The information in this Fact Sheet is not legal advice. It is intended as a general guide only. It applies only to legislation current in the state of Victoria, Australia. For information regarding a specific tenancy problem, phone the Tenants Union Advice Line on (03) 9416 2577. The Tenants Union accepts no responsibility for actions based on this information, nor for actions based on electronic translations of this information.
The Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (Residential Tenancies List)resolves disputes between landlords and tenants. It is not a court, but it is able to make decisions that can be legally enforced. It is intended to be informal and cheap, and to resolve disputes quickly and fairly.
You can apply to the Tribunal if you have a problem with your landlord that you cannot resolve. It is best to try to resolve your problem by discussing it with your landlord or agent before you apply to the Tribunal. If you decide that you want to apply, you should get advice from the Tenants Union or another tenant advice service beforehand.
To make an application, you need to fill out the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal Application Form. The form is available from the Tribunal, the Tenants Union or any other tenant advice service. Follow the instructions on the form. Make sure that where the form asks you to name the landlord, you put the landlord's name, and not the name of the estate agent. If the landlord is a company, include the A.C.N. If you are a public tenant, your landlord will be the Director of Housing.
Once you have filled out the form, you will need to get a money order or bank cheque for the application fee (the Tribunal will not accept personal cheques).If you want to pay cash, you must take your application to the Tribunal in person. At the time of writing, the application fee is $31. If you can't afford the application fee, you can ask the Registrar to waive it, by filling out a separate application form. If you are unsure of the procedure, contact the Tenants Union or another tenant advice service.
There is no application fee for applying for the return of your bond.
You must send a copy of your application to the landlord, preferably by certified or registered mail. Keep the mail receipt and your copy of the application.
notice of Tribunal hearing
You will receive a notice from the Tribunal telling you when and where your hearing is to take place. The amount of time you will have to wait for a hearing depends on the type of application and how busy the Tribunal is.
If you are unable to attend the Tribunal on the day of the hearing, you will need to get advice from the Tenants Union or another tenant advice service about how to get an adjournment. Requests for adjournments must be made at least 2 business days before the hearing and must be supported with documentation (eg a medical certificate).
If you need an interpreter, you should contact the Tribunal before the hearing date to let them know. The Tribunal should arrange for an interpreter;otherwise you should ask for an adjournment.
preparing your case
When you make an application to the Tribunal you are responsible for proving your case. Even though the law may be on your side, you will have to convince the Tribunal to make the orders you want. This means that before the hearing,you should photocopy any letters or documents that you want the Tribunal to see,and arrange for any witnesses to attend on the day of hearing. The Tribunal will not adjourn your case because you have not got your witnesses or documents with you, and they will not make phone calls to verify your claims. It is up to you to make sure you present the best possible case, and you only have one chance to get your point across.
It is better to have someone give evidence in person than to rely on a letter or statutory declaration. If a witness refuses to attend the hearing and you believe their evidence is important, you can ask the Tribunal to issue a witness summons. You must apply for a summons before your hearing date. This is an order that a person must attend the Tribunal and give evidence. Otherwise, witnesses give their evidence in a statutory declaration (available at most newsagents).
To prepare for the hearing, make a few brief notes outlining what you want to say, including a list of documents you want to show the Tribunal. Remember,being organised is the key to presenting a good case.
Generally, each party is required to present their own case at the Tribunal.However, you are entitled to legal representation when:
the landlord is trying to have you evicted
the landlord is legally qualified or has substantial experience presenting cases to the Tribunal
the landlord is a company
the Tribunal believes you should be legally represented
In some cases, the Tribunal will allow non-legal representation (eg by a tenant worker). If you believe you need representation, you should contact the Tenants Union or another tenant advice service. However, usually these organisations can only represent you if you are unable to effectively represent yourself, or if your case is complex.
Make sure that you arrive at the Tribunal on time. If you are late, the hearing will go ahead without you so plan to get there 15 minutes before the hearing time.
After you have told the counter staff that you have arrived, you will be called into the hearing room. The 'member' (the person who will decide your case) will ask you and the landlord or agent to take an oath on the Bible or to make an affirmation that you will tell the truth.
The way in which your case is heard will depend on the particular member who hears your case (they are all a bit different). However, usually the person who made the application will be asked to present their case first.
Never lose your temper. Keep your arguments clear and to the point, and try not to be intimidated by the landlord, agent or Tribunal member. Make sure you are given the opportunity to mention everything you believe is relevant to your case.
For more information on how to prepare for your Tribunal hearing see the Tribunal Hearing Checklist, available from the Tenants Union.
After hearing both you and your landlord or agent, the Tribunal member will make an 'order' which is the decision on your case. If you do not understand the order, ask the member to explain it to you slowly. You will be sent a written copy of the order a couple of weeks after the hearing. You can ask the Tribunal to provide written reasons for their decision, but you have to ask the member for this at the start of the hearing.
If you are unhappy about the decision made by the Tribunal, you can make an appeal but only in very limited circumstances. Appeals are to the Supreme Court and can be very expensive. You must lodge your appeal within 28 days of the date of the order. If you want to appeal, you should get advice from the Tenants Union as soon as possible.
Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal
55 King Street Melbourne 3000
(03) 9628 9800
1800 133 055 (freecall)
fax (03) 9628 9822
Open 9.00am to 4.30pm Monday to Friday.
For more information contact the Tenants Union Advice Line on (03) 9416 2577.