Small Claims Tribunals in Singapore: How It Can Help Tenants and Landlords Settle Rental Disputes

·9-min read

Small Claims Tribunals (SCT) are a way landlords and tenants can settle rental disputes sans hefty legal fees. Rental disputes, although not frequent, can sometimes happen between a landlord and tenant. These rental spats could happen due to various disagreements over the terms of the tenancy agreement, or things that weren’t covered by it.

Here are some typical rental disputes that the SCT can help resolve:

  • Landlord seeking damages to amenities and appliances, as well as to the property itself

  • Tenant asking the landlord to fix appliances or part of the property

  • Early termination of the tenancy agreement by landlord or tenant

  • Forfeiture of tenant’s security deposit at the end of the lease

  • Eviction of tenant

In this guide, we’ll walk you through the procedure for filing a claim with the SCT, the filing fees, and key things to take note of.

Small Claims Tribunals: an Overview

What is it?

The SCT's objective is to resolve minor claims between two parties quickly at an affordable cost.

How to file?

You can submit a claim online through the Community Justice and Tribunals System (CJTS).

How much does it cost?

You’ll only need to pay a fee of $10 to $20 to file a claim amounting to $10,000. For claims amounting to $20,000, the filing fee can reach up to $200.

What is the Small Claims Tribunals?

The SCT form part of the State Courts of Singapore. Established in February 1985, its objective is to resolve minor claims between two parties quickly at an affordable cost. This includes rental disputes between tenants and landlords.

However, before seeking the assistance of the SCT, you should first try to settle the rental dispute amicably with the other party. As a tenant or landlord, you can also request for the property agent(s) involved in the rental deal (if applicable) to help with the settling of the dispute.

New to the rental scene in Singapore? Here’s a guide for both Tenants and Landlords.
New to the rental scene in Singapore? Here’s a guide for both Tenants and Landlords.

Renting

New to the rental scene in Singapore? Here’s a guide for both Tenants and Landlords.

Key Rules to Note Before Filing a Claim at the Small Claims Tribunals

Before you lodge a claim at the SCT, do keep the following rules in mind:

  1. You and the respondent must have entered into a valid tenancy agreement

  2. The tenancy agreement signed must be for a residential space only, and not for commercial purposes

  3. The tenancy period must not exceed 2 years

  4. Both you and the respondent must not be bankrupt or insolvent. You may check for this via the Ministry of Law’s Insolvency Office

What Kind of Damages Can Landlords Claim Through the Small Claims Tribunals?

As a landlord, you won’t be able to claim for damages caused by wear and tear.

Let’s say there are some scratches on the main door due to wear and tear. You won’t be able to ask your tenant to provide compensation to replace it, especially if the tenancy agreement has the Fair Wear and Tear clause.

Under this clause, it’s acceptable that the items in the property are not in the same condition as at the start of the tenancy period.

However, if the damages are caused by reckless acts and you and your tenant cannot reach an agreement to cover the damages, you can file a claim through the SCT.

It’s recommended that you take photos of the property, including furniture and fixtures, at relevant points of the tenancy period. Should a dispute arise, these pictures can be used as evidence to prove your case at the SCT.

Expanded Jurisdiction for the Small Claims Tribunals

Small Claims Tribunals (SCT) New Measures 2019
Small Claims Tribunals (SCT) New Measures 2019

SCT New Measures 2019

  • Claim limit: The SCT can tackle claims of up to $20,000, and can also go up to $30,000 if both parties consent in writing.

  • Limitation period: The duration to make a claim is 2 years. This gives you and the other party more time to settle your disputes amicably and file the claim if needed.

  • Unfair Practice Hire-Purchase Claims: Claims under a hire-purchase agreement (payment through instalments) can be heard at the SCT.

  • Powers to Direct Parties to Attend Mediation: The registrar or tribunal can order parties to attend mandatory mediation at the Community Mediation Centre, or before any person.

  • Powers of the District Court to Send SCT Cases for Rehearing: A district court can send a case back to the tribunal for reconsideration, or order a rehearing by a different tribunal under certain circumstances.

  • Additional Reliefs: The SCT may order a tenant who has not paid rent, apart from the outstanding rent, to vacate the property.

Types of Disputes You Can File under the Small Claims Tribunals as a Tenant or a Landlord

Below listed are the disputes that are commonly found between a tenant and a landlord. For the full list, you may find them here.

  1. Purchase of goods

  2. Provision of services

  3. Damage to property

  4. Disputes over the tenancy lease of residential property not exceeding 2 years

If you are unsure if your claim is within the jurisdiction of the Tribunals, you can take a pre-filling assessment here.

Small Claims Tribunals: How to File a Claim?

