What is a Court Judgement and Order?
A Judgment is usually made at the conclusion of a Court case. It determines the rights and obligations of parties and resolves legal disputes. While an Order is typically a result of a motion brought during a Court case. It directs the parties to some steps of the proceedings. The Court Judgment and Order allows the winning party to be granted relief, whether monetary or non-monetary. This means the other party will have to pay an award of damages, deliver up property or abstain from doing an act.
Why would you need to apply to enforce a Court judgment or Order?
If you are the winning party (also known as the “Judgment Creditor”) of a civil case in the Small Claims Tribunal (SCT), the Family Justice Courts, the Magistrate’s Court, the District Courts, the High Court or the Court of Appeal, you can take out an enforcement action against the other party (known as the “Judgment Debtor”) who is not able or refuses to comply with the Court judgment or Order to pay costs.
What should I do before taking out Enforcement Proceedings
Before taking up enforcement proceedings, you should contact the Judgment Debtor or send out a Letter of Demand (LOD) requiring the payment or recovery of money to be done before a specific deadline.
If the LOD is ignored and the judgment debt remains unpaid, you can apply to the Court for an Order requiring the Judgment Debtor to attend a hearing for an oral examination on his or her assets and means as well as to produce any books or documents that are relevant to the examination. If the Judgment Debtor fails to turn up for the hearing, there are legal provisions for Committal Proceedings to commit him or her to prison or subject him or her to a fine.
After the examination of the Judgment Debtor, you may decide on the mode of enforcement to recover the money owed to you.
What kind of Enforcement Proceedings are there in Singapore?
There are a number of options available to you should you wish to enforce the Judgement in Singapore. Do take note that it is best to seek out the advice of an experienced lawyer who will be able to explain to you when it would be best to use a particular enforcement proceeding in your situation. For example, taking out a Writ of Seizure and Sale proceeding against a Judgement Debtor who has no assets would mean that you would have wasted precious time and money as there would be little to no assets available to auction off.
Writs of Execution
To enforce payment by the Judgment Debtor, you may apply for a Writ of Execution which includes a Writ of Seizure and Sale (WSS), Writ of Delivery (WOD) and Writ of Possession (WOP).
Writ of Seizure & Sale
A WSS directs the Sheriffs/Bailiffs to enter the Judgment Debtor’s premises and seize property and/or securities to satisfy the judgment debt. A Notice of Seizure and an inventory of the property seized are given to the Judgment Debtor. The Judgment Debtor then has seven (7) days to settle all sums owing, failing which the seized property will be sold during a public auction.
Writ of Delivery
A WOD directs the Sheriffs/Bailiffs to seize the specific movable property and deliver it to you. The Court may Order that the Judgment Debtor be given the option to retain the property by paying for its assessed value.
Writ of Possession
A WOP directs the Sheriffs/Bailiffs to take possession of the immovable property and in doing so, evict the Judgment Debtor who refuses to vacate the premises.
Garnishee Proceedings are appropriate in this case if you are aware of a third party (e.g. bank) who owes the Judgment Debtor money. A Garnishee Order directs the third party to pay you instead of the Judgment Debtor. You can first apply for a provisional garnishee Order which leads to the show cause proceedings where the third party (garnishee) confirms there is money due and owing to the Judgment Debtor. The Court will then proceed to make a final garnishee Order, Ordering the garnishee to pay such money to you.
When you are unable to enforce the Court judgment and Order in Singapore because the Judgment Debtor has no assets here, you may be able to enforce it in a foreign country where Judgment Debtor does have assets, provided that particular legal requirements are satisfied.
Bankruptcy / Winding Up Proceedings
Lastly, if the Judgment Debtor is unable to pay back the judgment debt, you can file for a bankruptcy application or apply for company winding-up proceedings against him or her.