VCAT are now holding hearings by telephone and Zoom.
We understand that by default hearings will be listed by phone with parties being provided a dial in phone number for the purpose of their hearing. This dial in number is not a freecall number and so you should discuss with your client the arrangements for the hearing, including offering, if necessary, to teleconference them into the hearing.
For certain hearings it may be preferable to have the matter heard by Zoom. If your client would prefer this, you should make a request to VCAT setting out the reasons for your request (See Arranging a video-link if your client is in prison).
All hearing documents must be emailed 48 hours before your hearing to avoid delays.
The Tribunal processes and procedures are relatively relaxed and informal and seek to encourage self representation. When you arrive at the Tribunal you should announce yourself at either the General Registry or the Registry for the relevant specialised list (eg: residential tenancies). When a Member and hearing room have been allocated, your matter will be called by registry staff.
When entering or leaving the hearing room, you should briefly bow to the sitting Member (if present). If the Member is not present and there are no other matters to be heard, you may sit directly at the bar table. If there are several other matters to be heard you may wish to wait at the back of the hearing room with your client until the Member calls your matter. Similar to a court room, simple matters and matters by consent will be dealt with first. Remember to sit on the right side of the bar table if you are the applicant and on the left if you are the respondent.
VCAT processes & etiquette – zoom and telephone hearings
When you dial into a telephone hearing, you will be required to provide your details. You should provide your full name and note who you are representing. When you join a Zoom conference, usually a VCAT staff member will confirm who is attending before you join the hearing room with the Member. You should ensure your display name includes your name, your organisation and your role (e.g. solicitor for the respondent).
What if my client can’t be contacted for a hearing?
Homeless Law pro bono lawyers should not appear at a VCAT hearing on a client’s behalf unless the client is present at the hearing and able to participate.
You should not give an appearance to the VCAT registry staff on the day of a hearing unless the client is also present (including for remote hearings).
If lawyers appear in the client’s absence and do not obtain a favourable result, the client will not be able to apply for a rehearing because they were represented at the hearing.
If your client cannot be contacted for a VCAT hearing, discuss the next steps with your supervisor. If you cannot reach your supervisor, please call Homeless Law staff.
During a VCAT hearing
At the beginning of a hearing the case will be called and the Tribunal Member will ask who is present. Tribunal Members may be addressed as ‘Madam’, ‘Sir’ or ‘Member’.
The residential rental provider will generally have a summary of proofs document to hand up to the Member. You should ask the residential rental provider for a copy of their summary of proofs before the Tribunal hearing.
As a general rule, applicants are required to present their case first. Before the proceeding begins, the Member will generally ask for an overview of the matter by the applicant and may enquire as to whether a settlement has been reached or whether orders can be made by consent.
If a settlement cannot be reached, both parties will make submissions and call witnesses. If you are the applicant you proceed first and all witnesses and submissions will need to establish the basis for your application. If you are the respondent you will respond to the submissions and evidence of the applicant.
If you are requesting written reasons for a decision, this must be done at the hearing, either before or at the time of the notification of the Tribunal’s decision. See Requesting reasons & suppression orders for more guidance.
Postponing a warrant of possession at VCAT
The Tribunal can order that a warrant of possession be postponed for up to 30 days from the date of the possession order if the Tribunal is satisfied that (s 352 RTA):
the renter, resident or site tenant would suffer hardship if the issue of the warrant were not postponed; and
the hardship would be greater than any hardship faced by the residential rental provider, rooming house operator, caravan park owner, caravan owner, site owner or mortgagee.
If a renter, resident or site tenant fails to pay rent or otherwise fails to comply with their occupancy agreement or the RTA during the period of postponement, the Tribunal can order that the warrant of possession be issued without delay: s 353 RTA.
If a possession order is made, further guidance about when a rental provider can purchase a warrant and post-possession order negotiations is available at Warrants of possession.