Respond to an application – Residential tenancy cases
When you get a notice (or message) from VCAT about a rental property case, find out what happens next and what you need to do.
Changes to renting laws
On 29 March 2021 renting laws changed, which affect what you can apply for and timeframes. Transitional Regulations have also been introduced that affect some VCAT orders and applications as we transition to the new laws.
What the notice means
If you’ve received a notice of hearing, notice of mediation or text message from us or the Dispute Settlement Centre of Victoria (DSCV), someone has made an application to VCAT – the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal. This means there is an issue about the property you are renting and they have applied to VCAT to have it resolved.
You are called the respondent. The person who made the application is the applicant.
Unless you can settle the issue, you and the applicant will go to a hearing where you present your side and a member makes a decision.
What the application is about
The applicant explains the issue in their application form. They need to send you a copy of their application form within seven days of submitting it to us. If it's urgent, the applicant must send you a copy immediately.
Contact the applicant if you haven’t received a copy of the application from them.
If you’re still unsure what it's about, you can:
- talk to the applicant or real estate agency
- get help or legal advice
- ask the member at the hearing.
Don't ignore the application
It’s very important that you don’t ignore the application. At VCAT, you can have your say and explore options to resolve the issue.
For example, if you’re facing eviction, you may be able to work out a payment plan with the rental provider (landlord) and stay in your rental property. There are a few other things you can do if you're worried about eviction.
If you don’t come to VCAT, we may make a decision that aﬀects you and can be enforced.
How to attend your hearing
To avoid missing your hearing, check your notice for instructions on how to attend by phone, video conference or in person. If you're joining a hearing by phone you need to call VCAT using the teleconference number and PIN we give you in your notice.
Get help and advice before you come to VCAT
These organisations may be able to help you.
Consumer Affairs Victoria
Information about your rights and sample notices
Advice, assistance and advocacy for renters and residents
Victoria Legal Aid
Free legal information over the phone
Tenancy Assistance and Advocacy Program providers
Helps renters experiencing financial disadvantage or family violence.
What happens next
1 You’ve received a notice or text message from VCAT or DSCV
The notice tells you the date and time of your hearing or mediation. It also tells you if it will be held by phone, video conference or in person.
If you have been wrongly named in the application, email us immediately.
What’s mediation?Mediation is an opportunity to resolve your dispute with the other party quicker than waiting for your hearing. It involves talking through the issues with the other people involved, assisted by a mediator from the Dispute Settlement Centre of Victoria. If you can't resolve your dispute at mediation, you go to a VCAT hearing at a later date, where a VCAT member makes a decision about the case.
2 Make sure we have your correct phone number and email
It’s important that we can communicate with you about the status of this application. Check that the application form has the correct details about you, including your email, and direct phone number and extension (if this applies). Email us immediately if it’s incorrect.
3 Try to settle
Even if an application has been made against you, you can still try to resolve the case with the other party without going to VCAT, right up until the hearing.
4 Read and understand the documents
Carefully read and understand the notice and the application made against you. If you don’t understand it, ask one of the organisations that can help.
The applicant must send you the application and copies of any documents they plan to use at the hearing or mediation (for example, photos, receipts or correspondence).
Their contact details are in the application.
5 Decide if you want to make your own claim
If you believe you have a claim against the applicant yourself, you can make your own application to VCAT. For example, both the rental provider (landlord) and renter (tenant) may want to claim compensation from each other for alleged breaches of the rental agreement or the law.
If you want to make a claim after receiving an application from the other party, you need to make your own application (this is called a counterclaim) and you may have to pay a fee. We can arrange to have both claims heard together.
Note that if the rental provider makes a claim for the bond, the renter doesn’t need to make a separate application asking for the bond to be returned to them. The renter instead needs to defend the rental provider’s application at the hearing.
6 Send your documents to the applicant and VCAT
When you go to VCAT, you'll be able to tell your side of the issue. You should support your argument with evidence.
You must send all documents you plan to use as evidence to VCAT and all the parties in the case. Make sure you do this by email to firstname.lastname@example.org seven days before your hearing.
If it’s an urgent application, send them right away.
If you don't, your hearing may be delayed.
We send you a confirmation email once we receive your documents. If you don't receive confirmation, check you've sent to the correct email address and the size of your email is under 35 MB.
7 Prepare your case
It’s important to prepare for your hearing or mediation. Work out what you want to say. This will help you present the best case possible.
If you are invited to a mediation, the mediator will help you and the other party reach agreement on a resolution, instead of VCAT deciding the case for you at a hearing.
If you come to a mediation and cannot resolve your dispute, you go to a VCAT hearing at a later date, where a VCAT member makes a decision about the case.
At the hearing, the member will make a decision based on the facts and evidence you present.
If you can’t come to a hearing in person and have arranged for someone to come in your place, they must bring or email us a written authority from you.
8 Check the details of your mediation or hearing
Check the time, date and location (if you are attending in person). This is shown on the notice DSCV or we send you.
