Collecting your civil debt
The Tribunal or civil court decision will set out clearly how much the debtor has to pay to the creditor and by when. It may include details as to how the payment should be made.
To ensure you recover your debt you need to:
Contact the person and arrange payment.
Obtain their current contact details including address (work and home), their phone number(s), and registration details of any vehicles they own.
The contact information is very important if you later want the Court to assist you with getting your payment.
If no date or time was specified in the order, the debtor has 48 hours to pay from the time the order was made. If the order has payments by instalment, you cannot demand a lump sum payment. Similarly, if a date for payment is included in the order, you cannot insist that the payment is paid before that day.
You may need to encourage the person to follow the details on the order, and remind them of their obligations and what could happen if they fail to pay.
If the person fails to pay you on time, there are steps you can take.
Your options include:
Asking a solicitor to act on your behalf - e.g. a formal letter from a solicitor to the person spelling out the costs of taking enforcement action that would be added to their debt. This may be enough to encourage them to pay promptly (solicitors fees may apply).
Asking a debt collection agency to collect the debt on your behalf (they may charge a set fee or take a percentage of the debt).
Asking the Court to take an enforcement action.
If you instruct the Court to do so, the Court can carry out enforcement actions on your behalf. This work is generally carried out by the Collections Unit in the District Court or by Civil Court staff in smaller courts.
If you wish to use the Court, you will need to:
Provide as much information as possible to the Court about the person (the debtor) and their property. For example, you have to supply the address details to the Court and the best time to visit the person.
Make applications to the Court for each step of the enforcement process. (There are forms you must complete at each stage)
Ensure you have a copy of the Judgment or Order – you will need to present this whenever you are making an application to the Court.
Note: The enforcement options outlined below relate to Orders or Judgments enforceable in the District Court. If your civil debt is a result of a Judgment or Order of the High Court, there are different processes to follow. Contact the High Court Registry handling your case for assistance in resolving High Court debts.
The enforcement options outlined below relate to Orders or Judgments enforceable in the District Court.
If you choose to use the Court to assist with payment, the following options available at a cost:
An Order for Examination. The debtor will have to attend a hearing at Court and their financial situation will be assessed and if possible the Court will order a payment plan. This is a necessary step to obtain an attachment order (which is an Order to the debtor’s employer to deduct a portion for their wages or benefit and send that deduction to you) Find out more.
A Distress Warrant. The Court will send a Bailiff to the address you supply and will demand payment. If no payment is made at this time, they can seize assets to recover payment. Find our more.
A Garnishee Proceeding. If you know that someone else owes the debtor money, you can apply to the Court to get an order for that person to pay the money to you instead. Find out more.
A Charging Order. If the debtor owns property, you can apply to get a stay put on their property, preventing them from selling the property until the debt is paid. Find out more.
The most common and successful enforcement option is an Order for Examination. It is not worth seeking a Distress Warrant unless you know the person owns assets worth seizing and when sold, will cover the total debt. It is not worth seeking a garnishee proceeding or charging order unless you know that the debtor meets the criteria for those actions.
If these options are not successful you can also apply for the following enforcement option:
Contempt Proceedings. If the debtor has the means to pay but does not, you can apply to have them appear before a Judge who can order them to serve community work. This does not affect the debt that they still have to pay you. Find out more.
There are also two non-monetary related civil enforcement options:
A Warrant for the Recovery of Specific Chattels. This is where the Court can order the return of a specific piece of property to you (rather than seizing and selling it)
A Warrant for the Recovery of Land (an Eviction Order). This Order allows a bailiff to return vacant possession of a property to you. This is most commonly used if you have a Possession Order from the Tenancy Tribunal.
If you have been unable to locate the person (to enable the Court to take an enforcement action) you have several options for seeking new contact information. You can:
Search the Electoral Roll, White Pages, Companies Office Database or other forms of publicly available information
Engage a private investigator to locate the person (note you cannot transfer any cost of doing this to the debtor)
Orders that are more than six years old cannot be enforced through the court except in the following situation:
- Leave (approval) of the court has been granted by the District court Judge
- A payment has been received into the Court or on behalf of the debtor within the last 12 months.
An interlocutory application is required to request (approval) leave of the court. This needs to be made at the District Court where the judgment/order was originally made. For a list of District Court please click here: http://www.justice.govt.nz/services/finding-your-local-court
The fee for an interlocutory application is $250 and the court may order that this fee be included in the debt. Application Form
The court will still process Order for Examination applications however if at the end of the hearing the most appropriate enforcement action is a Distress Warrant or Attachment order, you will need to complete an interlocutory application to request approval from the Judge.
You can make a Confidential Address Request in writing to the Ministry of Justice – specifying the reasons you are requesting the information, or submit a Confidential Address Request Form (pdf 158Kb). The Ministry then searches their records, including the Ministry’s copy of the Motor Vehicle Register (MVR), for address information for the person. If the search is successful they provide this information directly to the Court who will send you a letter advising that they are holding new address information for you. If no address can be located, you will be sent a letter telling you this. There is currently no charge for this service.
You can repeat this process again at a later date if no details were found on the first request.
You can also write to any other government agency you think might hold their address and ask them to provide the details under the Official Information Act 1982.
If an address is found through this process, you will need to instruct the Court to take any enforcement action at that new address. The Court will not do so automatically, it will await your instructions. If you want the Court to take an enforcement action at the new address, it pays to act quickly.