Enforcement of court judgments and orders in Singapore
After winning a lawsuit in the Small Claims Tribunal (SCT), the Magistrate’s Court, District Court, High Court, or the Court of Appeal, the winning party (also known as the judgment creditor) has to enforce his court judgment or order in order to obtain the relief he is seeking against the judgment debtor. Otherwise, without taking action to conduct enforcement, the court judgment or order will not take effect. This article briefly illustrates the different types of enforcement options available to a judgment creditor.
Before embarking on formal enforcement, you will need to consider the following issues:
- Whether the judgment debtor is willing and able to pay;
- Where the assets of the judgment debtor are located; and
- Whether it is tactically advantageous to give time for the judgment debtor to pay, or to move quickly to prevent the dissipation of assets.
Small Claims Tribunal – Order of Tribunal
An order of tribunal obtained from the SCT ordering money payments to be made by the respondent (or judgment debtor) will generally be coupled with a deadline for payment. If the respondent does not pay, you will have to take up separate enforcement proceedings against him or her.
Letter of demand
Prior to taking up enforcement proceedings, the judgment creditor should contact the judgment debtor or otherwise send a letter of demand (with the assistance of a lawyer, if necessary) requiring payment to be made before a certain time. As for SCT actions, the respondent would already have access to the order of tribunal and the stipulated deadline for payment – in that case the judgment creditor should contact the judgment debtor to agree on a payment plan and an amicable resolution.
If the judgment creditor remains defiant or otherwise refuses to comply, and appears to possess sufficient assets of value, enforcement proceedings may be taken. The most common enforcement method adopted by most litigants is the issue of a writ of seizure and sale.
Writ of seizure and sale
A writ of seizure and sale authorises the bailiff to seize and sell movable property belonging to the judgment debtor to pay the judgment debt.
For more information on a WSS, click here.
Writ of delivery
A writ of delivery is a court order requiring the judgment debtor to deliver movable property to the judgment creditor.
Writ of possession
A writ of possession is a court order usually served on a tenant by a landlord requiring the tenant to leave the premises by a certain time, enabling the landlord to repossess his property.
Examination of judgment debtor
An examination is a court order requiring the judgment debtor to attend before the court and be orally examined on whatever property he has and wheresoever situated, and the court may also order the judgment debtor to produce any books or documents in his possession that is relevant for the purposes of examination.
Where a third party owes money to the judgment debtor (such as an employer), a garnishee proceeding can be taken out so that the garnishee must pay the money to the judgment creditor instead of the judgment debtor.
Where the judgment debtor fails to obey a court order, the judgment creditor can apply to court to have the judgment debtor sanctioned with fine or imprisonment.
Where the judgement debtor has assets situated in a foreign jurisdiction, the judgment creditor, with the assistance of a legal professional, can enforce his judgment overseas, provided that the particular legal requirements of the foreign jurisdiction are satisfied.
Bankruptcy and winding up application
Where the judgment debtor cannot pay the debts owed, the judgment creditor can apply for bankruptcy or winding-up proceedings against the debtor.