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05-05-2014

Easier to recover tenant debt now

Courts Minister Chester Borrows says changes which came into affect on 14 April will improve the process for people recovering debt owed following a civil court case.

The changes, made under the District Courts Amendment Act 2011, streamline the debt recovery process to make it faster, easier and cheaper for creditors, debtors, their representatives and the courts and tribunals.

“One of this Government’s most important priorities has been to support business so they have the confidence to hire another person, or invest another dollar,” says Mr Borrows.

“A modern, efficient and easy to use civil court system, with good tools to enforce those court judgments, is an important part of that.

“The changes embrace new technology processes and are yet another part of our push to modernise the court system, and will help businesses spend less time chasing debts, and more time creating more and better paid jobs for New Zealanders.”

“These changes also make more efficient use of court and tribunal time. For example the process of obtaining an Attachment Order, to make deductions from someone’s wage or benefit to settle a debt, has been greatly simplified.

“That process used to require at least two court appearances, and a requirement for the order to be served on the other party in person – with a $250 fee to change, suspend or cancel the order. 

“From today it can only take one court hearing, orders can be served electronically, and the fee for changing an order has been waived. It’s much better and simpler for everyone concerned,” says Mr Borrows.

The District Courts Amendment Act is part of a comprehensive package of legislative changes arising out of the Courts and Criminal Matters Bill which was introduced to improve the processes for collecting fines and enforcing civil debt.

Previously introduced initiatives include: allowing driver licences to be suspended for unpaid traffic fines, giving credit agencies the power to check for outstanding fines before deciding whether or not to lend, and allowing fines to be disputed online.

“Those changes have been effective in helping our courts improve the collection of fines,” Mr Borrows says. 

“It’s estimated that, between them, they’ve helped us collect more than $50 million in fines in the three years since the Bill was introduced,” says Mr Borrows.

For more information see www.justice.govt.nz/fines/civil-debt.

Background

Changes to the enforcement of civil debt introduced today:

  • a creditor or debtor can apply for an attachment order without an assessment of the debtor’s financial means
  • attachment order details can be agreed by consent at a District Court, Disputes Tribunal, or Tenancy Tribunal (including mediation) hearing
  • deductions and the protected earnings rate in an attachment order can be set as either a percentage of net earnings or a specific amount
  • creditors or debtors can apply to vary, cancel or suspend an attachment order free of charge (currently $250)
  • for some types of application, deputy registrars can assess the financial means of the debtor without the need for a court hearing. An attachment order can be made based on the financial statement filed or by an assessment by phone or in person
  • the distress warrant (a civil enforcement action whereby assets can be seized from a debtor to settle a debt) has been renamed a warrant to seize property and seized property will be held for seven days (rather than five) before being sold
  • current barriers to service for civil enforcement documents have been removed. Where personal service of a document is required but the debtor is unable to be served, the document can be personally served on another person at the debtor’s home or workplace.

Tags: debt recovery - enforcement - attachment order

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