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How duty lawyers can help with owners corporations

How duty lawyers can help with owners corporations.

How duty lawyers can help at VCAT

Duty lawyers are lawyers who are 'on duty' in courts or tribunals. They give free legal advice and other services to people who are representing themselves at a hearing on that day.

In relation to disputes that related to owners corporations, duty lawyers may:

  • give advice to tenants who have disputes about common property managed by an owners corporation
  • help explain the steps involved in taking a matter to VCAT
  • represent people who want to get their hearing adjourned
  • negotiate with the other party, or the other party's lawyer or representative, if they have one
  • refer the person to another lawyer, or to community organisations or other support services.

A duty lawyer will sometimes be able to:

  • help with applications, letters and other understanding complex documents
  • advise someone on the Model Rules and about their liability
  • help with amending their documents or advise about amendments
  • represent a person in an interim hearing if appropriate.

This help will depend on a number of factors, including the time that is available. See 'How duty lawyers prioritise clients and cases' (below).

A duty lawyer at VCAT may provide advice and assistance to people in the areas of:

  • residential tenancies (tenants and residents)
  • guardianship and administration (persons subject to the order)
  • anti-discrimination directions hearings.

A duty lawyer may provide advice, but will not represent someone, in the areas of:

  • civil claims and owners corporation matters
  • administrative reviews, for example in the areas of freedom of information, and MHRB review matters
  • procedural matters pertaining to VCAT
  • working with children check matters.


A duty lawyer will not provide substantive advice or represent someone in the areas of:

  • planning and environment
  • domestic building disputes
  • retail tenancies
  • real property
  • business licenses
  • land valuation
  • legal practice
  • state taxation
  • traffic accident complaints
  • work cover complaints.

However the duty lawyer is able to give basic procedural advice in these areas.

How duty lawyers prioritise clients and cases

Duty lawyer services are free and are not means tested. However, if the lawyer is not able to help everyone on the day, they will give priority by considering:

  • whether the person has an hearing that day
  • whether the person has seen a duty lawyer before
  • if Victoria Legal Aid has previously refused a grant of legal assistance to that client.

In determining whether a duty lawyer will represent someone, consideration will be given to:

  • any special circumstances that may make it harder for the person to represent themselves such as, literacy or language difficulties, a disability or cultural considerations
  • whether legal arguments will provide a benefit to the client that they could not achieve for themselves.

Where to find a duty lawyer

A duty lawyer is located in a ground floor office next to the registry at VCAT’s central location, 55 King Street in Melbourne. There is also an office on the Fifth Floor of the King Street Building.

More information

Legislation

Legal Aid Act 1978 (Vic)

  • s. 3—defines duty lawyer work
  • s. 26(1)—there is no change for duty lawyer services

See Legal Aid Act 1978 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

For the VLA duty lawyer roster see Service directory—Browse all rosters(opens in a new window).

Updated