Why Consulting a Lawyer Before Filing Your Claim at a Small Claims Court is a Smart Move.

Why Consulting a Lawyer Before Filing Your Claim at a Small Claims Court is a Smart Move.

More often than not, law firms get calls from clients who want to recover small debts. These claims are typically for less than S$10,000.00. As much as we would love to represent all clients, but we are not allowed to argue for clients who file their claims at the Small Claims Tribunals (SCT).

What is the Small Claims Tribunal (SCT)?

The Small Claims Tribunals are part of the State Courts in Singapore. Should you need to contact them, you can go to Level 1, State Courts No. 1 Havelock Square Singapore 059724. If you wish you call them, the telephone number is 6435 5946. They were created to provide a fast and inexpensive forum for the resolution of small claims. That leads us to the question: what is a small claim?

What is a "small claim" in Singapore?

Small claims are handled less formally than other cases, and you do not need a lawyer to guide you through the process. The rules of evidence and procedure in small claims cases are simplified to make it easier to represent yourself. Small claims should be strictly for money only, not for the return of property or performance of a service. According to State Courts, small claims do not go past SG$10,000, but there are cases where you and the other party sign an agreement to proceed if your claim is more than S$10,000 but less than S$20,000. You can file your claims within one year from the date on which the event happened. Some common claims are listed below:

 

• A contract for sale of goods
• A contract for a provision of services (involving skill and labour)
• The respondent causing damage to your property
• A contract for a lease for residential premises which does not exceed 2 years
• Cancellation of contracts under the Consumer Fair Trading Regulations
• Refund of motor vehicle deposits with the Consumer Fair Trading Regulations
• Op-out under Consumer Fair Trading (Opt-Out) Regulations

 

There are certain limitations to what you can file in small claims courts; these are a few examples of what you cannot do in SCT:

 

• Hire purchase agreement
• Employment matters
• Friendly loans and claims by moneylenders
• Purchase of stocks and shares
• Rental contract of residential premises with lease more than 2 years
• Legal fees
• Co-broking
• Insurance claims
• Damage caused by use of a motor vehicle

What does the Tribunal weigh when looking at your claim?

1. They look at the nature of the dispute. Claims that do not fall within legal categories specified in the SCT will be discontinued.
2. They also view the monetary value of your claim.
Sometimes people’s claims get discontinued, but you shouldn’t worry if it happens to you. It does not mean that you have lost your case.

 

The decision to discontinue is never based on how strong or weak your claim is. In most cases, you can still sue your opponent in the civil courts. It is important to consult a lawyer for more advice on what claims can be brought before the civil courts before proceeding.

Changes to the Small Claims Tribunals in Singapore

Recently Singapore Courts have changed the old school way of recording papers and claims.

 

As of 10 July 2017, Singapore Courts switched to an electronic system, the Community Justice and Tribunals System (CJTS), that lets people submit their documents, make payments and select their court date.

 

You can read more about the State Court’s briefing of the CJTS here: https://www.statecourts.gov.sg/SmallClaims/Pages/Using-CJTS.aspx

 

Each year, more than 10,000 claims are filed with the Small Claims Tribunals. In the past, those who had a claim to file had to do so manually. They would have to go to the Small Claims Tribunals in person, file their claims, and submit hard copy documents. Presiding Judge of the State Courts See Kee Oon said that the new system would provide claimants with “more expedient and efficient access to the resolution of small claims.”

 

According to a news release, the State Courts said the new Community Justice and Tribunals System (CJTS) enables a claim to be filed in as little time as 15 minutes. Those who file claims will be able to see their claims and documents online, view documents submitted by the other party, monitor their case developments, and negotiate a settlement on a secure platform. Before being cleared to file a claim, however, the system will guide the user through an assessment to see whether he or she is prepared to go through with filing the claim. Then it will lead users to file the claim where they will be able to choose their preferred court date.

 

The CJTS is a positive amendment to legal proceedings, as it reduces errors in filings, increases the likelihood of settling a dispute on their own terms, and saves time to attend Court.

How do I file a claim at the Small Claims Tribunals?

1. Go to http://www.statecourts.gov.sg/CJTS/
2. Log in using your SingPass or CorpPass.
3. Create your profile. And then you should hit submit.
4. Click “Online Applications” and then “Claim Form.”
5. Do the pre-filing assessment.
6. Hit “Submit.”
7. File your claim
8. Pay the filing fees.
9. Pick a consultation date and time.
10. Click “Save respondent’s notice” and print the notice of consultation as well as the claim to serve the other party.

Enforcement of Money Orders & Work Orders

To enforce the order of the small claims tribunals, you must manually fill out the “Writ of Seizure and Sale” through a lawyer, or at a service bureau: LawNet & CrimsonLogic Service Bureau. It is advised for you to seek legal advice. Our lawyers can provide clarification on your best course of action as well as any other forms of enforcement that may be available to you. For claims filed on or after 10 July 2017 (CJTS), please log in to CJTS and complete the e-service “Request to Enforce Work Order Form” under “Online Applications.”

 

For more information on enforcement of Tribunal orders, please refer to this helpful brochure: https://www.statecourts.gov.sg/SmallClaims/Documents/Brochure%203%20-%20Orders%20of%20Small%20Claims%20Tribunals.pdf

Appealing to High Courts

A Tribunal order is final and binding, but you can appeal to the High Court if (i) there is a question of law; and/or (ii) the claim was outside the Tribunals’ jurisdiction. You can also end your small claims case if you are not satisfied with the projected outcome of the case. To optimally leverage your case, you should have a lawyer to represent you in the appeal proceedings. At this stage, it is best to be represented by a lawyer.

 

Leave of the District Court is required for filing an appeal. You may apply for leave by completing the e-service “Application for leave to appeal” in CJTS within 14 days from the date the tribunal order was made. If leave is granted, you may file a notice of appeal at the SCT to comment appeal proceedings in the High Court. The application to District Court for leave to appeal is S$100.

How We Can Help

Before you visit the site to file your claim, we advise you to consult one of our lawyers about what you need to pay close attention to when you do. Even though those who have some monetary claim to file generally should go to small claims tribunals before going straight to civil court, our lawyers can advise claimants on what rights they hold and what liabilities they may face if their claims are faulty. If you come to us to learn about how you can get the most out of your small claims case, we can help you save time, effort, and money.

 

Should you find yourself in a situation in which you need to file a claim in the Small Claims Tribunals, please reach out to one of our experienced lawyers at I.R.B. Law so we can inform you of your rights and what you can be responsible for if your claim falls through. At I.R.B. we have seen many cases that are rejected, and we know alternatives that can bolster your prospects and your success. Generally, consultation is free, and we would be pleased to be of service to help you through the processes of the small claims proceedings.

 

Kindly drop us an email at Hello@irblaw.com.sg or call us at +65 6589 8913 should you wish to enquire further.

 

The information contained in this article is provided for general information only and may not reflect current status about applicable law, cases, settlements or judgements. Nothing contained on this website or article is intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be construed as I.R.B Law LLP agreeing to provide legal services to you. You acknowledge and agree that your use of this website shall not create a lawyer-client relationship with I.R.B Law LLP.