A controversial change to Victoria’s tribunal system will come into operation on 1 June 2014.
According to a source within the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT), the VCAT Amendment Act will come into effect at the end of this month, despite tenancy advocates slamming the proposals.
The Tenants Union of Victoria believes the new ‘loser pays’ laws will turn the tribunal into a court.
“Essentially, this represents a move from user pays to loser pays,” CEO Mark O’Brien said in a letter to the Victorian attorney-general, Robert Clark.
“The [Union] believes the Bill represents a significant departure from the initial purpose of VCAT: to provide a low-cost and efficient means of dispute resolution where there is a presumption that parties bear their own costs.
“The Bill will make VCAT more like a court in terms of costs, with none of the accountability measures, such as written reasons, being standard practice, nor de novo appeal rights.”
However, during 2010 just one in five tenants attended the hearings brought against them, possibly because 93 per cent of applications were submitted by landlords and property managers.
The enormous amount of time and money wasted by property managers attending hearings with a no-show tenant may be stopped if they were forced to pay if they lose.
According to a VCAT spokesperson, the new Division 8A also contains a presumption that a party that has substantially succeeded in the following types of proceedings will have their fees reimbursed:
$1· small civil claims;
$1· proceedings under the Domestic Building Contracts Act 1995;
$1· proceedings under the Owners Corporations Act 2006;
$1· proceedings under the Residential Tenancies Act 1997; and
$1· any other kind of proceeding that may be prescribed by regulations.