With the advent of low-cost, lawyer-free Tribunal’s like QCAT it’s much easier for ordinary folk to get a judgment that someone else owes them money. These ‘money orders’ are great for deciding once and for all whether money is owed and how much. What they don’t do is ensure that anyone is ever going to get paid!
In theory you politely write to the judgment debtor enclosing a copy of the order and asking that they pay within a certain time. But if they had the money sitting in the bank you probably wouldn’t have needed to sue them. As QCAT itself has no enforcement powers for money orders, the next step is to register the order in the Magistrates Court where it becomes enforceable as a Magistrates Court order.
Then an extraordinarily old-fashioned, but surprisingly effective scheme kicks in, all at your initiation not the Court’s. The debtor can be required to complete a sworn ‘Statement of Financial Position’ and summonsed to answer questions about it in an ‘Enforcement Hearing’. Information gained in this process might lead you to apply for one of the various types of ‘Warrant of Execution’ – eg Seizure and Sale of Goods, Reassignment of Goods, Garnishee of Wages, Instalment Payments. The Warrant then goes to a Bailiff who attempts to execute it and, if successful, pays you the money.
You can’t get blood from a stone however and it’s estimated that fewer than a third of judgments are ever paid in full.
Julian Porter is Principal Solicitor of Suncoast Community Legal Service.
This column contains legal information only. Legal advice should be sought in relation to individual circumstances.