If you are in dispute with your builder and have been unable to resolve the issue either informally or through a body such as Domestic Building Resolution Victoria (DBDRV), will probably have had your claim referred to VCAT – the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal.
VCAT hears and decides cases about commercial and domestic building disputes.
The dispute may be between a property owner, builder, sub-contractor, architect, warranty issuer, engineer or other building practitioner, or any combination of these.
If you haven’t been involved in the VCAT process before, read on for information about how VCAT works and what to expect if you have lodged an application.
What Happens When I Apply to VCAT?
When VCAT receives an application and fee, they will first review it to see that it fits within VCAT’s jurisdiction and they will then open a new case. Each case is assigned a reference number.
VCAT will then advise all parties in the case instructions about how the case will be managed. These are called directions or orders. Many cases are referred directly to mediation, directions hearings or small claims hearings. Mediation is a confidential meeting where parties can discuss ways to resolve the dispute with the help of an impartial mediator.
When Will My Case Be Heard?
As a general rule, if the value of your claim is under $15K, you can expect to wait around eight weeks for your case to be heard. Higher-value claims can take up to 30 weeks to get to final hearing stage (from the first appearance to the date of the final hearing).
VCAT states that more than 60% of matters with claim values under $100,000, that go through mediation, are resolved without the case going to a hearing.
How Much Will it Cost?
VCAT application Fees are charged on a sliding scale, depending on the amount of your claim.
Fees start at $65.30 for claims up to $300, rising to $1669.10 for claims more than $5 million.Fees also apply for each hearing day or part of a hearing day. Fees for hearing days start at $362.90, however if your matter is for a claim under $15,001, hearing fees do not apply.
If your claim is between $15,001 and $100,000, hearing fees do not apply on the first day of the hearing but apply for each subsequent hearing day.If the claim is over $100,000, for a non-monetary claim, a claim for an unspecified amount or is a complex case, hearing fees DO apply from the first day of hearing.
A registrar assesses your application and advises you if the matter is considered a complex case.
What happens at a VCAT Building Dispute Hearing?
This is the stage at which you will present your VCAT report or have your expert witness attend to present evidence which supports your case.
The VCAT member hearing your case listens to the submissions and evidence presented by both parties, then makes a decision, either at the end of the hearing, or in writing as soon as possible afterwards. You may have to attend more than one hearing, depending on your case.
Although a VCAT hearing is not as formal as a court case, it is still an official process, and the normal etiquette for such an environment still applies.
What Happens After The Hearing?
After VCAT makes a decision, an order will be issued, either immediately or after consideration of your case.
The order is a legal document that tells parties how the case has been decided and the actions that must be taken.
If a payment is to be made, it must be done by the deadline given in the order. If no date is given for the payment, it must be made immediately.
Physical evidence presented at the hearing, such as tapes and merchandise, will be returned to you.
What can I do if I disagree with the outcome of the hearing?
VCAT decisions can only be appealed on questions of law – that is to say if you feel the applicable law has applied unfairly to your case, you can apply for permission to have the decision reviewed – this is called seeking leave to appeal.
If the VCAT president or a vice-president made the decision, you would apply to the Court of Appeal. If any other VCAT member made the decision, you would appeal to the Trial Division of the Supreme Court of Victoria.
You must start the appeal process within 28 days of the date of the VCAT order. Fees apply.
How to Prepare
Start your preparation early and gather as much evidence as you can to present the best possible case.
You may elect to present a report in support of your case, or an expert witness.
This is where The Home Inspection Hub can help.
One of our experienced inspectors can assist you by presenting expert evidence in one of two ways – providing expert evidence in the form of a written report, and/or providing testimony as an expert witness.
Our report will outline the defects in dispute, stating the facts and including an expert opinion about the issue.
Our inspector can attend your VCAT hearing as an expert witness to provide fair and unbiased evidence.
How Much Do You Charge?
The cost to engage our services will be discussed with you upon application and will be dependent on the amount of time required to prepare the expert evidence and/or act as an expert witness in a court hearing.
What information do I need to provide to arrange expert evidence?
When you engage The Home Inspection Hub for a VCAT report or expert evidence, we will ask you the following questions?
What is the dispute about?
Who is involved in the dispute?
Do you have a date for the VCAT hearing? If so, what is the date?
What is the deadline for submitting expert evidence for your VCAT hearing?
Who will provide access to the property for an inspection?
Do you have any documentation that we can look at before the inspection takes place?