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Enforcing a judgment

If there is a judgment for the defendant to return your goods or pay you money and the defendant doesn't pay the money or return the goods, there are some things you can do. This process is called 'enforcing the judgment' or 'enforcement'.

 You have 12 years from the date of the judgment to enforce it.

Before you take action to enforce the judgment, you should consider whether the defendant  has any income or assets to pay the debt, or pay for the value of the goods if the goods cannot be returned. You will have to pay fees for some types of enforcement action. These fees will be added to the judgment debt, but if the defendant does not have any way of paying you may waste your money.

 After judgment has been awarded, the defendant is also known as the judgment debtor.

You can add the cost of enforcement (such as filing and service fees) to the amount you are claiming.

You can also add interest to debt from the date of the judgment until it is paid. This is called post judgment interest.

If you want to enforce a money order of the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT) you must first register it as a judgment of the Local Court. For information on how to do this, see Enforcing NCAT orders - Step by step guide.

Alert Icon  Orders of the Consumer, Trader and Tenancy Tribunal (CTTT) can still be enforced. An order of the CTTT is treated as an order of NCAT and you can follow the same steps to enforce it. For information on how to do this, see Enforcing NCAT orders - Step by step guide.

You can enforce a judgment in the following ways: ​

    Writ for the Delivery of Goods

    You can ask the court to authorise the sheriff to 'seize' (take) the goods and return them to you. The sheriff can also take and sell other property of the judgment debtor to recover the value of the goods.

    For more information, see Writ for the Delivery of Goods.

     A Writ for the Delivery of Goods can only be used in a recovery of goods claim.

     A Writ for the Delivery of Goods can only be used if the court ordered that your goods be returned to you. If the court ordered that the judgment debtor pay you money equal to the value of the goods instead (for example, if the goods were lost or destroyed) or damages you may be able to use the options listed below.

    Writ for the Levy of Property

    You can ask the court to authorise the sheriff to seize and sell property belonging to the judgment debtor to pay the debt.

    In many cases the arrival of the sheriff with a writ will encourage the judgment debtor to take steps to avoid the sale of their property. They may instead make an application to the court to pay by instalments, or may contact you to try and come to some arrangement. 

    For more information, see Writ for the Levy of Property.

    Garnishee Order

    You can get an order from the court to have money taken from the judgment debtor's bank accounts or wages, or from anyone else who holds money on behalf of the debtor. For example, a real estate agent who collects rent on the judgment debtor's behalf.

    For more information, see Garnishee Orders.

    Examination Notice

    If you are unsure about the judgment debtor's financial position, you can ask the judgment debtor to provide you with information about their income and assets. This is done with an examination notice or an examination order. This information can help you decide whether to take further enforcement action and what action to take.

    For more information, see:

    Bankruptcy

    If the judgment debt is more than $5000 you can have the judgment debtor declared bankrupt by applying to the Federal Circuit Court or the Federal Court. However, this is an expensive and complex way of enforcing the debt and you should get legal advice before taking this action.

    Winding up a company

    Winding up is similar to bankruptcy. To wind up a company you must show that it is insolvent (unable to pay its debts). This can be done by issuing a statutory demand. If the judgment debtor company does not respond to a statutory demand within 21 days you can file an application for a winding up order in the Supreme Court. This is an expensive and complex way of enforcing the debt and you should get legal advice before taking this action.

    Picture of sheriff at front Door