VCAT was created in 1998. It was intended to make decision making more accessible to the general public and no doubt as caravan park operators you have often needed the assistance of VCAT to prosecute a claim or had to appear at VCAT to defend a claim.
When contemplating issuing proceedings at VCAT, here are some things to think about which will help you prepare and present your case.
- Consider if the dispute is suitable for one of the lists at VCAT. Lists which will be relevant to you include: Residential Tenancies List, Retail Tenancies List, Civil Claims List and Planning & Environment List;
- If the matter is a Retail Tenancies Dispute, it will be necessary to first lodge the dispute with the Office of the Small Business Commissioner. The Commissioner’s Office will then arrange a mediation with a view to resolving the matter. Checkout the Commissioner’s website at http://www.vsbc.vic.gov.au/
- For other disputes, look at the VCAT website and/or telephone VCAT for guidance and/or relevant application forms;
- Consider whether the assistance of a solicitor is necessary, either to assist with the preparation of the application or to appear at the application;
- Prepare a detailed chronology of the incidents or issues forming the basis of the dispute;
- Gather together all documents (including letters, emails, diary notes, agreements etc.) which are relevant to the dispute;
- Consider who witnessed the incident, or is a witness to the facts the subject of the dispute;
- Recruit the assistance/co-operation of those witnesses;
- If appropriate, take photographs of the subject matter;
- In anticipation of a mediation, compulsory conference or hearing, review and be familiar with the chronology, supporting documents and photographs;
- On the day of the mediation, compulsory conference or hearing, arrive at the court at least 30 minutes before the scheduled commencement time to give you an opportunity to find the allocated hearing room, get your bearings and catch your breath;
- Dress comfortably but do not wear t-shirts, jeans, cargo pants, sandals or runners. It is preferable to wear a suit or sports jacket (for the men) or a dress/skirt or pants suit (for the women);
- Take your chronology, supporting documents and photographs with you to the mediation or compulsory conference;
- Also take your witnesses with you when going to the hearing;
- Make copies of the chronology, supporting documents and photographs for the tribunal member and for the other side and take them with you to the hearing;
- When speaking to the tribunal member, address the member as “Sir” (if male) or “Madam” or “Mam” (if female);
- Present your case to the tribunal member, stating at the outset what you are seeking and then telling your story chronologically and clearly;
- Listen carefully to questions asked of you by the tribunal member and answer the question asked; and
- Be confident in your presentation.
Note: This update is a guide only and is not intended to constitute legal advice.