Questions commonly posed to paralegals

The small claims court does not collect a judgment for you. You must take steps to collect. There are four methods available through the court. They are: writ of seizure and sale of lands, a writ of seizure and sale

In this article I will address some frequently asked questions paralegals who specialize in small claims court representation receive.

I have a judgment. How do I collect my money?

The small claims court does not collect a judgment for you. You must take steps to collect. There are four methods available through the court. They are: writ of seizure and sale of lands, a writ of seizure and sale of personal property, a garnishment and a judgment debtor examination. How much information you have on the debtor will determine which is the best method for your case.

A writ of seizure and sale of lands effectively acts as lien against real estate owned by the debtor. You are allowed to force the sale of the property. However, the cost to you to do that is so much that forcing a sale is rarely pursued.

A writ of seizure and sale of personal property is, in my opinion, a last resort. The sheriff is not allowed to enter a person’s home to seize anything. In the case of an individual debtor this method is usually restricted to seizure and sale of a car. To seize a car you will need to do searches to prove the debtor owns the car outright. It cannot have a lien against it. The sheriff will want between a $1,000 and $3,000 deposit before seizing and selling a car.

A garnishment is a court order forcing either an employer, a bank, or a company who owes money to be a business debtor for accounts receivable to pay the money to the court. If you have the necessary information, this is the best tool to force payment of the judgment.

A judgment debtor examination allows you to ask almost any questions of the debtor regarding their past, present and future ability to pay. Used properly by someone who knows what to ask this is powerful method to collect information to help you enforce the judgment. However, since debtors don’t always show up for the scheduled hearing, you should only use this if you don’t have information on the debtor.

How much does a paralegal charge for a small claims court case?

Like every profession, different people charge different rates. You usually get what you pay for. The lowest priced paralegal may not be the best choice. Some of the factors paralegals consider in determining their price are: their years of experience, whether they specialize in that area, the difficulty of the matter and importance of the matter to the client, and special circumstances, such as the loss of other retainers, postponement of payment, uncertainty of reward, or urgency.

Paralegals may charge based on an hourly rate, a flat fee for a particular portion of the case or the entire case, or on a contingency basis.

An hourly fee seems straight forward. However, small claims court cases often do not proceed as planned. There could be unexpected motions to the court, an amendment of a claim or defence, the need to defend a claim by brought by the Defendant, or more than one settlement conference.

In a flat fee also known as a block fee arrangement, the paralegal may take the risk by changing a known and agreed fee in advance that unexpected things don’t happen that require more of their time than expected.

A contingency fee is where a paralegal’s fee is based on a percentage of the amount recovered from the debtor. The paralegal is entitled to request the client pay the out of pocket expenses in advance. Since the paralegal is taking the risk here and delaying payment of any fees until money is recovered, you could pay the most fees though this method.

How do I collect my Small Claims Court or Landlord and Tenant Board judgment?

First, does the debtor own a house, condo or any land in Ontario? If the answer is yes, you may choose to issue a Writ of Seizure and Sale of Lands, and file it with the sheriff in the jurisdiction where the debtor owns property.

The Toronto Small Claims Court deals with thousands of cases a year. It is part of the small claims Ontario system.

There are many advantages to be represented by a paralegal Ontario, however many people represent themselves.

A question I am asked several times a week is “How do I collect my judgment?” There are several methods to do this.

First, does the debtor own a house, condo or any land in Ontario? If the answer is yes, you may choose to issue a Writ of Seizure and Sale of Lands, and file it with the sheriff in the jurisdiction where the debtor owns property.

This acts like a lien. The debtor will not be able to sell the property or obtain a mortgage from a new lender without paying off the judgment in full, including daily interest. The writ expires in six years. It can be renewed before or after expiry, if necessary.

If you don’t know whether your debtor owns lands, our firm can do a search to find hidden properties owned by the debtor in Ontario.

