What to do if you miss your VCAT tenancy hearing

This fact sheet will help you understand your next steps and arrange another hearing.

Updated 3 September 2020

If you, or someone you know, missed a tenancy hearing at VCAT, you might be able to apply to have that order reheard. This is often called a review hearing or review application.

This fact sheet covers:

  • Getting a copy of the VCAT order
  • Preparing a review application
  • What if there is a warrant of possession?
  • Review hearings at VCAT
  • Seeking legal help
Fact Sheet: How to reopen an order at VCAT after missing a tenancy hearing Download PDF (164 KB)

If you attended a hearing and you are unhappy about VCAT’s decision to grant a Possession Order to your landlord, you may be able to appeal the decision to the Victorian Supreme Court. The circumstances in which you can appeal are limited and the appeals process is complex and expensive. You can find out more information about grounds to appeal here.

When can a tenant apply for a review hearing?

There are specific instances where a review application can be heard at VCAT. This is where:

  • VCAT has made an order against a tenant without them or their representative being at the hearing,
  • A review application is lodged within 14 days of the tenant becoming aware of the VCAT order. This timeframe may be able to be extended if the tenant has a valid reason for not lodging a review sooner,
  • The tenant had a reasonable excuse for not attending the hearing, and
  • The tenant has a reasonable case to argue.

Below are the steps tenants can take to lodge an application for a review hearing.

1. Getting a copy of the VCAT order

A tenant, or someone on their behalf, can call the VCAT Residential Tenancies List registry on 1300 018 228 to get a copy of the order that was made in their absence.

Note that if you are requesting copies of more than a few documents, the registry might ask you to submit an email request (renting@vcat.vic.gov.au).

Tip

The VCAT registry can give you the details of the order over the phone and a copy of the order can be emailed to you, if you request it.

2. Preparing a review application and collecting supporting documents

A review hearing is not guaranteed. Only a lawyer can provide you with advice about the likelihood of a review being granted by VCAT.

Depending the reason why a tenant couldn’t attend, try to collect supporting documents showing why the tenant couldn’t go to the hearing or did not know about the hearing.

For example, a doctor’s certificate for the tenant or their family member (such as their child) showing they were sick on the hearing day, paperwork showing a court date conflicted with the VCAT hearing date, or a letter from a support worker to show the tenant’s reason for non-attendance.

3. What if a warrant has already been purchased?

If there is a warrant and you have lodged a review application, you should call the VCAT registry to confirm they have received the application. VCAT should make an order putting a hold on further enforcement (e.g. execution of the warrant).

You can also call the File Clerk at the local police station to inform them that a review application has been lodged and confirm that they will put a hold on executing the warrant.

After a warrant has been executed (i.e. the police have come to the property and changed the locks) the tenancy has legally ended and a rehearing cannot be granted.

Caution

If there is a warrant of possession, you must act quickly because the warrant can be executed immediately. You should get legal help urgently.

4. Review hearings at VCAT

After the application has been lodged, the matter will then be listed for hearing. This can happen any date after lodgement and you may not be given more than a few days warning. You will receive a letter or email with the hearing date. If your mail is not reliable, you can call the VCAT registry to check when the hearing has been listed.

Even if you get a hearing date, this does not mean the review hearing has been granted. At the hearing, the tenant will need to convince the VCAT member to grant the new hearing. If the rehearing application is successful, the new hearing will normally go ahead on the same day (i.e. in relation to the original application for a possession order or compensation order), so you need to be prepared for this too.

5. Seeking legal help

If you, or someone you know, is being evicted from a rental property a lawyer can assist to provide legal advice, negotiate with the landlord on the tenant’s behalf and/or represent the tenant at VCAT to give them the best chance of avoiding eviction. A lawyer from a community legal service or Victoria Legal Aid might be able to assist the tenant for free.

If you, or someone you know, is at risk of homelessness and has received a notice to vacate, or missed a VCAT hearing contact Justice Connect Homeless Law immediately on 1800 606 313 (free call from a landline).

If you are a caseworker from a community organisation seeking legal help for a client, you can use our online enquiry form.

Other Victorian legal services that may be able to give you free legal help with tenancy issues are:

Other Victorian services that may be able to provide assistance or advocacy are:

Dear Landlord: A free self-help tool for Victorian renters

Dear Landlord can help you prepare a review application if you missed a VCAT hearing.

It can also help you negotiate with your landlord if you are struggling to pay rent during COVID-19.

Use Dear Landlord

This resource was published 15/11/2017. This is legal information only and does not constitute legal advice. You should always contact a lawyer for advice specific to your situation.

 

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