Écrit par David Gruber, Andrew Froh and Madison Bergen
A legal system cannot adequately function without providing an effective mechanism for litigants to acquire their monetary judgements. The legislative methods employed in British Columbia to enforce money judgements have been criticized as outdated, expensive and inefficient. The Court Order Enforcement Act, RSBC 1996, c .78 (COEA) was imported from the United Kingdom and governs judgement creditors' ability to collect money owed by a court order. The legislative regime was, until now, largely unaltered since 1996 and rendered the courts the sole decision maker of such monetary judgements.1 This approach negatively impacted competitiveness in British Columbia and only increased the cost of doing business in the province.2 The Money Judgement Enforcement Act (the Act),3 which received Royal Assent on October 26, 2023, replaces the COEA—significantly reducing the need for court involvement in money judgement collection.
Court Order Enforcement Act
The predominant purpose of the COEA is to enable a judgement creditor to collect money judgements, and to guarantee that enforcement mechanisms are reasonable by permitting a judgement debtor to retain limited property for the maintenance of their fundamental needs.4 The COEA requires significant court involvement for the performance of administrative tasks. A judgement creditor must make new court applications for each monetary collection method they intend to seek, including writs of seizure and garnishing orders causing litigants to incur significant delays in the satisfaction of their judgements.5 The Act, on the other hand, attempts to streamline the overall function of the justice system and the individual interests of litigants.
Money Judgement Enforcement Act
The goal of the Act is to simplify the enforcement of judgements, update the COEA to align with today's societal values, and provide additional protections for the reasonable rights of debtors. The Act introduces innovative features including, but not limited to:
- The creation of a Money Judgement Registry (the Registry) and use of Civil Enforcement Officers (who are persons appointed under subsection 3(1) of the Sherriff Act, RSBC 1996, c. 425 [i.e., court bailiffs]);6
- Increased protections for judgement debtors; and
- The introduction of a reduced limitation period.
Under the Act, creditors must register their order with the Registry if they intend to seek the help of Civil Enforcement Officers.7 The Registry will operate as a subset to the existing Personal Property Registry empowering Civil Enforcement Officers to issue comprehensive single enforcement instructions.8 Protections for judgement debtors will be enhanced through additional exemptions for the type of property that can be seized, and the introduction of updated Money Judgement Regulations intended to account for "new types of property and societal changes that result in certain property changing from being considered a luxury to being a necessity".9 Finally, the limitation period for registering and enforcing judgements has decreased. Section 7 of the Limitation Act, SBC 2012, c. 13 previously provided a creditor with 10 years from the date of judgement to commence legal proceedings on a judgement for the payment of money.10 The Act decreases the limitation period to two years after the later of the date the money judgement is granted, or the latest date the judgement debtor provides a written acknowledgement of liability.11
Practical Implications for Judgement Creditors, Debtors and Third Parties
The Act should make judgement collection more user-friendly and decrease legal costs associated with debt collection. Parties are able to attend the Registry themselves and provide instructions on how to proceed with debt collection. Registration is voluntary and unnecessary when a party anticipates the successful collection of their debt.12 That said, once a judgement is registered, a judgement creditor benefits from asserting priority over the judgement debtor's property pending full satisfaction of their debt. Registration triggers the Civil Enforcement Officers' ability to seize and sell the debtors property, eliminating the need for a judgement creditor to seek more court orders. However, debt collection must be performed in an equitable manner providing judgement debtor's more protection for exempt property including its proceeds of sale.13
If you or your business require assistance obtaining or enforcing a monetary judgment then the Bennett Jones Commercial Litigation team is available to provide you with expert advice and advocacy.
1 British Columbia Law Institute, Report on the Uniform Civil Enforcement of Money Judgements Act, (Vancouver: British Columbia Law Institute, 2005).
2 British Columbia, Ministry of Attorney General Justice Services Branch Policy and Legislation Division, Consultation Paper on the Uniform Civil Enforcement Money Judgements Act: Potential Departures and Additions, (British Columbia: Ministry of Attorney General Justice Services Branch Policy and Legislation Division, 2020) ("Consultation Paper").
3 SBC 2023, c. 29.
4 Consultation Paper, supra note 2.
5 Ministry of Attorney General, News Release, "B.C. makes it easier to get money awarded through the courts" (1 May 2023), online: <https://news.gov.bc.ca/28687> ("News Release").
6 SBC 2023, c. 29, see Part 3, Division 2.
7 Consultation Paper, supra note 2.
8 News Release, supra note 6.
9 Consultation Paper, supra note 2.
11 SBC 2023, c. 29, s. 12.
12 Consultation Paper, supra note 2.
13 News Release, supra note 6.