A Writ of Seizure and Sale of lands filed in the jurisdiction where the debtor lives or carries on business also acts as lien against the person or company’s name. If another creditor is able to locate money or assets of the debtor, and the money comes into the hands of the sheriff, you are entitled to an equal portion of the money just by filing this Writ of Seizure and Sale of Lands.

This equal distribution of the money the sheriff receives is paid out pursuant to the Creditor’s Relief Act.

Often the quickest method to collect a judgment is to issue a Notice of Garnishment. In order to do this you need to know where the debtor works or where they bank. To garnish a bank account you must know the bank and branch location where account is located.

If you are collecting a money judgment ordered by the Landlord and Tenant Board, you will need to know a current residential address for the former tenant. The judgment must be transferred to the small claims court in the area the tenant now livs.

If your debtor is a business you may consider garnishing accounts receivable, or rent paid to the company.

Another choice is to have the sheriff seize and sell personal property of the debtor. This may be a worthwhile method if the debtor is a business, and you know exactly what assets the business debtor owns. You must be willing to put up a large cash deposit with the sheriff. You also need to do searches to prove that there are no liens against the property.

There is a lot of false information out there about the powers of the sheriff to seize items under a Writ of Seizure and Sale of Personal Property. The sheriff can only enter a business address. It has no proper to enter a residence. The Execution Act lists a number of things a sheriff has no power to seize.
The Creditors’ Relief Act, 2010 sets out how money is to be paid out by the sheriff if there are multiple creditors.

If you want the sheriff to seize and sell an automobile, you need the make, model, and VIN number. In addition to the large cash deposit you will have to provide the sheriff, you will also be required to do searches proving the vehicle is solely owned by the debtor, and there are no liens on the vehicle.
If you have no information about the judgment debtor’s assets, you will probably choose to issue a Notice of Examination. This enforcement method is usually a last resort as it has its share of drawbacks. You will need to serve the debtor with the Notice of Examination either personally, or if served at the debtor’s residence it can be left with an adult member of the household, provided you mail another copy within 24 hours.

The debtor may show up for hearing. If they do that is great. A skilled paralegal Ontario knows how to get the debtor to answer questions about their ability to pay the judgment. They will spend some time asking questions of the debtor. Afterwards, the creditor or their representative may ask the judge for an order for monthly payments. There are both advantages and disadvantages to obtaining such an order.

The paralegal Ontario may also ask the judge for an order for the debtor to produce documents.
If the debtor does not attend for the hearing, a Notice of Further Examination Hearing or Contempt Hearing may be ordered. The process varies across the province. At some point if the debtor fails to attend a Contempt Hearing, a warrant for their arrest may issue.

This has been a brief overview of the major judgment enforcement options. There are many books that have been written about the art of judgment enforcement. This is not intended to be legal advice.

If you need help collecting your judgment, contact Marshall Yarmus at (416) 229-1479 or (343) 600-7722 or visit our website at

Why hire an Ontario Paralegal for a Judgment Debtor Examination to Collect a Small Claims Court Judgment?

A judgment debtor examination is often a judgment enforcement method of last resort. There are usually better ways to collect a small claims court judgment if you have information about the assets of the debtor.

However, if you have no information about a debtor other than an address, the judgment debtor examination hearing, if done correctly, can help the creditor immensely.

Notice of Examination

A judgment debtor examination like most enforcement action must take place in the court’s jurisdiction where the debtor lives or where they carry on business. A Notice of Examination is issued by the court giving a specific date and date to attend the hearing. The Notice of Examination must be served on an individual debtor either personally (handing it directly to the named debtor) or by leaving a copy of the Notice of Examination in a sealed envelope addressed to the debtor at the residence of the debtor, with a person who appears to be an adult resident of the same address, and then mailing or sending another copy by courier the next day.

If an individual debtor is being examined you must also serve a black financial information form on the debtor. Both the Notice of Examination and the black financial information form must be served on the debtor at least 30 days before the scheduled hearing.

