New legislation has been proposed in British Columbia that aims to simplify the process of collecting money owed to individuals following a civil court decision.
The Money Judgment Enforcement Act will streamline the collection process, reducing the need for people to involve courts, and make it easier for individuals to collect funds owed to them by employers, landlords, or others who have been ordered by a court to pay a debt.
The act will apply to collections through courts and tribunals, such as the Residential Tenancy Branch and the Civil Resolution Tribunal.
These organizations award approximately 4,800 money judgments each year to landlords and renters, but feedback indicates that many people don’t pay these judgments due to the complicated collection process. The proposed legislation will simplify the process, making it more accessible to people who have been awarded a money judgment.
Currently, individuals must apply to the court for each method used to collect funds if the person ordered to pay does not voluntarily comply with the judgment. The new act would eliminate the need for multiple court applications to pursue collection.
Instead, a person would register in a searchable public registry, and money judgments would be enforced with a single enforcement instruction. Tribunal orders will automatically be entered in the registry and enforced, rather than having to first be registered with the court.
The registry will serve as a one-stop-shop for information about previous money judgments, including the current amount owing and commercial liens. The proposed legislation will also ensure collection is carried out equitably, with additional protections introduced to ensure that people owing money and their dependants can maintain a basic standard of living.
This includes expanding the list of items exempt from seizure and moving certain details of the exemptions to regulations, to ensure exemption amounts can more easily be adjusted over time to reflect inflation.
The new act will also enable certain types of property, such as crops and co-owned property, to be seized, which was not contemplated in the old legislation. Employers will receive a single notice to garnish a percentage of wages that will remain valid indefinitely, eliminating the need for a new court application every two weeks.
The legislation is based on recommendations from the Uniform Law Conference of Canada and the British Columbia Law Institute. Alberta and Saskatchewan have already enacted similar legislation, and the enactment of this legislation is expected to make things more consistent for organizations operating throughout Western Canada.
The bill is expected to be brought into force through regulation in 2025.