Disputes with our renovation contractors, neighbours, and shop owners are unfortunate but common occurrences in Singapore. However, if the dispute escalates and we wish to seek financial compensation, we can seek recourse at the small claims tribunal. A common small claims filing is for renovation works in HDB flats where homeowners seek financial compensation from contractors. According to the State Courts FY2019 annual report, 10,927 cases of small claims dispute were filed within the year.
Under Singapore’s judiciary system, there are three main courts – Supreme Court, State Court and Family Justice Court. Currently, the small claims tribunal lies under the State Court which covers both criminal and civil cases. The Small Claims Tribunal covers claims not exceeding $20,000. However, the limit can be raised to $30,000 if both parties agree to and file a Memorandum of Consent online. Any amount bigger than $30,000 should be referred to other courts.
Things To Note Before Filing For Small Claims
Claims are to be made and filed by the claimant. In general, we can file for small claim on these cases:
- Claims on goods and services contracts
- Tort property damages
- Unfair practises for hire purchases based on Consumer Protection (Fair Trading) Act
- Refund of motor vehicle deposits
- Residential rental contract
For more details on the cases eligible for small claims, the list of claims permissible can be found in the Small Claims Tribunals Act. The Small Claims Tribunal has the right to refuse claims for cases that are not within the State Court’s jurisdiction or property damages related to motor vehicles.
Currently, all small claims are required to be made electronically. The filing fee is non-refundable, and the filing fees are as shown in the table below:
Source: State Court
We can do a quick assessment here to find out if our cases are eligible for small claims. Regardless, the assessment is not counted as legal advice, so do consult a lawyer for legal advice. However, do note that the lawyers are unable to represent us in the Small Claims Tribunal Court unless the case escalates to a different court.
Aside from having sufficient evidence to make a case, there is a time limit to the claims made. All small claims must be filed within two years from the day of action.
Step By Step Guide To Complete E-Filing
Since 2017, all small claims are to be filed online via Singapore State Court. Before using the online platform, we need to prepare relevant support documents for submission. Do note that non-English documents are required to be translated to English for submission.
For individuals, we need a signed memorandum of consent if the claims exceed $20,000 and proofs of claim. These proofs include contracts, invoices, photos, communication evidence or other proofs.
For entities, we would need our ACRA business profile, letter of authorisation (if required) a signed memorandum of consent if the claims exceed $20,000 and proofs of claim.
With the relevant documents, we can follow the guide published on Singapore State Court to do the online filing of our claims.
|Step 1||Go to http://www.statecourts.gov.sg/CJTS/|
|Step 2||Login using your Singpass by clicking on “For Individual Users” if you are an individual or “For Business Users” if you are transacting on behalf of a business entity.
If you are not eligible for Singpass, you may apply for a CJTSPass by clicking “Register for CJTSPass”.
|Step 3||Update “My Profile” with your personal particulars.|
|Step 4||Click “Online applications” then “Claim Form”|
|Step 5||Key in your Pre-filing ID or proceed to do your pre-filing assessment to obtain a Pre-filing ID.|
|Step 6||Complete the questions in the pre-filing assessment and click “Submit”.|
|Step 7||Fill in your claim.
– Enter the claimant’s + respondent’s details
– Upload supporting documents
– Click “Submit”, then “Confirm to Proceed”.
|Step 8||Pay the filing fees. Claims and Applications filed with CJTD will be processed only after the requisite payments are made. Payment may be made (a table of the applicable filing fees may be found at this link) :
Online: Credit Card / eNets
Offline: Click “Pay Later” and then “Generate Payment Advice”. Bring the payment advice to the State Courts and pay by cash, Nets, Nets FlashPay or credit card at the payment kiosks in the State Courts.
|Step 9||Choose a Consultation date and time.|
|Step 10||Click “Save respondent’s notice”. Print the Notice of Consultation & the Claim to serve on the respondent.|
Source: Small Claims Tribunal
What Comes Next After E-Filing?
Source: State Court
Upon completing our e-filing, we would have to wait for our claims to be approved by the Order of Registrar. Once our claims are accepted by the Registrar, both parties would be allowed to interact online via e-negotiation. Each party has 5 rounds of offers to make on the e-Negotiation platform. If parties agreed to a settlement, we may apply online for a Consent Order without the need to come to Court.
In the case that the approval for our claims was rejected, we can appeal against the Order of Registrar by e-filing and paying a $20 fee to appeal.
If e-mediation turns out unsuccessful, a consultation date would be fixed for both parties to appear before Registrar in Court. At the consultation, if both parties are still unable to resolve the case, the Registrar may arrange for further consultations, order mediation, or arrange a hearing.
When a hearing is ordered, we would need to prepare our case before the hearing with the relevant supporting evidence. The Tribunal Magistrate can either order financial settlement, service settlement, or dismiss the claim at the hearing.
In the event we are unsatisfied with the outcome of the hearing, we can contest the verdict by submitting an appeal within 14 days from the Tribunal hearing. We may wish to start engaging a lawyer for our appeal to the District Court against the Tribunal hearing. Upon approval of appeal, the case would be taken to the High Court.
High Court cases can take an average of about six months to a year for settlement. If we decide to pursue the appeal, the legal fees for engagement are likely to be high and exceed the original expected small claims of under $20,000. Apart from the legal fees and prolonged duration, the possibility of losing the appeal should be factored into our consideration for pursuing the appeal.
DollarsAndSense.sg aims to provide interesting, bite-sized and relevant financial articles.
Learn together with like-minded Singaporeans at the Personal Finance Discussion SG Facebook Group by discussing a range of personal finance topics.
If you have not done so, subscribe to our free e-newsletter to receive exclusive content not available anywhere else.