Residential tenancy mediations by the Dispute Settlement Centre of Victoria
The Dispute Settlement Centre of Victoria (DSCV) provides a mediation service to help resolve some rental disputes.
COVID-19 has impacted normal timeframes for residential tenancy hearings. VCAT prioritises cases that the renting laws say must be heard within a certain time, and those we consider urgent.
We currently have a large backlog of cases about rental disputes. Some cases involving bond, compensation and/or pets have been waiting for more than a year.
We have partnered with DSCV to provide a free alternative dispute resolution service, helping parties in these cases resolve their dispute through mediation.
Mediation is an opportunity to resolve your dispute by talking through the issues with the other people involved, assisted by a nationally accredited mediator from the Dispute Settlement Centre of Victoria.
How it works
A dispute assessment officer contacts you
If we think your dispute is suitable, a dispute assessment officer from DSCV sends you an email about the process. DSCV is a state-wide dispute resolution service for community and civil disputes.
We mostly refer rental disputes involving bond, compensation and/or pets to DSCV. We may refer other disputes if we think they are suitable for mediation.
DSCV has access to information in your VCAT case, and will:
- contact you to find out more about the dispute
- request any information that will assist at the mediation
- ensure you are prepared and understand what to expect at the mediation.
If your dispute goes to mediation, you will receive an email telling you the time, date and the attendees, which will take place via teleconference.
How long it takes
The mediation takes up to 90 minutes. If you can't resolve the dispute at the mediation, you go to a VCAT hearing at a later date.
At the mediation
The mediator helps you talk with the other people involved, to see if you can resolve some or all of the issues. They confirm the outcome of the mediation with VCAT but don't disclose what was discussed or decided by the parties.
All parties are given an opportunity to discuss:
- the details of the dispute
- your claim or your defence
- how you think the dispute could be resolved.
If your dispute is resolved at mediation, the mediator will help you to record the agreement in writing, including the agreed actions and timeframes. You will be sent a copy of the agreement by email.
If you reach an agreement with the other party, VCAT will also make an order, striking out the application with the right of reinstatement. This gives you the option to ask us to reopen the case if, for example, one of the parties does not follow the terms of the agreement.
If you can't resolve your dispute at mediation, you go to a VCAT hearing at a later date.
Preparing for your mediation
Who can come with you
If you're the rental provider (landlord), you can give your estate agent written authority to act on your behalf. The dispute assessment officer from DSCV may still want to speak to you directly to obtain information and encourage you to attend the mediation.
If you're the renter, you can give written authority to an advocate to act on your behalf, such as a legal advisor or support worker.
You can bring someone for support, such as a family member or friend, but they can't usually speak on your behalf. All parties must agree to let you bring a support person.
The dispute assessment officer will work with all parties to confirm attendees prior to the session taking place.
Be clear about what you want
You need to be ready to explain the details and how you think it could be settled.
Be ready to discuss and answer questions about:
- the outcome you want
- the facts of your case (what happened, when, what you did, what the other party did).
Make sure you carefully read the other party's supporting documents so that you understand their claim and can respond to it. If you are the respondent, this includes the application.
Think about the other party's point of view and come to the mediation with an open mind.
Prepare information and supporting documents
Gather all the information and documents you need to present your best possible case.
Before your mediation, we encourage you to share with the other parties the documentation or evidence you will rely on to support your claim. This will give you the best chance of resolving your dispute and helping the other party understand your position. You won't be asked to present evidence at the mediation, but you may want to refer to documents, such as expert reports or quotes. You will need all your supporting documents if the dispute goes to a hearing.
If you are the applicant, you must bring a copy of your application.
If you are a respondent, you need to respond to the claim.
Attending by phone
Make sure you're ready for your phone hearing at the allocated time.
A mediator will call you at the time of the mediation and connect the other party to the call. The call will come from a private number.
You will only have to dial in to the mediation if you have been advised by DSCV. If you need to do this, they will give you instructions on how to do this.
Etiquette for phone mediations
Turn off or eliminate background noise and distractions. Use headphones if possible.
It's an offence to record any part of a VCAT proceeding without permission (Court Security Act 1980). Do not record the mediation.
We don't record mediations as they are confidential.
It's important you email any documents or evidence you want to rely on in your mediation to DSCV and all other parties well before your mediation.
Mute your phone or microphone if not speaking to avoid feedback or noise.
To avoid disruption, parties and their legal representatives should not be in the same room if they intend to use separate devices to join their mediation as this can create feedback and/or sound distortion.
Accessibility and support services
Tell us if you need support to attend, such as interpreters, hearing and speech assistance and other accessibility assistance.
Help and support
What is the difference between a mediation and a hearing?
Mediations are private meetings where parties come together to discuss ways to reach an agreement (settle) with the help of a mediator.
The mediator does not make a decision in the case. Their role is to help you and the other party to agree on a resolution at the mediation, instead of VCAT deciding the case for you at a hearing.
If you and the other party aren’t able to resolve your dispute at a mediation, you may need to attend a VCAT hearing at a later date.
A hearing allows all parties in a dispute to present their case, ask questions and provide evidence. A VCAT member listens and makes a decision to resolve the dispute, either at the end of the hearing or in writing later.
I’ve been contacted by the Dispute Settlement Centre of Victoria to attend a mediation, do I need to go?
Attending a mediation facilitated by the Dispute Settlement Centre of Victoria (DSCV) is optional, but there are many benefits to going.
We refer rental disputes to DSCV based on whether they are suitable for mediation and they are likely to be resolved earlier this way.
We currently have a large backlog of residential tenancy cases about bond, compensation and/or pets. Many of these cases have been waiting for several months.
We have partnered with DSCV to help you talk through the issues with the other party. This may help you resolve the dispute faster, as mediation is facilitated by a professional mediator from DSCV.
Reaching agreement at a mediation can save you the cost, stress and time of going through the VCAT hearing process.
If you and the other parties do not come to an agreement in the mediation, your hearing will still be scheduled at a later date.
You will not delay your case by taking part in this process with DSCV.
Can I ask to have my residential tenancy case referred to the Dispute Settlement Centre of Victoria?
If you want to make a formal request for your matter to be dealt with urgently, a VCAT member will consider whether:
- it should be heard by VCAT, or
- if it should be prioritised for referral to DSCV.
Contact us at email@example.com to start this process.
Do I have to pay to participate in a mediation facilitated by Dispute Settlement Centre of Victoria?
No, the service is free.
What if I don’t want to continue with mediation for a residential tenancy case?
You can opt out of the mediation process at any time.
You will get a hearing at a later date. We currently have a large backlog of cases about rental disputes involving bond, compensation and/or pets. We hear your case as soon as possible, but it may take some time before you get your hearing date.
If you participate in mediation and don’t reach agreement with the other parties, your wait time for a hearing is not affected.