. The certificate confirms that mediation or another appropriate form of alternative dispute resolution has failed or is unlikely to resolve the dispute.
Make an application
We can explain the application process and what the form is asking you for. Contact us to get support.
We cannot give you legal advice. This means we cannot tell you what to write in your application or recommend how to get the outcome you want.
Seek legal help if you are unsure about your options or need advice about your claim.
Estimated time to VCAT
COVID-19 has impacted normal timeframes for retail and commercial leases hearings. The current timeframes to get to a hearing after we receive your application are:
- Mediation – 9 weeks
- Compulsory conference – 31 weeks
- Directions hearing – 9 weeks
- Small claim dispute – 37 weeks
- Complex multi-day hearing – 53 weeks
We understand the impact of these delays to you and are working hard to reduce the backlog. As soon as a case opens, we make directions to get it moving. This means you won’t have to wait for a directions hearing, but you can still apply for one if you think it’s necessary.
We assess your application and contact you as soon as we can take the next steps in your case to:
- give you a date to come to VCAT
- ask for more information if we need it
- let you know if we can't deal with your dispute.
We also send a copy of your application to the other party.
Settling your dispute before your hearing
When we open a case, you can still try to resolve the dispute yourself with the other party, right up until the hearing.
If you do settle, you must contact us to tell us you've come to an agreement and don't need a hearing.
A directions hearing is a hearing where a VCAT member decides how a case should be managed and how much time it will take.
At the directions hearing, the VCAT member may:
- clarify and explore ways to resolve any issues that are raised
- decide whether the case should go to mediation, compulsory conference or hearing
- set dates for parties to send documents to VCAT and to each other
- order physical evidence to be inspected by an expert witness – for example, requiring a car to be inspected by a mechanic
- make a final order to confirm an agreement between the parties or decide any legal issues raised.
Do I need a lawyer or professional representative?
You do not need to have legal or other professional representation to appear at VCAT. If you wish to be represented by a lawyer or a professional advocate, usually you must ask for VCAT's permission.In many cases all parties are represented by agreement.
In many cases in the Building and Property List all parties are represented by agreement. If you are represented by a legal or other professional representative, we will only communicate with them.
Access and privacy
VCAT hearings and files are usually public. VCAT has limited authority to restrict who can access cases and files but, in certain circumstances, you can apply for confidentiality.
If you need assistance at VCAT (including interpreters, hearing loop, video or telephone links, or family violence support) please tell us as early as possible so we can assist you. Learn more about customer support at VCAT.
Legislation that applies to this type of case
Practice note - PNBP2 - Building and Property List (commercial and retail tenancy disputes) General Procedures
Other organisations that can help
We can help you understand how to apply. We cannot give you legal advice or tell you what to write in your application. These organisations may be able to help you.