Judgment Against a Corporation

If your judgment is against a corporation you must obtain a Corporate Profile Report of the company. This will list all directors of the corporation. You must name a director that you intend to bring to into court to be examined about the corporation’s ability to pay the judgment. The Notice of Examination may be served on the corporation by leaving a copy with any officer or director of the corporation or with a person at a place of the business of the company who appears to be in control or management of the business.

Searches are also needed in the case of a debtor  who is against a sole proprietorship or a partnership.

Judgment debtor examinations are held in private unless a judge orders otherwise. The judgment debtor examination is done under oath, and is recorded.

There was a case I was involved in at the Toronto Small Claims Court where I spent about two hours examining the debtor over two days. At a later time my client was able to prove that the debtor had intentionally lied under oath. She obtained a transcript of the examination hearing, and when to a Justice of the Peace to lay a criminal perjury charge.

What can you ask a Debtor?

Small Claims Court Rule 20.10(4) sets out what a person can be examined about. It states:

20.10 (4) The debtor, any other persons to be examined and any witnesses whose evidence the court considers necessary may be examined in relation to,

(a) the reason for nonpayment;

(b) the debtor’s income and property;

(c) the debts owed to and by the debtor;

(d) the disposal the debtor has made of any property either before or after the order was made;

(e) the debtor’s present, past and future means to satisfy the order;

(f) whether the debtor intends to obey the order or has any reason for not doing so; and

(g) any other matter pertinent to the enforcement of the order.  O. Reg. 258/98, r. 20.10 (4)”

An experienced paralegal conducting  a judgment debtor examination can spend a lot of time asking the debtor questions. The above rule is so broad that they can ask about all income and assets of the debtor, debts owed to the debtor, and the debtor’s past, present and future ability to pay the judgment.

Don’t be afraid to ask the debtor anything and everything that may be helpful to you in gathering information to enforce the judgment. You must take careful notes of all the information you obtain.

At the conclusion of the judgment debtor examination a creditor or their Ontario paralegal may ask the court for several orders. Rules 20.10(7) and 20.10(8) are important. They state:

Order As To Payment

(7) After the examination or if the debtor’s consent is filed, the court may make an order as to payment.  O. Reg. 258/98, r. 20.10 (7); O. Reg. 461/01, s. 20 (1).

Enforcement Limited while Order as to Payment in Force

(8) While an order as to payment is in force, no step to enforce the judgment may be taken or continued against the debtor by a creditor named in the order, except issuing a writ of seizure and sale of land and filing it with the sheriff.  O. Reg. 258/98, r. 20.10 (8).

The creditor or their paralegal can ask the judge to make an order for monthly payments. However, while that order is in place, the creditor is limited in taking other enforcement action other then issuing a writ of seizure and sale of lands and filing it with the sheriff.

If the debtor defaults on the monthly payments as ordered by the court the creditor cannot take other enforcement action until the Notice of Default of Payment and Affidavit of Default of Payment forms have been properly served and filed with the court with proof of service. See Small Claims Court sub-rules 20.02(3)(4).

Your Ontario paralegal will advise you whether asking for an order for monthly payments is a wise thing to do under all the circumstances.

The court also has the ability to order a review hearing, if requested,  and to make specific orders for the debtor to produce documents which are generally related to the debtor’s assets, income, and living expenses.

If the person to be examined attends the judgment debtor examination but refuses to answer questions, or attends but refuses to produce documents as ordered, they can be ordered to attend a contempt hearing. This could lead to a warrant for their arrest to issue.

At the end of the day you should be able to either obtain a court order for monthly payments, or have information necessary to take other enforcement action to collect the judgment. If you obtain an order for payments, and the debtor defaults on payments as ordered, you should still have information to take other judgment enforcement action.

Paralegal Representation

If you are in Toronto or the GTA and you need to hire a paralegal for a judgment debtor examination at the Toronto Small Claims Court, Richmond Hill Small Claims Court, or Brampton Small Claims Court, or for other judgment enforcement action, contact Marshall Yarmus of Civil Litigations at 416-229-1479 or visit