Enforcing Court Orders
I took my landlord to court for not returning my security deposit. The judge ordered that she had to return it to me within 30 days. This time has passed and I have not received anything. How can I get the money? Is it worth pursuing?
You can take steps to enforce the order against your landlord. Although you can do a lot of the work yourself, consider first what your chances are of getting money from the landlord. You will have to spend more time and money to enforce the order. You will also need time to complete forms and there will be additional filing fees and possibly document serving fees.
A court judgment is valid for 10 years, so although your landlord may not have money now, she might at some time in the future. The enforcement procedures allow you to
- register your claim along with any of your landlord's other creditors;
- register your claim against the title of any property owned by your landlord;
- ask the court to order that the money be paid directly from the landlord's wages or bank account (garnishee); or
- put seizure of property into effect.
These enforcement procedures may have the effect of releasing your funds.
How do I go about enforcing a Provincial Court Order?
- You must register the order with the Court of Queen's Bench. The clerks at the courthouse will help you with this.
- You also have to complete and file a Writ of Enforcement form. You can get the form at the courthouse or the Alberta Courts website. Be sure to fill in the form accurately. Assistance is available from the Alberta Justice booklet "Getting and Collecting Your Judgment in Alberta," which can also be found on the Alberta Courts website.
- You must register the Writ with the Personal Property Registry through an authorized Alberta Registry Agent.
- Decide what remedy you will pursue to get your money, for example, garnishee proceedings or seizure.
- You will have to file a Status Report with the Personal Property Registry every two years to keep the Writ alive.
What is the Personal Property Registry?
The Personal Property Registry is a government agency that collects information about claims that people have registered against assets owned by others. If you register a claim like a court judgment against someone else, the claim attaches to assets owned by that person. Other creditors may also have claims registered against the same assets because that same person also owes them money. If another creditor takes enforcement proceedings against the debtor, you are entitled to share in the proceeds if you registered your claim.
The law establishes an order for creditors to share in those proceeds. Most court judgments are unsecured debts that do not attach to any particular asset. Registered unsecured creditors will take proceeds after secured creditors.
Is there any way of knowing if I am wasting my time and money with enforcement proceedings?
One way to check the likelihood of recovering anything from your landlord is to carry out a search at the Personal Property Registry before you take further steps. You can find out how many other claims are registered against your landlord, and whether they are secured or unsecured. This will give you some idea as to how successful you might be in recovering anything from the assets of your landlord, or whether there are so many claims ahead of you that it is unlikely you will receive anything.
The Personal Property Registry only deals with assets, not land or interests in land. You might still be able to recover funds from your landlord by registering the Writ of Enforcement as a caveat against his land. When the land is sold, it is likely that a purchaser will insist that the caveat is dealt with (i.e., the claim paid) before the sale is final.
What options are available once the Writ of Enforcement is registered?
Once your Writ of Enforcement is issued and registered with the Personal Property Registry, you can
- file the Writ against your landlord's land at the Land Titles Office in Edmonton or Calgary;
- start a bank or wage garnishee; or
- start seizure proceedings.
What effect does registration of my claim at Land Titles have?
Once the Writ of Enforcement is registered on the title as a caveat, it is unlikely that a future purchaser of the property will want to go through with a sale unless the Writ is dealt with in some way. The purchaser may request that the charge be dealt with, in which case the seller will have to discharge the Writ. Any money paid to discharge the Writ will be subject to the rules on distribution between secured and unsecured creditors. Whether you will actually get any of the proceeds will depend upon where you rank in the order with your debt.
Alternatively, the purchaser may agree that the Writ remain on the title as long as the purchase price of the property is reduced. In this situation, the charge will still remain against the property and will now be owed by the new owner. As a creditor you will not receive anything due to the purchase price of the property being reduced.
What is required to start garnishee or seizure proceedings?
Garnishee allows money that is owed to a debtor (for example, by an employer or a bank) to be given to a creditor instead. In order to start the process, you file a Garnishee Summons with the Court of Queen?s Bench and serve it on the bank or employer. The bank or employer then sends a copy of the summons to the debtor and pays any money to the court. The court will let you know if and when money is received.
Seizure is a process whereby you give instructions to a Civil Enforcement Agency to take property belonging to your landlord. If the debt is not paid, the property can be sold and the proceeds divided among creditors. The Civil Enforcement Agency requires you to complete certain documents before the process can start. You can carry out a search at the Personal Property Registry before you start seizure proceedings to see how many other creditors are ahead of you. You may decide it is not worth your while to try to recover your debt in this way. Once seizure has started, there are regulations that cover what kinds of property can be taken and the procedure for sale of the property.
This page was last updated in April, 2006.