VCAT hearings and COVID-19 - Tenants Victoria

    VCAT hearings and COVID-19

    Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) has changed how it operates to comply with COVID-19 restrictions:

    • all VCAT venues are closed to the public,
    • no hearings are being held in person, and
    • all non-critical cases have been adjourned (postponed).

    Before you apply to VCAT, you must now follow the new Dispute Resolution Scheme. Find out what you need to do at: VCAT applications and hearings.

    VCAT is still hearing some cases about rented homes (known as the Residential Tenancies List) by phone.

    However, VCAT is adapting to follow changing advice from government, so things may change quickly. For the most up-to-date information, we recommend you refer to the VCAT website.

     


    on this page

    top tips for phone hearings
    what cases get a VCAT hearing during COVID-19 restrictions?
    sample email to VCAT
    sample email to landlord or real estate agent

     

    top tips for phone hearings

    telephone hearings must be fair

    You are entitled to a fair hearing. VCAT must still observe all other requirements including facilitating a procedurally fair hearing. This means that you must be given a proper right to put forward your submissions (a chance to tell VCAT about your side of the story and why you are asking for the relevant order) and defend any claims made against you (respond to the landlord’s side of the story).

    telephone hearings may not be on time

    Our understanding is that hearings may not run strictly on time, so make sure you leave extra time before and after your scheduled hearing time. Hearings may begin later (sometimes several hours later) than their listed start time.

    make sure VCAT has your number

    Give VCAT your best contact telephone number at least 48 hours before the hearing. You can email VCAT directly: renting@vcat.vic.gov.au or telephone: 1300 01 8228.

    include these details in your emails

    If you email VCAT, add these things in the subject line and body of the email:

    • VCAT Reference Number (you can find it in your notice from VCAT, for example “R2020/____”)
    • address of the rented premises
    • names of the parties (tenant and landlord).

    CC. the landlord when you email VCAT

    If you know their email address, copy in the real estate agent or landlord into all emails to VCAT.

    keep evidence for yourself

    Before you send evidence to anyone, make sure you keep the original documents for yourself. You will need these for the hearing.

    send a copy of all evidence to VCAT

    Send VCAT a copy of any evidence that you want to rely on at the hearing (e.g. photos, correspondence, a copy of your agreement, etc.) at least 48 hours before the hearing. Try to label, number or organise the evidence in a way that it makes it easier to refer to. A timeline of events is helpful.

    send a copy of all evidence to the landlord

    Give a copy of any evidence you want to rely on at the hearing to the real estate agent or landlord. Include the same labels and references as the evidence you supplied VCAT so everyone knows which document you are talking about on the phone.

    Note: Some agents do not check their emails very often, or might have put something in your tenancy agreement saying they won’t accept emails, even though the law says you can send a VCAT application by email. So it’s a good idea to check that your email has been received.

    make sure you get enough time to consider the landlord’s evidence

    If the real estate agent or landlord hasn’t given you a copy of their evidence before the hearing,  you can ask for an adjournment (to postpone the hearing) until you get the evidence and have had time to consider it carefully. This may be for 15 minutes or it may be for several days or weeks, depending on the amount and complexity of the evidence.

    keep your phone charged and ready

    Keep your phone charged and do not tie up the line with other calls while you are waiting for your telephone hearing.

    you’ll get a chance to speak

    Each side will have an opportunity to speak.  It is important that no one speaks over the top of each other. If there is something that the real estate agent or landlord has said that you want to respond to, make a note of it to use when it is your turn to speak. If there are things that you want to talk about that have not been covered yet, you can ask the Member at VCAT for an opportunity to talk about them.

    VCAT hearings are recorded

    If you need to negotiate with the real estate agent or landlord during the hearing, you may want to ask the Member to hang up and call the parties back after an agreed time so that you can have a private conversation with the real estate agent or landlord.

    if you know in advance that you can’t attend a hearing

    You can write to VCAT to ask for an adjournment (to postpone the hearing) to another date when you are available. You should do so at least 48 hours prior to the hearing. You should provide evidence to support why you are unable to attend via phone. Work or study commitments are rarely accepted as a reason for an adjournment unless they cannot be avoided (eg. you work in a critical service, are attending a conference, or have an exam on that date).

    if you missed a hearing

    You can apply to VCAT to review an order that was made at a hearing you missed. You must apply within 14 days of becoming aware of the order using the Application to reopen an order [VCAT website]. You will need to show that you had a good reason for not attending the hearing and that you have a case to argue. Not being contacted by VCAT for the hearing or other technical troubles may be good reasons for missing the hearing.

