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

VCAT – Hearings

VCAT is still holding hearings by telephone. We strongly advise you to request a change in your hearing to a later date because of the effects of the pandemic and all the uncertainty. We have a step-by-step guide and template letters with instructions on changing the date with the consent of the landlord, how to request a date change if the landlord doesn’t agree, and top tips on preparing for phone hearings.

Changes to VCAT hearings

  • all VCAT venues are closed to the public
  • all hearings about rented homes (the Residential Tenancies List) are held over the phone,
  • non-urgent/non-critical cases may not be listed within usual timeframes or may be adjourned. VCAT has not stated what are critical and non-critical cases. However, you can still put in your application.

Before you apply to VCAT, you need to follow a new step under the new Residential Tenancies Dispute Resolution Scheme: VCAT – dispute resolution

Find out if your case will get a hearing

Tips for VCAT telephone hearings

  1. Hearings may not run on time, so leave plenty of time before and after your scheduled time.
  2. Give VCAT your best contact number at least 48 hours before the hearing.
    Email VCAT: renting@vcat.vic.gov.au or telephone: 1300 01 8228. If you email VCAT, add the following in the subject line and body of the email:
  3. Copy in the real estate agent or landlord to all emails to VCAT if you know their email address.
    • VCAT Reference Number (you can find it in your notice from VCAT, for example “R2020/____”)
    • reference number from Consumer Affairs Victoria (to find out how to get this reference number, see: VCAT – dispute resolution)
    • address of the rented premises
    • names of the parties (tenant and landlord).
  4. Keep all the original documents as you will need these for the hearing.
  5. Send VCAT a copy of your evidence (e.g. photos, a copy of your agreement) at least 48 hours before the hearing.
  6. Give a copy of the same evidence to the estate agent or landlord. It’s a good idea to check the agent has received your email.
  7. Keep your phone charged and do not make other calls while waiting for your hearing.
  8. Make sure you get enough time to consider the landlord’s evidence. If you don’t get the evidence before the hearing, you can ask for an adjournment.
  9. Make a note of what comments by the agent/landlord you want to respond to. If things you want to talk about have not been covered, you can ask the VCAT Member for an opportunity to do so.
  10. VCAT hearings are recorded. You can ask the Member to hang up so you can have a private conversation with the agent/landlord if you want to negotiate with them. You can ask the Member to call back at an agreed time.
  11. If you know in advance you can’t attend the hearing, write to VCAT to ask for an adjournment at least 48 hours before the hearing. Provide evidence to support your request. Work or study commitments are rarely accepted as a valid reason unless they cannot be avoided.If you missed a hearing and find out that VCAT made orders, you can apply to VCAT to review the decision. You must apply to re-open the order within 14 days of finding out an order was made: use the application to reopen an order (below). You will need to show you had a good reason for not attending and that you have a case to argue.

Should I change the date of my VCAT hearing?

Due to the pandemic, we believe it is extremely important for tenants to be able to change their VCAT hearing to a later date when there is greater certainty for all.

Termination hearings

If the landlord is applying for a termination order it is especially important you apply to change the hearing date.

We strongly encourage you to request an adjournment. Read more about terminations in VCAT – dispute resolution

How to change the hearing date – adjournment with consent

Contact the landlord/agent to ask if they agree to change the hearing to a later date.
If they do, you can then request from VCAT an adjournment with consent.

There are two ways of doing this.

Option A: VCAT Forms

Complete and submit two VCAT forms for adjournment with consent

You must lodge the forms by no later than 4pm at least two business days before your hearing. If your hearing is on a Friday, you need to lodge your forms by 4pm Tuesday.

Option B: Draft orders

This is the only option if you can’t submit the adjournment forms to VCAT at least two clear days before the hearing.

Complete and send a letter with draft orders to VCAT. Template letters and emails are included below.

This option also gives you a bit more time because if the draft consent orders are placed on the file before the hearing, it is likely the orders will be made.

