The Small Claims Tribunal, which were established on 1st of February 1985, are one part of the State Courts in Singapore. These were specifically established to provide an inexpensive and quick forum for small claims resolution between the suppliers and the consumers.
The CJTS (Community Justice and Tribunals System) which is an electronic case management and filing system is used by the Tribunals from 2017. This allows the parties who are involved in a dispute to file the claims and access e-services of the Court from their homes or any other place with an internet connection.
Small Claims Tribunals helps the people in recovering their debts or claims with minimum fees and without any wastage of time.
Types of Claims determined by the Small Claim Tribunals:
The SCT (Small claim tribunal) can hear a claim up to $10,000 which can be raised to $20,000 if all the parties agree to this. This filing of the claim needs to be done within a year from when the sueing rights were granted.
Some of the common claims are listed:
*Claims which are relating to the services like engagement of a private tutor.
*Claims which relate to selling goods, like buying an appliance for the house
*Claims for damage to the property. This includes expenses or losses which are borne by the owners of any property due to improper, careless or reckless acts by any other. This does not include any claims for the damage to property which is due to a vehicle accident.
*Refund of deposits of motor vehicle under the regulations of the Consumer Fair trading 2009.
*A contract which s related to the lease of premises which are residential not exceeding the period of 2 years. This does not include
- Premises license for any period
- Lease of premises which are commercial or industrial
- Claims for the possession of the specific premises
- Claims for delivery orders, relief against any forfeiture, declaration rights and orders of reinstatement.
Taking help of a Lawyer:
Lawyers are not allowed to represent in the specific proceedings before the small tribunals but can assist you with the following.
* Providing the facts which are relevant to the lawyer, he/she can advise you whether you have a claim or not. The Small Claims Tribunals are not always the appropriate forum for the protection of your interests.
*The success in proving a specific claim depends on the evidence that you can place before the small tribunal. The lawyer can help you out with this evidence, like photographs, documents and more that you need to support the claim.
*The Small Claims Tribunals does not hear all types of claim. A lawyer can advise you on this and assess whether the claim is under the jurisdiction of the SCT so that the claim presented is not rejected.
*Presenting a claim to the small claim tribunals needs to be done in a manner which is easily understood and is equally persuasive. The lawyer can help you strike the required balance between too much and too little information provided.
Winning the Claim:
The small claims tribunal makes an order in your favor if you win the claim. This is normally in the ‘money order’ form which states the amount to be paid by the party. In case the other party does not pay up willingly you will need to reinsure you enforce the SCT money order against the party.
Options available for enforcing a Money Order:
With Garnishee Order, the garnishee is obliged to pay the Creditor of judgment instead of the Debtor of judgment. For example, you can seize the money in the account if the other party has an account in the DBS Bank.
- Writ of Sale and Seizure:
A court bailiff can enter the premises of the Judgment Debtor and either sell or seize the movable property with this writ of seizure and sale. The Judgment Debtor has 7 days to settle all the due payment to the Judgment Creditor. If this is not followed, the Judgment creditor can apply to proceed with an auction of the items which are seized and recover the owed money from the proceedings of the sale.
- Examination of the Judgment Debtor:
This option gives you the freedom to examine the party in the Court under the oath to find out what assets are possessed by him/her. This is paid as the judgment debt. You can take advice from a well reputed and qualified lawyer so that there is no wastage of time and money.
Before Filing a Claim:
Before you take the step of filing a claim with the small claim tribunals you need to ensure you consider specific factors which include
*Checking if the respondent is solvent or bankrupt:
If either party is insolvent or bankrupt you need to ensure you take the advice from qualified lawyer and then file the claim.
*Checking if the Claim is within the Jurisdiction:
The Small Claim Tribunals (SCT) allow the tribunals to hear only specific claims. There is a possibility of the Tribunal discontinuing your claim if it is outside the Tribunal jurisdiction. They have the choice of discontinuing this either at the Hearing stage or even the Consultation Stage. You will also lose out on the paid filing fees as this is non-refundable.
*A Discontinuance Order is not based on how weak or how strong the case is. You have the right to sue in the civil courts.
If any party does not appear in court on the given date, the court enters a judgment of default against the party which is absent. The party which is present can have that specific judgment enforced in the court. There are times when the court postpones the case if the absent party had a genuine case of any emergency. This includes a car accident or a medical emergency. Only the judge has the discretion to decide.
The biggest advantage of the Small Claims Tribunal is that even the loser does not have to bear any legal costs.