What can you do if you have a dispute with your contractor or your residential rental agreement? If it just involves a few thousand dollars, it is not worth engaging a lawyer where the legal fee is more than your claim right?
Luckily in Singapore, you can go to Small Claims Tribunals for such claims. The Small Claims Tribunals (SCT) are part of the State Courts of Singapore. The Tribunals were established on the 1 February 1985 to provide a quick and inexpensive forum for the resolution of small claims between consumers and suppliers.
What can be heard at the Small Claims Tribunals
The Tribunals have jurisdiction to hear claims not exceeding $10,000. Therefore, a claim cannot be split or divided to bring it within the Tribunals’ jurisdiction. Where the Claimant and the Respondent consent in writing, the jurisdiction can be raised to $20,000.
All claims must be filed at the Small Claims Tribunals within one year from the date on which the cause of action accrued. Below is an non-exhaustive list for common claims
- A contract for sale of goods
- A contract for a provision of services (Note: services should involve skill and labour)
- The respondent causing damage to your property
- A contract for a lease for residential premises which does not exceed 2 years
- Cancellation of contracts under the Consumer Fair Trading (Cancellation of contracts) Regulations 2009
- Refund of motor vehicle deposits with the Consumer Fair Trading (Motor Vehicle Dealer Deposits) Regulations 2009
- Opt-out under Consumer Fair Trading ( Opt- Out) Regulations 2009
What cannot be heard at the Small Claims Tribunals
Small claims tribunals have no power to hear the claims such as below:
- Hire purchase agreement
- Employment matters
- Friendly loans and claims by moneylenders
- Purchase of stock and shares
- Rental contract of residential premise with lease more than 2 years
- Legal fees
- Insurance claims
- Damage caused by use of a motor vehicle
1. The Small Claims Tribunals Act only allows the Tribunals to hear a limited selection of cases. As such, the Tribunals must discontinue claims that it has no power to hear (i.e. claims that do not fall within the jurisdiction of the Tribunals).
2. The Tribunals may discontinue your claim at the following stages:
- Consultation Stage (by a Registrar). The Small Claims Tribunals Act (SCTA) allows you to appeal against a Registrar’s decision to discontinue your claim. The appeal will be heard before a Referee.
- Hearing Stage (by a Referee).
3. The Tribunals looks mainly at the following factors when deciding whether to discontinue a claim.
- The nature of the dispute. Claims that do not fall within legal categories specified in the SCTA will be discontinued.
- The monetary value of your claim.
4. Do not worry if your claim is discontinued. It does not mean that you have ‘lost’ your case. The decision to discontinue is never based on how strong or weak your claim is. In most cases, you can still sue your opponent in the civil courts. Please consult a lawyer for more advice on what claims can be brought before the civil courts.
How to file a claim in the Tribunals
The procedure for bringing a claim in the Tribunals is very simple. Lawyers are not permitted to represent any of the parties in proceedings before the Tribunals. Unless the Tribunals decide that a claim is either vexatious or frivolous, costs are not awarded to the winning party. To file a claim at the Tribunals, a party is required to pay a lodgment fee. The applicable lodgment fees are as follows:
|Not exceeding $5,000
|Exceeding $5,000 but not exceeding $10,000
|Exceeding $10,000 but not exceeding $20,000
|1% of claim amount
|3% of claim amount
After a claim is lodged or filed, the Tribunals will fix the claim for a consultation/mediation before the Registrar. The Tribunals will generally fix the consultation/mediation within 10 or within 14 days from the date of filing of the claim. If a claim is not settled at the consultation before the Registrar, it will generally be fixed for hearing within 7 or within 10 days from the date of consultation.
For a tourist claim, the Tribunals may fix both the consultation/mediation and the hearing within 24 hours of filing of the claim.
The Tribunals employ mediation extensively in their proceedings. At the consultation before the Registrar, the Registrar will mediate the claim, to assist parties in resolving the dispute. If the claim is fixed for Hearing before the Referee, the Referee may also explore the possibility of settlement, before adjudicating the claim.
The Small Claims Tribunals Contact Information
Address: Level 1, State Courts
No. 1 Havelock Square Singapore 059724
Tel: (65) 6435 5946 Fax: (65) 6435 5994
Mondays to Thursdays: 8.30 am to 6.00 pm
Fridays: 8.30 am to 5.30 pm
Saturdays: 8.30 am to 1.00 pm
Filing times for claims and counterclaims
Mondays to Thursdays: 9.00 am to 5.00 pm
Fridays: 9.00 am to 4.30 pm
Saturdays: 9.00 am to 12.00 noon
Last updated on: 29/05/2015