VCAT update: new fees and top tips for landlords
VCAT has introduced an updated schedule of fees, effective 1 July 2016. This includes changes to the fees involved in bringing a case before VCAT’s Residential Tenancies Division tribunal.
The most significant change to the schedule is that the ‘no fee’ threshold for hearing fees has been lifted from $10,001 to $15,001. This means that hearing fees do not apply for claims under $15,001, giving extra breathing space to owners of properties with high-end fixtures and fittings for example, should tenant damage to such items be the cause of a dispute going to VCAT.
Other VCAT fees have risen slightly, including application fees, which have risen to $61.50 to apply for a standard hearing of a dispute between landlord and tenant.
While VCAT’s Residential Tenancies Division aims to deal swiftly and inexpensively with cases arising from disputes between landlords and tenants, it is usually in everyone’s best interests to avoid a dispute escalating to the point where a VCAT hearing is the only option for resolution.
Common reasons landlords apply to have their case heard at VCAT include:
• Rental default, where the tenant has stopped paying rent or has not paid rent for an extended period
• Lease default, where the tenant has breached the terms of their lease
• Damages, where a tenant has caused damage to a property over and above fair wear and tear.
Sometimes, going to VCAT is unavoidable, as it is part of the process for lease termination or gaining possession.
Clearly, property owners and investors would prefer to avoid having to go to VCAT as it can be a time consuming and stressful process. As a landlord, you can give yourself the best chance of avoiding a VCAT hearing by:
• Taking out an appropriate landlord’s insurance policy. Landlord’s insurance provides cover in the event that tenants default on their rent or cause damage to your property, which often no longer requires a VCAT determination.
• Engaging a professional property management team. At Jellis Craig Boroondara for example, our processes help ensure the selection of a quality tenant who is unlikely to default on their rent or cause damage to your property. Moreover, our property managers have the experience and negotiation skills to satisfactorily resolve most issues without proceeding to VCAT.
Our property management team are always available to help or advise landlord and tenant clients regarding the VCAT process, what is involved in bringing a claim forward, and preferably, solving problems well before escalation to VCAT is required.