You’re owed money the court says. Getting it is another thing altogether. The law may be on your side, but you could have a devil of a time collecting. After all, that’s how you wound up in court in the first place.
Winning in court should be the end of the story, or so you expect. In reality, getting a court judgment is just the beginning. Oral or written, the judge’s decision is final unless the opposing party or you exercise the right, if you have one, to appeal. That’s when the fudging starts.
In Debt, To You
How do debtors get away with it anyway? Whether they’re skirting the law by filing appeal after appeal, ignoring your calls, ghosting you on Facebook or skipping town, there goes your money. But wait, there is a way to win. You can request the court include a payment schedule in its judgment or ask that the money be paid into the court immediately. You may not get what you want from the court, but it’s worth a try.
It’s Up to You
While the court may grant you a judgment, it’s up to you to collect. Ontario court clerks can be a wealth of information or, if you’re owed a lot, you can ask a lawyer to assist. Collection agencies won’t break any kneecaps (that’s the stuff of fiction), but they can write, email or phone to see if your debtor will settle.
Collecting on a Court Judgment
Making a list of the debtor’s assets can help you collect. You’ll want to know where they work and bank, if they have income properties or other real estate that could be sold and if they have any forthcoming court judgments or lottery winnings you could tap. A private investigator can help you get the information you need if you can’t find it in public records.
Making a Debtor’s Acquaintance
Presumably you know the debtor because you lent them the money yourself. If you don’t, it’s time to get acquainted. Send a letter showing how much is owed, the outstanding interest and when payment is due.
A Handshake With the Sheriff (or Private Bailiff)
If that doesn’t work out, make a quick trip back to the court clerk. You’ll want an affidavit for enforcement request describing what you’re owed and a writ of seizure and sale of personal property to give to a sheriff or private bailiff. Be specific about what you’re asking the sheriff or bailiff to do. The court clerk will sign the writ and give it back to you.
What You Can Legally Seize and Sell
Cars, government bonds, office equipment and household furniture are the usual stuff of auctions when property gets seized and sold. Debtors are entitled to some possessions, up to certain dollar amounts. That includes the clothes on their back (and in their closet, mink coats and the like excepted), furniture, utensils, equipment, food and fuel for everyday living. Tools and instruments used for a business and a vehicle (one only) that’s worth less than is owed are excluded. Costs to store, transport, insure and advertise the seized goods for sale at public auction are extra. You get whatever is left over after expenses.
Finding Financial Information
If you suspect the person has the money they owe you but can’t verify it, file a notice to hold an examination hearing. The hearing will give you an opportunity to ask employers, family members or the person directly about their finances. Courts being what they are, getting a hearing can take time. Debtors may prefer to settle out of court than have their finances aired publicly.
Returning Your Property
It’s back to court if the debtor has property belonging to you and won’t return it. You’ll need a writ of delivery. The writ is the court’s permission to take your property back legally.
Getting a Certificate of Judgment
Last resort, the opposing party refuses to pay, ask the judge for a certificate of judgment as proof the debt is owed to you. You can use the certificate to collect by:
- garnishing wages
- selliing personal property (the writ of seizure and sale of personal property)
- selling or placing a lien on land, called a writ of seizure and sale of land and valid for up to 12 years
- or, if they live outside Ontario or the region where the trial took place, you can show the certificate of judgment to a court in their community and try to collect that way.
Good luck! Remember, patience is a virtue.
Sign an Affidavit of Enforcement Request
Let Axess Law’s Ontario notary publics prepare an affidavit of enforcement request for you. Phone 1-877-522-9377 or in Greater Toronto 647-479-0118 or use our online booking form for an online video appointment anywhere in Ontario. In person meetings with licensed lawyers can be arranged at our Ottawa, Toronto, Scarborough, Vaughan, Etobicoke, Mississauga Winston Churchill or Mississauga Heartland law offices.
Click here to learn more about Axess Law’s notary public services.
Photo by Thomas Jh. Baumann |Pixabay.