Legal and professional representation

If you want to use a lawyer or other professional, you need to understand if and how you can have one.

You don’t need a lawyer to come to VCAT – you can choose to present your case yourself.

However, coming to VCAT is a legal process and depending on the type of case, it can be a good idea to get legal advice or information first.

Find legal advice services

Some examples of people who can represent you include:

  • lawyer
  • social worker
  • real estate agent
  • renter’s advocate (also known as a tenant’s advocate)
  • town planner.

Depending on your situation, you may have an automatic right to representation. We explain this below. If this doesn’t apply to you, you need to ask us to have a lawyer or other professional represent you.

Goods and services cases

If your claim is about goods and services and is under $15,000 you generally can’t have a lawyer or other professional representative represent you at VCAT.

When you don’t need to ask for permission

In certain situations and for some types of VCAT cases, you don’t need to ask our permission for a lawyer or other professional to represent you. You will need to organise and pay for a lawyer or other professional yourself.

These people have an automatic right to be represented:

  • a child
  • a council
  • the Victorian Government, a government minister or a person representing the government
  • a public authority, for example a local council, or VicRoads
  • someone who holds a statutory office
  • a credit provider
  • a builder’s warranty insurer
  • if the other party has an automatic right to be represented
  • people involved in Planning, environment and resources cases
  • people involved in residential tenancies disputes
  • people involved in Disability Act cases
  • if you are the respondent or a protected person in a family violence intervention order.

If another party in your case has an automatic right to be represented and brings a lawyer or other professional to VCAT, you can also choose to be represented.

When you need to ask for permission

Before you come to VCAT, it's a good idea to let the other party know in writing that you want to use a lawyer or other professional representative.

When you come to VCAT, you can ask our permission to use a lawyer or other professional. Do this the first time you come to VCAT.

You need to explain to us why you want to be represented.

If we don’t allow your request, you should be ready to represent yourself at the hearing.

You must give authority for someone to represent a company

In some cases, if your party is a company then you must nominate someone to represent the company. Put the nomination in writing and have the director of the company sign it. The person representing the company must bring this document to the hearing.

You must make sure the person who represents the company:

  • understands the dispute so that they can present the case
  • has the company's permission to agree on a settlement
  • can make promises to VCAT relating to a decision.

Who pays your legal and professional costs

If you use a lawyer or professional, you must arrange this and pay them – we do not do this for you. 

At VCAT each party usually pays their own legal costs unless we are satisfied it is fair to make an order for costs. This means you generally don't have your costs paid by the other party even if your case is successful.

We will only order one party in a dispute to pay some or all of another party's costs if we decide it is fair and if a party has been disadvantaged. For example:

  • a party did not act appropriately (they were 'vexatious') during the case and that unnecessarily disadvantaged the other party
  • a party has delayed a hearing without good reason, or made it take longer than it should
  • a party has tried to deceive the Tribunal or another party
  • a claim has no reasonable factual or legal grounds to support it.

Related pages

What VCAT does

Find out about VCAT applications for disputes about goods and services, application time limits, and application fees.

Our fair hearing obligation

The obligation to provide a fair hearing is an important part of VCAT’s role and applies to everything we do.

Organisations that may help

VCAT cannot give you legal advice, but there are other organisations that may be able to help you.