The main role of VCAT is to provide affordable, cost effective and timely access to justice for civil disputes avoiding the need for certain matters to be heard before the courts reducing the backlog already faced.
APPLYING TO VCAT
- You commence an application in VCAT by filing an application form with supporting documents.
- Upon the application being served to the other party, VCAT may organize a mediation between the parties in attempt to resolve the dispute.
- If mediation fails then the case will be listed for a directions hearing and will be heard in a final hearing before a VCAT member.
Note: it is important to understand that each list in VCAT has a different process.
VCAT hears a range of matters within four key divisions being as follows:
- Civil Division: This Division hears and determines civil disputes relating to domestic building works, owners corporation matters, retail tenancies, sale and ownership of property;
- Administrative Division: This Division hears matters that require a review of decisions made by government and other authorities together with professional conduct enquiries including legal services, state taxation, worksafe assessments, planning permits, local council land evaluations, freedom of information applications, transport accident commission decisions;
- Residential Tenancies Division: This Divisions hears and determines matters involving residential tenants and landlords, director of housing and public housing tenants, caravan park owners and residents (Residential Tenancies Act 1997 (Vic), it is important to quote the relevant sections within the act that apply to your claim)
- Human Rights Division: This Division hears matters relating to equality, guardianship and administration, health, privacy, racial and religious vilification, (Equal Opportunity Act2010 (Vic), Racial and Religious Tolerance Act 2001 (Vic) Disability Act 2006 (Vic) )
VCAT is promotes Alternative Dispute Resolution Services (ADR). ADR is an informal process which does not involve a hearing. This may involve a compulsory conference or mediation. Mediation is a key aspect of VCAT as this provides the parties with an opportunity to settle their dispute before it reaches a hearing. This is conducted under the supervision of a specialised mediator. Claims that range from $15,000 to $100,000 are referred to mediation. Claims that are less than $15,000 , also known as small claims, are referred to mediation and should they remain unresolved can be ordered to a hearing that same day.
Decisions made in VCAT are binding and may be final or interim. There are however exceptions which apply and are as follows:
- Non-attendance by parties at the hearing, and the decision set aside on appeal by a party to the Supreme Court on a point of law;
- A mistake was present within the order and is corrected under section 119 of the Victorian Civil and Administrative Act 1998; or
- A party did not attend the hearing and the order is set aside or changed under section 120 of the Victorian Civil and Administrative Act 1998.
The only exceptions is if the decision is set aside on appeal by a party to the Supreme Court on a point of law, there was a mistake in the order and will need to be corrected (section 119 of the Victorian Civil and Administrative Act 1998 (Vic)) and the other is because not all of the parties attended the hearing (section 120 of the Victorian Civil and Administrative Act 1998 (Vic)).
The following orders can be made by VCAT in relation to any successful claim and include:
- Payment of money
- Work to be completed
- Payment of damages
- Order by way of restitution
- Declare a debt is not owed
- Vary a contract
- Reviewing a term in a consumer that is unjust
- Varying or rescinding contracts/leases
- Order a party to complete something or to cease from completing
A VCAT decision may only be appealed on a question of law and must be given permission to do so from the court that hears the matter. The time limit for the appeals process must be made within 28 days of the VCAT order. If the time limit lapses, a party may still seek an appeal however such applications bear the discretion of the court.
ENFORCEMENT OF VCAT ORDERS
There are two orders that are enforced by VCAT. They are:
- Monetary orders – which orders one party to make a payment to the other party.
- Non-monetary orders – this is where a party is ordered to complete something or be stopped from completing a task
If a party fails to make the payment you will need to contact VCAT. If you cannot contact the other party then you can get a court to enforce the order. This will result however in a court fee.
LEGAL REPRESENTATION AT VCAT MATTERS
If you choose to have a legal representative you will need to seek permission from VCAT. You will need to seek permission at the directions, final hearing, mediation or compulsory conference. If permission is not granted you will need to be ready to present your case to VCAT.
Discuss legal/professional costs and how in certain instances you have an automatic right to representation