Contrary to popular belief, a Court Judgment isn’t the end of your worries. Instead, it is just the beginning. Why? Before we start with our explanation, let us first understand what exactly is a Court Judgment.
What is a Court Judgment?
A form of Court order, a Court Judgment details the decisions made by the courts with regards to a case. In Singapore, monetary disputes are usually heard in the Small Claims Tribunal (SCT). Upon the conclusion of the case hearing or the debtor’s non-compliance with any summons issued, a Court Judgment may be awarded in favor to the aggrieved party by the SCT. A Court Judgment will usually state the total amount of monies that is payable to the creditor by law, a proposed repayment plan and the reason behind the issuance of the Court Order.
What happens after that?
Here is where it gets tricky. Unlike what is commonly perceived, the Small Claims Tribunal do not interfere in the collection of the Judgment debt. In order for the court decreed terms listed on the Judgment to take effect, enforcement proceedings must be carried out by the creditor on his or her own accord. Without the execution and enforcement of the Judgment, the Judgment will only result in the debtor having a ‘black mark’ on his credit record, removable upon the expiration of the judgment.
So how can I enforce a Small Claims Tribunal Judgment?
1) Court Proceedings
Although it may seem like an optimal choice, Court Proceedings may not be the best option due to the the proceedings’ lengthy duration and the legal costs involved.
Unfortunately, such initiatives and applications can take years to execute and complete. Also, unless the debt amount is of extremely high value, majority of creditors may also find themselves footing legal fees that cost more than the debt that they would like to recover!
To pursue a monetary dispute through Court proceedings, one would be required to engage an attorney who will assist in the execution of the various legal procedures after the Judgment have been served such as; issuing a Letter of Demand, issuing and obtaining a Writ of Seizure and Sale, a Writ of Delivery and a Writ of Possession, execute Garnishee proceedings or, in the worst case scenarios, applying for a committal order or bankruptcy proceedings/ winding-up proceedings against the debtor.
2) Legal Debt Enforcement
The second alternative that has been garnering tremendous popularity in the recent years is none other than legal debt collection performed by legal Debt Enforcement agencies.
Recognized as a ‘modern collection method’, Debt Enforcement Initiatives usually start with an investigation done by a Case Officer who will vet through all the evidences, including the judgment (that is provided by the creditor) to re-ascertain the rights and liabilities of all parties involved. Next, the case will be passed on to the Operations Department who will make the first point of contact with the debtor through a phone call or a ‘Notice of Demand’ – the debt recovery equivalent of a Letter of Demand. At this stage, should the debtor be deemed as uncooperative, field visits will be arranged by the Operations department and deployments by the agency’s team of Debt Enforcement agents will commence until the debt is recovered in full. During field visits, Enforcement agents will visit the residences and offices/companies of the debtors to demand and negotiate for payment. At times, Debt Enforcement agencies may also enlist the help of skip-tracers and whistle-blowers to understand about the debtor’s habits, mannerisms, weakness etc to increase the effectiveness of the enforcement team’s collection initiatives.
The allure of legal debt collection lies in the flexibility of collection initiatives that allow impromptu creations of quick-witted strategies that are directly targeted at the debtor’s Achilles heel, the shorter intervals between updates, the absence of unnecessary fuss and the affordability of the collection proceedings. Additionally, as a Debt Enforcement agency in-house legal team will occasionally assist in the retrieval of debts for complicated cases, many have likened legal debt collection to that of ‘killing two birds with a single stone’.