"I need urgent repairs in my home"
If you’ve asked your landlord for repairs and they haven’t been fixed in reasonable time, you can apply to VCAT. Tom came to VCAT and got his leaking roof fixed.
A leaking roof
Tom is a young Aboriginal man living in a rented home. He recently started an apprenticeship and supports his brother Matt who’s still at school.
During a recent storm, the roof started leaking heavily. The carpets got soaked and water stains appeared on the walls.
Asking for repairs
Tom calls the estate agent and asks to get the roof fixed. He also sends an email, with a video of the damage.
Three days later Tom still hasn’t heard back. It’s raining heavily again and water is leaking into their home. The carpet and walls are wet. Tom worries they’ll get mouldy.
Tom calls and emails the agent again. The agent says they’ll send someone to have a look at the roof in two weeks.
Put it in writing
Email or send a letter, so you have a record that you tried to contact them. Photos and videos help show the problem and are handy if you need to take further action.
Getting help and advice
If you’re renting your home, you have rights and protections. These organisations can give you good advice for free.
Consumer Affairs Victoria
Information and advice on renting rights. Call 1300 55 81 81 and select the Koori option.
Information and advice on your renting rights. Call 1800 064 865.
Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service
Legal advice for Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islanders. Call 1800 064 865.
Understanding the situation
Tom and his brother Matt find information online and call Tenants Victoria.
The tenancy advocate tells them they can apply to VCAT to get the roof fixed.
Because a serious roof leak is an urgent repair:
- VCAT will hear it in two business days
- they can pay up to
$1,800 for repairs and ask for compensation in their application, if the landlord won’t fix it.
The advocate also gives them tips on what they can bring as evidence to support their claim against the landlord.
Don’t stop paying your rent
Your landlord can’t ask you to leave because you’ve asked for repairs. But they can if you stop paying your rent for more than 14 days.
Applying to VCAT
He notices that VCAT offers support for Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islanders. He emails the Koori Helpline. He wants to understand how the hearing works.
Identify when you apply
Our Koori Support Team reaches out to support Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islanders at VCAT.
You can also call or text our Koori Helpline on 0417 516 335 to speak to a Koori Support Officer.
Koori support at VCAT
Tom receives an SMS from VCAT with a hearing date in two days’ time.
A Koori Support Officer calls Tom to answer his questions and explain what he can do to get ready for the hearing. They also offer to help him book a Koori hearing room and come with him, if he’d like some support.
Tom feels ready for the day. Plus, he’s not going alone. His brother Matt will be there too. He saves the Koori Helpline details in case he needs to get in touch.
At the hearing
On the day of the hearing, Tom brings copies of their emails to the agent, photos and documents. He’s nervous but feels comfortable in a Koori hearing room with Aboriginal flags, artwork and possum skin cloaks.
The member listens to the agent, Tom and Matt, and considers the evidence. They order the agent to organise a qualified tradesperson to do the repairs by a certain date.
If the repairs aren’t done by the deadline, Tom and Matt can contact VCAT and come back for another hearing to ask for compensation.
This decision is in the order Tom and Matt receive.
What’s a member?
A person who hears and decides cases at VCAT. Some members are specialists in particular areas of law.
What’s an order?
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 they must take. All parties follow VCAT's orders.
Don’t understand the order?
Ask the member to explain it to you in the hearing. Or call the Koori Helpline on 0417 516 335.
Tom and Matt are relieved. They look forward to their home being fixed.
They feel confident coming to VCAT again, if they need to. Getting advice early really helped.
Tom and Matt feel the Koori Helpline is handy for mob and post about it on Facebook. They also tell their family and friends, so they can get support when they need it.
‘I was really nervous, but I had my evidence. You can’t dispute written evidence. So I knew ultimately that I should win my case.’
Start your application
Before you start your application, we step you through the process and tell you about application fees, timeframes and documents you need. You pay when you submit your application.
If you are experiencing financial hardship, you may be eligible for fee relief. You can apply for fee relief at the same time as you submit your application.
Help and support
Can I make an urgent application?
You can ask for an urgent hearing at any time. An urgent hearing means you’ll get a decision sooner if we agree.
- you may want a decision about a refund on a car you bought because you don’t have transport and the warranty period is going to expire soon
- you may want to stop the rental provider (landlord) from doing something they aren’t entitled to do under residential tenancies laws like trying to evict you without first applying for a termination order.
But if you want someone to do or stop doing something until your case has finished, you should apply for an injunction.
If you live in a rental property, some types of applications are considered urgent under the law. This means you don't have to apply for an urgent hearing. For example, urgent repairs are specific types of repairs that are needed for safety reasons, or are essential services such as water, gas or electricity.
Consumer Affairs Victoria has a list of urgent repairs. All other repairs are considered non-urgent.
What can I do if I’m affected by family violence?
If you’re affected by family or personal violence and the situation is urgent, call triple zero (000).
VCAT has a family violence support worker to help you at VCAT. Our support worker can:
- help you understand the VCAT process
- help you fill out the application
- connect you to other services for ongoing support
- support you during the VCAT hearing and help you attend the hearing remotely so you can avoid contact with the other person.
Contact our family violence support worker during business hours on 03 9628 9856.
Can I apply to VCAT over the phone?
If you don’t have email or the internet you can talk to us to apply to VCAT. We can send you a hard copy form.
We can help you complete the form but we can't give you legal advice or tell you what to write.
- Call us on 1300 018 228 (1300 01 VCAT), Monday - Friday 9am - 4.30pm. For guardianship cases call us 9am - 5pm.
- If you’re overseas, call us on +61 3 8685 1462.
- If you need to speak to someone in your own language you can ask for an interpreter. Call the Translating and Interpreting Service on 131 450.
What can I do if I can’t pay the fees?
You automatically don’t need to pay any fees if you meet certain criteria.
For everyone else, if you believe paying VCAT fees would cause you financial hardship, you can apply for fee relief at the same time you apply to VCAT.
If we agree, this means we may:
- waive the fee
- reduce the amount you have to pay
- postpone the amount you have to pay.
Any individual can apply for fee relief, including people who don’t have a concession card, but you must meet eligibility criteria. We’ll ask you to give us a summary of your personal financial situation to support your application.
You only need to apply once. Our decision applies to all VCAT fees you’re asked to pay in your case.
What happens if I can’t come to VCAT?
If you can’t come to VCAT in person or on the scheduled date for a serious reason (for example, you have a disability, are away or unwell) you have a few options. You can:
- ask to attend by phone – VCAT decides if this is fair to all parties.
- apply to change the date (adjourn) two business days before you’re due to come. For a final hearing, you must do this at least five business days before.
- ask for permission to give someone the authority to come in your place. This is different from having a legal or professional representative.
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:______________