The topics in the Dial-A-Law series provide general information on legal issues within the Province of Alberta. The purpose of this topic is to inform you of your legal rights and responsibilities. This is not legal advice. If you require legal advice, you should contact a lawyer.
This topic discusses a Writ of Enforcement.
Writ of Enforcement
A Writ of Enforcement is a document that is filed with the Court of Queen’s Bench after you get a Court Order or Judgment awarding you money. It is the first step that you take as creditor, in collecting money from a person (the debtor) who has refused to pay the Judgment amount against them.
Receiving a Court Order
Before you file a Writ of Enforcement, you must have obtained a Court Order or Judgment in your favour from the Provincial Court (Civil Division) (also known as Small Claims Court), the Court of Queen’s Bench, or some other Tribunal. if the Court Order or Judgment was obtained from some other Court or Tribunal, you must first register the Court Order at the Court of Queen’s Bench. If the Court Order was obtained from the Court of Queen’s Bench, it is already registered and requires no registration. To register your Court Order, you will take copies of your Court Order to Court of Queen’s Bench, the Clerk will stamp your copies, register your Court Order and provide you with a Court of Queen’s Bench action number.
You should make several copies of the Court Order when you go to register your Court Order which is distributed as follows; one copy is filed with the Court of Queen’s Bench, a copy is served on each other party and one copy kept for your own file.
Filing the Writ of Enforcement
If payment is not received from the debtor within the time period directed by the Court Order, a Writ of Enforcement may be filed at the Court of Queen’s Bench. The Writ of Enforcement (Writ) is separate from the Court Order. Once the Writ is filed with the Court of Queen’s Bench, the Writ may then be enforced anywhere in Alberta. The Writ authorizes you to collect on your debt by garnishment, seizure of property, or any other method permitted by law.
The Writ form is available online at the Alberta Courts website (https://albertacourts.ca). The information required on the Writ is the same information contained in your Court Order or Judgment. The Writ form must be correctly filled and will not be accepted if filled out incorrectly. Spell all names exactly as spelt on the Court Order. Ask a Clerk at the Court of Queen’s Bench for assistance, if required.
When the Writ is filed at the Court of Queen’s Bench, you should request at least four copies with the Court stamp. One copy should be kept for your records; another copy is to be left with the Clerk of the Court of Queen’s Bench, a copy is registered at the Personal Property Registry, and the final copy registered at the Land Titles Office (if the debtor owns real property).
You should know that all expenses and interest incurred in enforcing the Court Order can be recovered from the debtor and should be included in the amount owing. When you obtain a Court Order, the amount awarded is a debt owed from the debtor and like a loan debt, will accrue interest if not paid immediately. Interest calculations on debt owed from Court Orders are regulated by the Judgment Interest Regulation. For example, there are filing fees for registering the Writ at the Court of Queen’s Bench, the Personal Property Registry, and the Land Titles Office. You are permitted to add these costs to the total debt by filling out a Subsequent Bill of Costs and filing this document with the Court of Queen’s Bench.
Personal Property Registry
Registration of your Writ at the Personal Property Registry serves as official notice that there is a Court Order against the debtor. This establishes a claim on the debtor’s personal property. Personal property is any property that is not real estate, including cars, tools, etc. Real estate is registered at the Land Titles Office.
A Court Order is effective within the first 10 years from the date it is made but this time can be renewed. Similarly, registration at the Personal Property Registry is effective for two years and may be renewed if required (if the Judgment is still in effect). This renewal should be done before the registration expires.
Registration guarantees your claim or interest in the debtor’s property, even if other people also have claims against your debtor. If your Writ is not registered, you may lose out if the debtor’s assets are seized and sold by other creditors.
To renew a Court Order, you will have to prepare a status report providing the most current information on the amounts outstanding on the Court Order. If you would like to know the status of your Writ in relation to other debts, you should request a Personal Property Registry search of the debtor’s name.
Any creditors that are registered before your Writ is registered against the debtor must be paid first. If there are other Writs registered and the people holding those Writs take active steps to collect money from the debtor, they are entitled to the first $2,000.00 realized from the debtor. After that, any money obtained from the debtor will be distributed to holders of Writs pro rata. Pro rata means the total debt is divided equally.
For example, a debtor owes a total of $12,000.00, owing $2,000.00 to you, and $10,000.00 to the other creditor. If the other creditor is proactive, they will collect on that first $2,000.00. There will be a remainder of a $10,000.00 debt, from which you are owed $2,000.00, and the other creditor is owed $8,000.00 (You hold 20%, the other creditor has 80%. If the debtor only has $5,000.00 left, you can only collect 20% of this ($1,000.00). You are still owed for the other half, but you will need to collect through other means, such as a garnishee, or even risk not getting paid at all. If you are trying to collect from someone who owes a lot of money to a lot of people, you should consult with a lawyer.
Registration of the Writ of Enforcement at the Land Titles Office
Registration of the Writ at Land Titles Office also serves notice of the claim on the debtor. Once a Court Order has been received, you are permitted to conduct a search at the Land Titles Office to find out what, if any, land the debtor owns in the Province. The Writ can be registered against that land.
Registration at a Land Titles Office is an effective way to collect debt, as the debtor may have significant difficulty selling the land until the debt is paid in full. Anyone purchasing the land will need to check at the Land Titles Office to see what claims have been registered against the land. Further, a debtor may be unable to obtain or renew a mortgage until the debt has been paid.
Once a Writ is registered, a person can take active steps to sell the debtor’s land, by serving a Notice of Intention to Sell on the debtor. A Civil Enforcement Agency can complete this process.
Payment of the Debt
Once the debtor has paid their debt, they can be provided a Satisfaction of Judgment. This can be filed at the Clerk of the Court’s office. A status report must be registered at the Personal Property Registry whenever payment of a debt is received from the debtor, this will update the amount owed. At the Land Titles Office, the appropriate documents should be filed to remove the registration against the debtor’s title.
However, this need not be done when money is paid to you by the Clerk of the Court from a garnishment or a Civil Enforcement Agency seizure.
Expiration of Court Order
A Court Order expires ten years after it is granted. An application may be made to renew a Court Order prior to the expiration of the ten years. Notice of the application will need to be provided to the debtor.
Dial-A-Law is a Calgary Legal Guidance public service project funded in part by the Alberta Law Foundation.