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How do I get my money?

Published: 5:45PM Wednesday June 09, 2010 Source: Fair Go

So you've been to the Disputes Tribunal and you've won?  But, like the people we featured on Fair Go last week, you haven't been able to get your money?  Well, the bad news is you're pretty much on you're own.  A Disputes Tribunal Order is just a civil debt.  The police aren't going to arrest the other guy if he doesn't pay, and it's not like the ads on TV for unpaid fines - they're not going to clamp his car. 

It's all up to you
You have to do all the legwork to find the person, identify what they personally own, and instruct the court system to go out and physically collect for you, if they can.
Gordon wanted to point out he's had a great deal to do with the Courts system in recent months, and the people he's dealt with have been extremely helpful.  Our gripe isn't with the people in the Courts, but the rules.  They don't allow the people to seek or give you the information you need to get your money.

What can I do to get my money?
You're going to have to go back to court to get what you're after.  The best bit of advice we can give you is get as much information about the other party as you can, BEFORE the hearing.
- Phone numbers
- Residential address
- Registration number for the respondent's vehicle(s)
With that information, you can then seek information on their assets if the money doesn't come through.   You've got the following options:
1. Order for Examination
This is a hearing where the other party's ability to pay is assessed.  If they don't turn up, they can be arrested.
2. Distress Warrant
It's up to you to identify the location and the assets to be seized.  As we've said, the Courts won't do this for you.  And it's got to be owned personally by the other party - not a company and not a finance outfit.
Be prepared for the Bailiffs to come back with a "nulla bona" notice - basically, there was nothing to seize and sell.
And even if there are heaps of goodies to sell, if there are unpaid fines outstanding, your debt goes to the back of the queue.  
3. Attachment Order
This is the nuclear (or probably mildly explosive) option.  The court can order deductions from wages.  Of course the other party has to be earning them, and you might only get a small weekly amount.

For more information, have a look at this:
http://www.justice.govt.nz/tribunals/disputes-tribunal/hearing-process/when-a-decision-is-made-in-your-favour-1/how-to-recover-your-debt

Or you can go private ... get in the Debt Collectors
A debt collection company will do the job for you, but at a cost.  There are lots of companies out there - Baycorp is probably the best known, but we talked to Tim Levchenko-Scott from New Plymouth.  He runs a company called Total Debt Solutions , and he'll help you collect - for a fee.  His charge is 20% plus GST.
Most of the work his company does is commercial work - finance companies and the like - but he does a few Disputes Tribunal jobs.  He says the main difference is his fee is added to the debt with private jobs, but he's not allowed to do that with Tribunal orders.   So, unfortunately, it comes out of what you've been awarded. 
And by the way, Tim isn't exactly a monster.  Let's just say that if he played rugby, he'd be a halfback.  He favours the quiet communication and negotiation method, not the heavy handed approach.

So how do I find where they live, and what they own?
If you're going to do it yourself, there are some very useful tools.  I feel like I'm giving away secrets of the Fair Go reporter's job, but these tools are all available to you - for a small cost. 

Motochek
http://motochek.landtransport.govt.nz/
This is operated by Land Transport NZ - and frequently used by Fair Go. You have to subscribe, and a "current owner" check will cost you around $2.
If you've got their rego number, this will tell you the current owner, and lots of other good stuff which will allow you to use ...

Personal Property Securities Register (PPSR)
http://www.ppsr.govt.nz/cms
This is operated by the Ministry for Economic Development.  Again, you need to subscribe and each check will cost you $1.00 or thereabouts.
If you're lucky, the vehicle is personally registered to the other party. The PPSR will tell you if they or a finance company actually own it.  The bailiffs can't sell off something the other party doesn't own.
You'll need the chassis or VIN number, which you can get from the Motochek site, above.

Terranet
http://www.terranet.co.nz/terranet3/
This is owned by Terralink, a privatised former government company.  You can search for all sorts of property information, and find out if the other party owns any property in their own name.

Electoral Roll & Habitation Index
No website for this - it's old school, on paper only.  Use this link to find out where you go to view the printed rolls and indexes:
http://www.elections.org.nz/enrolment/roe-contacts.html

Courts and Criminal Matters Bill
This is the one bit of good news we can find so far.  This Bill is currently before Parliament, and it will make getting an Attachment Order slightly easier to get. Read the full response to our list of questions to the Minister .

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