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     FrontPage Edition: Sat 26 Nov 2005

Small Claims Tribunal to cover short-term residential tenancy agreements



Second Reading Speech on Small Claims Tribunals (Amendment) Bill 2005 by Deputy Prime Minister, Co-ordinating Minister for National Security and Minister for Law Prof S Jayakumar, Mon, 21 November 2005
Mr Speaker, Sir, I beg to move, that the Bill be now read a second time.
Sir, this Bill amends the Small Claims Tribunals Act to expand the jurisdiction of the Small Claims Tribunal (SCT) and to require leave of court before an appeal can be made against an SCT order.
Sir, let me explain, the SCT was established almost 20 years ago to provide a quick and inexpensive forum to resolve small claims between consumers and suppliers.
We have been gradually expanding the jurisdiction of the SCT over the years. At present, the SCT deals with claims arising from contracts for the sale of goods or provision of services and claims for damage to property, excluding damage arising in connection with motor vehicle accidents. The claim limit is $10,000, but it can be raised to $20,000 with the consent of both parties.
This Bill seeks to expand the jurisdiction of the Tribunal, to allow it to determine claims arising from short-term residential tenancy agreements not exceeding 2 years which are normally straightforward and not complicated.
This amendment will benefit both landlords and tenants as it provides them with a speedy and cost effective means of resolving some of their disputes.
Landlords seeking to recover unpaid rent within the small claims limit, as well as tenants who have either rented an entire property or a single room in disputes over rent deposits will now have a cheaper, quicker avenue to press these claims.
The expanded jurisdiction only applies to residential properties. The Tribunal will not have the jurisdiction to hear disputes arising from leases of commercial properties, as such leases are likely to be quite technical and far more complicated.
Sir, with the expanded jurisdiction, the SCT will be empowered to deal with a wider range of disputes that consumers are likely to be involved in.
Sir, this Bill also amends the Small Claims Tribunals Act to require leave of court to proceed with an appeal against an order made by the SCT.
Sir, let me explain. At present, appeals against an SCT order can be made as of right to the High Court, but only on a question of law or on the ground that the claim was outside the jurisdiction of the Tribunal. The scope for an appeal is deliberately narrow, in order to promote finality, and to avoid high costs in appealing that may exceed the sums in dispute.
Sir, the Bill amends the Act to require the leave of the District Court before an appeal can be made against an SCT order. With this amendment, the position of appeals against SCT orders will be brought into alignment with appeals against decisions of a District Court or a Magistrate's Court[1].
The grounds for appeal will not be affected or further limited by this amendment, whose main effect is to ensure that the parties will not be put to unnecessary expense, for example, in cases where there is no prospect of an appeal succeeding.
Sir, I beg to move.
[1] Appeals from District and Magistrates' Courts 21. - (1) Subject to the provisions of this Act or any other written law, an appeal shall lie to the High Court from a decision of a District Court or Magistrate's Court in any suit or action for the recovery of immovable property or in any civil cause or matter where the amount in dispute or the value of the subject-matter exceeds $50,000 or such other amount as may be specified by an order made under subsection (3) or with the leave of a District Court, a Magistrate's Court or the High Court if under that amount.

Source: News Release 21 Nov 2005

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