  1. Find a date for the hearing that suits everyone.
    Choose a few extra dates just in case.
  2. Do you want to include extra terms?
    For example, a date before the hearing when you will give each other copies of your evidence? Don’t be pressured to add terms you don’t agree with. Keep them simple and clear.
  3. Decide who is preparing the documents.
    Who is sending them to VCAT after they have been signed? If the landlord is going to, insist they CC your email address in all communications with VCAT about the adjournment.
  4. Prepare a letter and draft orders to VCAT.
    Fill in the details on this template letter (with instructions)
  5. Sign the orders. Both you and the landlord/agent need to sign.
    Whoever prepares the orders should sign them first and then send them to the other person/s for signing.
    If a physical signature is not possible, you can use a digital signature or give digital consent by replying from a known, or previously declared, email address.
    If either side gives digital consent by email, a copy of the email giving consent (with the consent draft orders attached) must be provided to VCAT to show there is genuine agreement with the orders (see Electronic Transactions (Victoria) Act 2000).
  6. Keep copies of the letter and the draft orders.
  7. Before you send any emails to VCAT, make sure you send them to or CC in the landlord/agent’s email address, so everyone is clear that the draft orders have been submitted.
  8. If you are sending the documents, email VCAT at renting@vcat.vic.gov.au and attach your:
    • letter to VCAT
    • consent draft orders
    • emails between you and the landlord that give the required written consent.
  9. Contact VCAT on 1300 018 228 about an hour after you sent your email to confirm they received the documents and placed them on the file.
    If the landlord is sending the draft orders, it’s a good idea to contact VCAT to make sure they received the documents.
  10. VCAT will then:
    • make orders that adjourn the hearing – on the terms you requested; or
    • make orders that adjourn the hearing – on any basis they consider necessary; or
    • refuse to make orders granting an adjournment or dismiss your application.
      Important: Do not assume the hearing date has changed. Your hearing will go ahead as planned unless VCAT contacts you to confirm a new date and time.
  11. If VCAT does not make the consent orders for the adjournment or they dismiss your application for an adjournment, you can ask for a review.
Ask for a review

How to change the hearing date – adjournment without consent

If the landlord/agent does not agree to change the hearing date, you can ask VCAT to grant an adjournment. You have two options.

Option A: VCAT Forms

Complete and submit an Adjournment application form [VCAT website]

You must lodge the forms by no later than 4pm at least two business days before your hearing. If your hearing is on a Friday, you need to lodge your forms by 4pm Tuesday.

Option B: Draft orders

You can use our template letter to VCAT which includes our views on why the hearing may need to be changed to a later date. Read the instructions for information on how to fill in the template letter.

 

If you choose Option B follow these steps

  1. Make notes – including dates and times – of your efforts to contact the landlord or agent and your attempts to get an agreement with them. You will need to include this information when you ask VCAT to change the hearing date.
  2. You will need to show VCAT why changing the hearing date is necessary. Our template letter includes some reasons but it is important you include your own.
  3. Write a letter to VCAT to request an adjournment. You can use our Template letter. Decide what evidence you would like to provide to support your request – such as a medical certificate. If your hearing is about rent arrears, you could include evidence of your financial situation such as a letter from your employer or a Centrelink statement.See: Financial circumstances statement in support of a rent reduction application [VCAT website].
  4. Keep copies of everything, including the letter requesting the adjournment and all the evidence.
  5. Lodge the information with VCAT by 4pm at least two business days before the hearing.
  6. Send to the landlord/agent’s email address of CC them in to any emails you send to VCAT, so it is clear to everyone that you have requested an adjournmen
  7. Email VCAT at renting@vcat.vic.gov.au and attach your:
    • Adjournment request letter
    • Evidence supporting your request
    • Any emails between you and the landlord requesting or refusing to change the hearing date.Include your VCAT reference number, if known, (for example: R2020/…)
  8. Contact VCAT on 1300 018 228 about an hour after you sent your email
      • to confirm they received your request and evidence
      • and ask when it is likely the “duty Member” will make the decision.
        You should also call VCAT the day after you sent your request to ask:
        1. if the adjournment was granted, and
        2. for a copy of the Order.
  9. VCAT will then:
    • make orders to adjourn the hearing – on the terms you requested.
    • make orders to adjourn the hearing – on any basis they consider necessary
    • refuse to make orders granting an adjournment or dismiss your application.

    Do not assume the hearing date has changed. Your hearing will go ahead as planned unless VCAT contacts you to confirm a new date and time.

Sensitive evidence

In most cases, all sides can see anything you provide VCAT. If there is evidence that is sensitive and you do not want it provided to the landlord/agent (medical conditions, mental health circumstances, financial details), contact VCAT first to ask for directions on how to provide and protect this sensitive evidence.

If VCAT directs your evidence cannot be protected, you will need to decide if you want to provide it, or make more general statements that are less sensitive.

Why should I attend the hearing?

You will usually get a better outcome if you attend. You can still ask for an adjournment on other grounds.

Reviewing a VCAT decision

If VCAT does not make consent orders, or dismisses your application, for the adjournment, you can ask for a review.

Ask for a review

If you miss a hearing and find out orders were made, you can apply to VCAT to review the decision. You must apply within 14 days of finding out an order was made.

If VCAT makes a possession order, you can apply for a review at any time before the police use a warrant to evict you.

There is no guarantee VCAT will grant a review. You will need to show you had a good reason for not attending the hearing (for example a medical reason) and that you have a case to argue that could make a difference to the order that VCAT has already made.

View summaries of past cases about rental disputes
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