Avoiding the legal obligation to pay for goods or services occurs frequently. The process of chasing and sending repeated reminders for payment is frustrating and stressful as debtors do not answer calls, do not respond or even give excuses to delay payment. In some cases, debtors have the ability to pay but refuse to pay and there are others who choose whom they want to pay first. Such unpaid invoices can affect cash flow for your business.
Here are some ways to get payments from debtors:-
Small Claims Tribunal
If the debt owed is less than $20,000, you are entitled to file a claim with the Small Claims Tribunals (SCT). The claim limit can be increased to $30,000 with the debtor agreement. The debt cannot be owed for more than 2 years.
To make a claim at the SCT, you can file your application through the State Courts' online Community Justice and Tribunals System. A non-refundable lodgment fee have to be paid before filing your claim in the SCT:-
Lawyers and agents are not allowed to represent a party in SCT proceedings before a Registrar or Tribunal Magistrate. However, you may be represented by a lawyer in leave to appeal proceedings in the District Court or appeal proceedings in the High Court.
If your Claim is more than $20,000
If the debt owed is more than $20,000, you can file your claim in the Magistrate Court if the disputed amount does not exceed $60,000 and in the District Court if the disputed amount does not exceed $250,000.
Where the amount of the claim exceeds the District Court's jurisdiction, you and the debtor can agree to have the matter heard in the District Court. If there is no such agreement, then the action will commence in the General Division of the High Court.
After getting Judgment from the Courts
Obtaining judgment in your favour from the Courts is only the first step in recovering the debt from the debtor. Usually, upon judgment, the debtor will take steps to make repayment of the debt. However, there are instances where the debtor continues to refuse to pay the judgment sum. In that case, in order to obtain the judgment sum, you will have to enforce the judgment on the debtor. Here are some of the ways to do so:-
Garnishee Proceedings - the court will direct a third party to pay to you the money that the third party owes a judgment debtor.
Writ of Seizure and Sale - this authorizes enforcement officers of the court to seize and sell a party's assets or property to pay the judgment debt.
Writ of Possession - the party is force to vacate property or land by a certain time, enabling you to repossess it.
Writ of Delivery - this directs enforcement officers of the court to seize a specific movable property from the debtor and deliver it to you.
Bankruptcy/Winding Up proceedings.
It is often difficult to retrieve payments from a debtor. While there are other options, we would recommend that the best and most effective way to recover your debt is to engage a lawyer to first issue a Letter of Demand on the debtor. This ensures that you are standing on the right side of the law which avails you to the available legal methods down the road.
However, do take note that the in recovering your debts, time is of the essence and the longer you take action, the lower the chances of you collecting your debt.