When it comes to pursuing unpaid accounts for engineering services valued under $25,000, successfully filing a claim in the Ontario Small Claims Court is the first step towards recovering these outstanding payments.
Last month on the blog, we explored the basics of small claims court, including the five major steps for making a claim in this forum. Today, our preferred partners at Corestone Law will get you up-to-speed on the procedures in place for enforcing judgments – or collecting what you are owed – in the event that your claim is successful.
If you are the plaintiff (the party filing a claim in small claims court) and you win the case, you become the creditor. The court will order the defendant (the debtor against whom a claim has been filed) to compensate you with money or goods for any outstanding payments or charges. The debtor may pay right away or he or she may request more time to pay.
If the debtor does not make the payments ordered, there are steps you can take to collect the money or goods owed to you. This process is called enforcing the judgment. It is important to note that the process of actually collecting your money is not the court’s responsibility. It is up to you, the creditor, to determine the best way to enforce judgment and to use the procedures and tools in place for collection.
You have two options for attempting to collect what a small claims court judge deems that you are entitled to:
- Garnishment of wages or bank accounts
- Seizure and sale of personal property (i.e. motor vehicle, snowmobile or boat), or a registration against land
In order to determine the best options for enforcing the judgment, you can check with your local credit bureau, enforcement office, or land registry office for more information. You could also ask the small claims court to hold a court hearing about the debtor’s finances, particularly if there is a default under an order for the payment or recovery of money. This type of exploratory hearing is called an examination hearing.
The examination hearing
An examination hearing is not a requirement for collecting money from a debtor, but it can help you get the information you need for enforcing an order through garnishment – in other words, collecting what you are owed.
During an examination hearing, the debtor must provide information about his or her job, income, property, bank accounts (including any joint accounts), debts, expenses, and any reasons for not making payments to the creditor. During the hearing, a creditor can also examine someone other than the debtor to get more information about the debtor’s assets.
After reviewing the information provided during this hearing, the judge may order the debtor to adhere to a specified payment schedule. An examination of the debtor gives both the court and the creditor a better picture of the debtor’s financial situation and helps the creditor determine which of the defendant’s financial resources will pay for the outstanding judgment, in case the debtor fails to adhere to the schedule.
Tip: A helpful suggestion for both the creditor and the debtor is to take careful notes during an examination hearing, so that these can be used for future reference.
Small Claims Court Course
For additional insight on the rules and procedures that you need to understand to successfully collect unpaid debts through small claims court, join OSPE and Corestone Law for this informative workshop. Learn how to effectively manage your own case in the Ontario Small Claims Court.
Save yourself time and money by gaining the confidence you need to represent yourself in small claims court. Check out the OSPE website for the next available course dates.