It also tells you if your hearing will take place by phone, videoconference or in person. To avoid missing your hearing, it's important you check the notice for instructions on how to join the phone or videoconference.
You can confirm the time of your hearing at Upcoming hearings after 4.30pm on the day before your hearing.
We schedule more than one case for the same time, so allow extra time for your hearing to finish. For example, if your hearing is scheduled for 2pm, it may not start until 3pm.
9 Ask for any support services you need
We offer a range of support services, including interpreters, disability, security, family violence and Koori support.
If you need these support services, contact us as soon as you receive your notice of hearing or a copy of the application form.
VCAT cannot give legal advice about your case. If you need legal support see Legal and professional representation.
10 On the day
You may need to attend a mediation or a hearing. At a mediation, you try to reach an agreement with the help of a facilitator from DSCV.
At a final hearing, all parties can present their case, ask questions and give evidence in front of a VCAT member.
Your hearing may not start at the exact time we give you so allow at least two hours on the day.
If you are attending by phone or video
To avoid missing your hearing, it's important you check your Notice of Mediation or Notice of Hearing. It tells you if your mediation or hearing is by phone or videoconference (Zoom).
If you're attending the hearing by phone you must call VCAT using the teleconference number and PIN we give you in the notice.
For more help see: How to join a phone or videoconference
If you are coming to VCAT in person
Arrive at least 30 minutes early to allow time to get through the security screening (similar to security at the airport) and find your hearing room.
When you arrive:
- Check your room at Upcoming hearings or tell a staff member at the counter that you’ve arrived for your hearing
- Go to the hearing room and be ready to present your case
- Speak to a staff member if you have arranged security, disability support, an interpreter, or technology for your hearing.
11 Get an outcome
If you reach an agreement (settle) at a mediation, the agreement is put in writing and signed by all parties. If you cannot resolve your dispute at mediation, you go to a VCAT hearing at a later date, where a VCAT member makes a decision about the case.
At 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 that they must take.
They will usually tell you what the decision is, and the reasons for it, at the end of the hearing.
All parties must follow VCAT's decision.
12 Enforce the order
If other parties don’t follow the order and you have tried to or can’t contact them, find out how you can enforce the order.
Help and support
Who can I bring to VCAT?
You can bring someone with you to your hearing for support. This support person could be anyone you choose, including a friend or family member. They can’t usually speak on your behalf, but they can help explain what you need (for example, ask for a break).
You can’t bring someone to translate for you.
If you need an interpreter you must ask us for a VCAT interpreter.
Support for people affected by family violence
If you are a protected person or responding to a case and under a family violence intervention order, you can choose to bring a support person to VCAT. The support person can be anyone you choose, including a lawyer, social worker, family member or friend.
Find out more about support for people affected by family violence at VCAT.
If you want someone to speak on your behalf, you must ask for it in writing.
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:______________
What happens if I miss my hearing?
What happens if you miss the hearing depends on if you’re the applicant or the respondent.
- If you’re the applicant and you don’t come to the hearing, the hearing can’t go ahead and your application may be dismissed or struck out
- If you’re a respondent and you don’t come, VCAT may make a decision that affects you and can be enforced by a court. For example, the member could make an order for costs against you.
If you have a reasonable reason for not coming, and you didn’t have someone come for you, you may be able to apply for a review and rehearing (called ‘reopening an order’).
You need to make this application within 14 days of finding out about the order. We may not agree to your request if you do not have a good reason for not attending.
Should I get a lawyer?
VCAT cannot give legal advice. If you do choose to get legal advice, you will need to pay any costs.
If you want to talk about what you should do, you can access free or low-cost legal advice or find a private lawyer.
If you want a lawyer or other professional representative to speak on your behalf at VCAT, let the other party know in writing before the hearing and ask permission when the hearing starts. You will need to explain why.
For some case types you have an automatic right to representation.
If the claim is for goods and services under $15,000, we generally don’t allow a lawyer or other professional representative to speak for you at VCAT.
If you do choose to get legal advice, you’ll need to pay any costs.
How does VCAT support Aboriginal people?
We offer support to ensure VCAT is culturally safe and inclusive for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
We can help you with:
- booking a Koori hearing room
- organising a Koori Engagement Officer to attend your hearing or mediation with you
- general information and advice about VCAT processes.
Call our Koori Helpline to speak to a Koori Engagement Officer on 0417 516 335, Monday to Friday, 8am-5pm.
Read more about Koori support at VCAT
How can I access documents for a residential tenancy case?
You can look at most VCAT files at our Melbourne office at 55 King Street, Melbourne if you arrange it with us. If you’re not part of the case then you pay a fee.
In residential tenancy cases you can access documents for free if you’re:
- a party in the case (applicant or respondent)
- representing a party at the hearing – for example, you are the renter’s representative or the rental provider’s estate agent
- advising or assisting a party who has given you permission to access documents on their behalf.