Ways to resolve your dispute

How to solve your problem outside of a VCAT hearing through arbitration, agreement and settlement.

What are 3 ways to settle a dispute?

Aside from VCAT making a decision at a formal hearing, you can try to settle the dispute by:

  • Settling outside the VCAT process – you and the other parties can try to come to an agreement on your own any time before the hearing.
  • Mediation – a neutral third party called a mediator facilitates a private meeting where parties discuss ways to reach a mutually acceptable resolution.
  • Compulsory conference – a formal meeting where parties discuss ways to resolve a dispute facilitated by a VCAT member. These alternative dispute resolution methods can save you the cost, stress and time of going through the VCAT hearing process.

Does VCAT use arbitration?

VCAT can organise mediations and compulsory conferences as alternative forms of dispute resolution if we think it’s appropriate. 

Mediations are private meetings where parties meet with an independent facilitator, known as a mediator, in an effort to reach mutual agreement on how to resolve their dispute.

Compulsory conferences are more formal meetings held between parties to try to settle the dispute before a hearing takes place. It is held before a VCAT member, who facilitates discussion and tries to help everyone reach a resolution. 

When invited, parties can voluntarily participate in mediations, but must attend compulsory conferences if one is scheduled. 

How do I settle a dispute?

Trying to come to an agreement could save you the time, effort and the cost of going to a hearing at VCAT. Reaching agreement helps you put the dispute behind you and move on with your life.  

Here are some tips on how to settle a dispute:

  • Stay calm. You may be upset or offended that there is a claim against you. You’re more likely to reach agreement if you stay calm. 
  • Be prepared to negotiate. Think about a range of options or alternatives you would be prepared to accept. Think about the choices and what your ‘bottom line’ really is. 
  • Listen. Listen carefully to the other party so you don’t miss important details. You could also pick up things that will help with your argument. 
  • Watch your tone. Avoid aggressive, offensive language and behaviour. This is not acceptable. 
  • Focus on the outcome. Be clear about what you hope to achieve and ways to get there. 
  • Think about the other party’s position. They have their own perspective on the dispute, just like you do. Compromising and agreeing to some of their interests, as well as satisfying some of yours, gives you a better chance of reaching an outcome.

Learn more about how you can settle a dispute outside VCAT

See also: What happens if we come to an agreement before the hearing?

What do I do if I’m the wrong person?

If you get a letter or notice from VCAT to say you’ve been named in a VCAT application but you’re not the right person: 

  • speak to the person who made the application right away. Their details are in the letter we sent you. Confirm you’ve done this in writing, and send a copy to us 
  • apply for a directions hearing or order to ask to be removed from the application or to apply for the case to be dismissed 
  • talk to the member at the start of the hearing.     

Find out about our commitment to a fair hearing for all parties

What happens if we come to an agreement before attending VCAT?

You can contact the other party (or they can contact you) at any time to try to come to an agreement before the hearing. If you do reach an agreement, you and the other parties must let us know in writing, and copy in the other party, as soon as possible. 

If you make an offer to settle and you want to keep it confidential, make it in writing to the other party and use the words ‘without prejudice’ in your offer. 

This means that if your offer is not accepted by the other party, it cannot be discussed at a hearing. 

You can try and resolve the dispute without VCAT right up until the day of the hearing, and for residential tenancy disputes, in the hearing.

After you settle, if you’re the applicant you can end your case by asking us:

  • to withdraw your application
  • to strike out your case with the right to apply for reinstatement (except in a review of a planning decision) 
  • for consent orders. 

Learn more about how you can settle a dispute outside VCAT

Can I cancel my application?

If you are the applicant, you can ask for permission to withdraw your VCAT application at any time before the hearing, for example, if you change your mind. You must let us and the other parties know in writing as soon as possible if you want to apply to withdraw. 

For some case types if you are the applicant you may have to pay costs to the respondent if you withdraw your claim. 

If you do withdraw your application, in most cases it can’t be reinstated. (This doesn’t apply in cases about guardians, administratrators, and powers of attorney for example.) You may be able to start a new application about the same dispute later. There will be new fees to pay and we may not accept your application.

Read more about how to withdraw your application

Cases about guardians, administrators, supportive guardians and supportive administrators

If you want to withdraw your application in a case about guardians, administrators, supportive guardians and supportive administrators:

  • Write to us, explaining why orders are no longer needed.
  • We consider whether there is any serious risk to the person you made the application about. This is because the law requires us to protect a person who may have a decision-making disability.

Even if an application has been withdrawn, the applicant or anyone else is able to make another application about the same circumstances at any later time.