Advice is general in nature, consult a legal practitioner for your specific circumstances.

VCAT – dispute resolutions

All disputes now go to Consumer Affairs Victoria, which decides whether the dispute is referred first to alternative dispute resolution or whether it goes straight to VCAT. It’s a new step as a result of the pandemic, so read all about the new scheme and your rights.

Applying to VCAT

A new Residential Tenancies Dispute Resolution Scheme has been set up that creates a new step in the process if you have a dispute with the landlord.

As part of this new step, you must first register your dispute with Consumer Affairs Victoria. This applies to all disputes, not just rent reductions or terminations.

Consumer Affairs Victoria will assess the dispute and decide if it should be referred to:

  • under the Scheme for alternative dispute resolution , or
  • VCAT, the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal

First register the details of your dispute with Consumer Affairs Victoria.

To do this go to: Coronavirus (COVID-19) rental agreement or dispute [CAV website] and fill in the form.

Consumer Affairs Victoria (CAV) may decide the dispute needs to go through the Residential Tenancies Dispute Resolution service before going to VCAT. See below for more information.

If Consumer Affairs Victoria decides the dispute can go straight to VCAT, they will give you a reference number to include in your VCAT application.

TIP: Include the reference number in your VCAT application and in any emails or letters you send to VCAT about your application.

What if my situation is urgent?

If you are experiencing family violence or severe financial hardship, you can make an urgent application to VCAT. But you still need to go through Consumer Affairs Victoria.

If you:

  • are experiencing family violence and need urgent termination or creation orders for your lease (section 233A of the Act), or
  • need an urgent hearing and orders to allow you to end a fixed term tenancy early due to severe hardship (section 543 of the Act)

you need to fill in this form: Rental dispute initial assessment. Select the appropriate option for your dispute. Enter your details and the landlord’s details. This will alert Consumer Affairs Victoria that your dispute is urgent.

If Consumer Affairs Victoria requires further information they will contact you. Otherwise you should be given a reference number to include in your VCAT application so you can apply to VCAT straight away.

Other situations requiring an urgent application to VCAT include if:

  • you are being threatened with illegal eviction and need a restraining order
  • your rights are being interfered with and you need an urgent restraining order
  • urgent repairs are required at the property
  • you need an urgent hearing for a dispute relating to a different type of accommodation, such as a caravan park or rooming house

The form you need to fill in is: Coronavirus (COVID-19) rental agreement or dispute [CAV website]. If Consumer Affairs Victoria needs more detail before issuing a reference number, they will contact you.

In these urgent situations, Tenants Victoria recommends you call Consumer Affairs Victoria on 1300 558 181 and request they give you a reference number over the phone to allow you to make an urgent application.

TIP: Have your VCAT application ready so you can lodge it with VCAT as soon as Consumer Affairs Victoria gives you a reference number.

Residential Tenancies Dispute Resolution Scheme

Previously, landlords and tenants who were in dispute could apply directly to VCAT to get the matter resolved or to reach an agreement. However, now certain matters must first go through alternative dispute resolution. This can include mediation and conciliation.

Mediation for residential tenancies is conducted by a free service under the Residential Tenancies Dispute Resolution Scheme.

This service can:

  • help the landlord and tenant come to an agreement or agree to have Orders made
  • make fair and reasonable Orders that are binding if a landlord and tenant cannot reach an agreement
  • make fair and reasonable Orders that are binding even where mediation or conciliation has not occurred

What disputes go to the Residential Tenancies Dispute Resolution Scheme?

All payment-related disputes must be referred under the Scheme to see if they are suitable for alternative dispute resolution and/or if fair and reasonable Order can be made.

Payment-related disputes include:

  • if the tenant and landlord can’t come to an agreement to reduce rent
  • if there is an application for a lease termination for rent arrears that are due to COVID-19

What disputes go to VCAT?

  • Any dispute that is not “payment related” as described above – Consumer Affairs Victoria will give the person a reference number allowing them to apply directly to VCAT
  • A dispute that is “payment related”, but the Chief Dispute Resolution Officer for Residential Tenancies decides it is not suitable alternative dispute resolution, or the landlord and tenant cannot reach an agreement and the Chief Dispute Resolution Officer declines to make a binding order.
  • The Chief Dispute Resolution Officer makes a binding order and then the landlord or tenant breaches that order

Note: The Chief Dispute Resolution Officer will let the person know if they can then apply to VCAT.

What if an application for a termination order due to rent arrears goes straight to VCAT?

In limited cases, where a tenant could clearly pay rent and has not, disputes over rent arrears may go straight to VCAT without first going through the Residential Tenancies Dispute Resolution Scheme.

However, Consumer Affairs Victoria still has to assess the dispute to assign a reference number.

Tenants Victoria believes VCAT should not make orders about rent arrears until the dispute first goes through alternative dispute resolution under the Scheme.

If the landlord’s application for termination due to rent arrears goes straight to VCAT, and you believe it would cause you severe hardship to pay the full rent or rent arrears, we suggest you:

  • contact VCAT before the hearing to ask for the dispute to be referred to Consumer Affairs Victoria for alternative dispute resolution before it can be heard by VCAT, or
  • attend the hearing and ask for the landlord’s application to be “struck out” and for the dispute to be referred to Consumer Affairs Victoria for alternative dispute resolution
  • register a dispute with Consumer Affairs Victoria for a rent reduction and/or an application to VCAT under section 540 of the Act for orders for a rent reduction by completing this form: Coronavirus (COVID-19) rental agreement or dispute [CAV website].
    Note: you should contact Consumer Affairs Victoria and let them know your application is urgent and that the landlord has applied for a termination order for rent arrears.

If VCAT does not refer the dispute for alternative dispute resolution under the Scheme, you should:

  • ask for the hearing to be changed to a later date (adjourned) when your circumstances may be better, and
  • ask VCAT to make sure the landlord provides details about their financial situation, as you will be expected to provide details about yours
For steps to take and sample letters

If VCAT does not adjourn the hearing, you should:

  • ask VCAT to order an affordable payment plan instead of terminating your lease. For more information see rent arrears.

Evidence for the hearing

You will need to provide evidence of your financial circumstances for the VCAT hearing. VCAT sets out the information they require if you apply for a rent reduction under section 540 of the Act, and this is a good indication of the type of evidence VCAT may require for any applications and hearings about rent arrears: Financial circumstances statement in support of a rent reduction application [VCAT website].

Termination orders

The Dispute Resolution Scheme has been established to help tenants and landlords come to workable solutions to paying rent during the COVID-19 pandemic where tenants may be experiencing severe hardship.

However, if you have stopped paying your rent, but you could pay it without experiencing severe hardship, VCAT could make orders terminating your lease.

Changes to VCAT hearings

All VCAT venues are currently closed to the public and many non-urgent or non-critical cases may not be listed within the usual timeframes or may be changed to a later date (adjourned).

For information about how this may affect any application or hearing that you are involved with, contact VCAT:

For the latest information from VCAT, see
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