Most owners corporation fee recovery proceedings commence in the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal, also known as VCAT pursuant to section 18(2) of the Owners Corporations Act 2006.
Previously, VCAT’s practice in hearing fee recovery proceedings would require that both parties, the applicant owners corporation and the respondent lot owner, attend the hearing in person. At the hearing, VCAT would hear the parties and their cases.
In most fee recovery proceedings, the respondent lot owner does not appear at the hearing. The case is heard and orders are usually granted, if VCAT is satisfied that the owners corporation has provided sufficient proof to be granted an order, that the lot owner pay the owners corporation outstanding levies, interest and costs.
Most recently, VCAT has been issuing “notice of hearing on the papers” for fee recovery proceedings. In this type of hearing, VCAT provides directions to the owners corporation and the lot owner, giving them an opportunity to dispute VCAT’s decision to hear and determine the proceeding “in papers” by a date nominated by VCAT.
Further, VCAT orders that the owners corporation post and email to VCAT and the respondent, lot owner summary of proofs and any documents to be relied upon. Including copies of the fee notice and final fee notice. Subsequently, VCAT orders the respondent lot owner to email and post to VCAT and the owners corporation a document headed “Points of Defence”. This sets out their defence to the claim, a copy of all documents relevant to the dispute on which they intend to rely in the proceeding, including written submissions in support of their defence. If the respondent lot owner does not file a Points of Defence, VCAT will determine the amount to which the owners corporation is entitled taking into account the amount claimed, interest and costs.
So, if a party does not object to the proceeding being heard on papers by a date nominated by VCAT, notwithstanding Points of Defence being sent to VCAT and the owners corporation, VCAT will hear and decide the fee recovery proceeding “on the papers”.
That said, VCAT, in its own initiative may decide that a hearing “on the papers” under section 100(2) of the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal Act 1998 or VCAT Act, is not appropriate. In that case, VCAT will notify all parties in writing and list the matter for a hearing by the most appropriate means at a date and time to be fixed by VCAT’s principal registrar.
As a firm that regularly appears in VCAT fee recovery proceedings, in our view, the recent change in practice of fee recovery hearings in VCAT is progressive and will provide a time and cost-efficient way for owners corporation stakeholders in receiving VCAT’s decision on these types of matters.
That said, we believe that the principles of efficient running of a fee recovery proceeding, does not change, which includes providing VCAT satisfactory proof that the owners corporation should be granted an order for outstanding levies, interest and costs.
You can visit the youtube channel of RC & Co Lawyers to find out more about the debt recovery procedure in owners corporations.