     

    what cases get a VCAT hearing during COVID-19?

    Many non-critical cases are not proceeding at the moment and will likely be adjourned (postponed) potentially for several months. You can still put in your application to VCAT and provide evidence, but the hearing may not be listed within the usual timeframe.

    Unfortunately, VCAT have not stated what are critical and non-critical cases. We have provided the lists below as a rough guide only. To find out if your case will get a hearing, contact VCAT.

    VCAT may conduct phone hearings for cases about:

    • urgent repairs
    • possession orders
    • bond applications
    • reduction of fixed-term tenancies
    • family violence
    • urgent restraining orders
    • compliance with breach of duty notices

    VCAT are likely to adjourn (postpone) cases about:

    • non-urgent repairs
    • compensation claims
    • refusing consent to keep a pet

     

    sample email to VCAT

     

    INSTRUCTIONS FOR TENANTS:

    • Copy the sample email below
    • Fill in your details to replace things [LIKE THIS] and [_______]
    • You can find your VCAT reference number on the notice from VCAT.
      It starts with R and the year, for example “R2019/____” or “R2020/____”
    • Email to: renting@vcat.vic.gov.au and CC the landlord or real estate agent

    Subject: [VCAT REFERENCE NUMBER], [RENTED ADDRESS], [TENANT NAME] v [LANDLORD NAME]

     

    Dear Registrar,

    VCAT Reference No: R20[__/____________________]

    Rented Premises: [RENTED ADDRESS]

    Parties: [TENANT NAME] and [LANDLORD NAME]

    I am writing in relation to my upcoming VCAT hearing, which is listed for hearing on [DATE] [TIME].

    The best contact number to reach me on for the hearing is [PHONE NUMBER].

    I attach to this email the evidence which I intend to rely on during the hearing. I have copied the landlord/real estate agent into this email so that they have a copy of the evidence as well.

    If there are any issues before the hearing, please contact me via email at [EMAIL ADDRESS] or telephone on [PHONE NUMBER].

    Thank you.

    Sincerely,

    [NAME]

     

    sample email to landlord/agent

     

    INSTRUCTIONS FOR TENANTS:

    • Copy the sample email below
    • Fill in your details to replace things [LIKE THIS] and [_______]
    • You can find your VCAT reference number on the notice from VCAT.
      It starts with R and the year, for example “R2019/____” or “R2020/____”
    • Delete the final sentence if you do not want to make an offer to settle
    • After you send the email, check to make sure they have received it.
      Note: Some agents do not check their emails very often, or might have put something in your tenancy agreement saying they won’t accept emails, even though the law says you can send a VCAT application by email.

     


    Subject: [VCAT REFERENCE NUMBER], [RENTAL ADDRESS]: Evidence for upcoming VCAT hearing

     

    Dear [LANDLORD NAME or AGENT NAME],

    VCAT Reference No: R20[__/[____________________]

    Rented Premises: [RENTED ADDRESS]

    Parties: [TENANT NAME] and [LANDLORD NAME]

    I am writing in relation to our upcoming VCAT hearing, which is listed for hearing on [DATE] [TIME].

    Please find attached to this email a copy of the evidence which I am intending to rely on at the hearing. My best contact number for the hearing is [PHONE NUMBER].

    I request that you provide me with a summary of the arguments you will be presenting and a copy of all evidence that you intend to rely on at the hearing as well, including: [LIST THE EVIDENCE YOU WANT THEM TO PROVIDE].

    If this evidence is not provided to me at least 48 hours before the hearing, I may need to ask VCAT for an adjournment so that I can properly consider the evidence.

    I would be pleased to resolve this dispute without the need for a VCAT hearing. Please feel free to contact me to discuss this further.

    I would be willing to settle the case on the following terms: [INCLUDE AN OFFER OF WHAT YOU THINK IS FAIR TO RESOLVE THE CASE WITHOUT GOING TO VCAT]

    Thank you.

    Sincerely,

    [NAME]

     

    This information is a guide only and should not be used as a substitute for professional legal advice.

    related pages

    applying for a restraining order: COVID-19 update
    The Tribunal (VCAT)

     

    need more help?

    contact us


    Tenants Victoria | Published: April 2020 | Modified: May 2020
    Tenants advice line 03 9416 2577 | tenantsvic.org.au
    Tenants Victoria acknowledges the support of the Victorian Government.

    Tenants Victoria acknowledges the support of the Victorian Government.