You can submit a claim online through the Community Justice and Tribunals System (CJTS). Besides filing a claim, the online portal also allows you to submit supporting documents and track case developments.

Whether you’re a tenant or landlord, you’ll need your SingPass to log into the portal and file a claim with the SCT.

Documents required

  1. Supporting documents that back up your claim (eg. receipts, invoices, contracts)

  2. Memorandum of Consent, if any (for claims exceeding $20,000 but below $30,000)

  3. Translations (if documents are not in the English Language)

  4. Letter of Authorisation

  5. Letter of Authorisation (Only for business entitles)

  6. ACRA Business Profile (only for business entities)

Step-by-step Guide to Filing a Claim

Here’s a step-by-step breakdown of how to file a claim through the portal:

Step 1: Visit http://www.statecourts.gov.sg/CJTS/
Step 2: Log in using your SingPass (for individuals) or CorpPass (for business entities). If you don't have SingPass or CorpPass, you can register for a CJTS Pass.
Step 3: Update “My Profile” with your personal particulars.
Step 4: Click “Online applications”, and then “Claim Form”.
Step 5: Input your Pre-filing ID or do a pre-filing assessment to get a Pre-filing ID.
Step 6: Answer all questions in the pre-filing assessment, and click “Submit”.
Step 7: Fill up the claim form, including the claimant’s and respondent’s particulars and upload the supporting documents. Click “Submit”, then “Confirm to Proceed”.
Step 8: Pay the filing fees. Applications will only be processed after payments have been made.
Step 9: Select a consultation date and time.
Step 10:
Click “Save respondent’s notice”. Print the Notice of Consultation and the Claim to serve it to the respondent.

You can pay the filing fees by the following methods:

  • Credit card/internet banking (coming soon)

  • Pay at the State Courts: Choose “pay later” to generate payment advice. Bring the payment advice to the Finance Section on the 1st floor of State Courts and pay at the finance counter or Automated Collection System Machine there

Please also note that as the claimant, you’ll be responsible for serving the other party (respondent) a hard copy of the claim and the Notice of Consultation. This is to let him know about the court proceedings against him, and that he needs to attend the sessions at the SCT at a specified date and time.

Small Claims Tribunals: How Much Will I Need to Pay to File a Claim?

As a tenant or landlord (individuals/non-business entity), you’ll only need to pay a fee of $10 to $20 to file a claim amounting to $10,000. For claims amounting to $20,000, the filing fee can reach up to $200.

In addition, this claim amount can be increased to $30,000 if both parties agree to it and file a Memorandum of Consent online.

Here’s a table of the SCT Filing Fees, taken from the State Courts of Singapore:

Claim Amount

Individual

Entity

Up to $5,000

$10

$50

Between $5,000 and $10,000

$20

$100

More than $10,000 and up to $20,000

1% of claim amount

3% of claim amount

More than $20,000, up to $30,000

*Consent of both parties required. A Memorandum of Consent must be filed/uploaded.

1% of claim amount

3% of claim amount

Do take note that the filing fees are not refundable. Nonetheless, filing a claim with the SCT is significantly more affordable than filing a lawsuit with a regular court. Plus, you don’t have to hire a lawyer.

What’s next after Filing the Claim and Serving the Notice to the Respondent?

Close-up of two people shaking hands after resolution of a dispute
Close-up of two people shaking hands after resolution of a dispute

The tribunal seeks to help both parties resolve the dispute amicably at the Consultation session

After filing the claim and serving the notice, both you and the respondent are required to attend a consultation session, where the tribunal will attempt to mediate amicably.

During the Consultation, the Registrar will:

  • Assess if the claim is within the Tribunals’ jurisdiction

  • Give both parties an opportunity to discuss your cases with a view to resolving your dispute amicably

  • Fix for a Hearing before a Tribunal Magistrate when both parties cannot reach an agreement, or make such other orders as it deems fit

If the dispute is not resolved during the Consultation, the SCT can schedule a Hearing to take place within 24 hours of the Consultation session. At the Hearing, both you and the respondent will be given the chance to present your case before the Tribunal Magistrate.

Even after filing the claim, you and the respondent may still attempt to settle your dispute among yourselves. If you manage to reach an agreement before the Consultation date, you can withdraw the claim on the CJTS portal.

More FAQs about Small Claims Tribunals in Singapore

How Do I File a Small Claim in Singapore?

You can submit a claim online through the Community Justice and Tribunals System (CJTS).

What Qualifies as a Small Claim?

Claims not exceeding $20,000. This limit may be raised to $30,000 if both parties agree to it.

What Happens If You Do Not Attend a Small Claims Court?

If you are a claimant, your claim may not be attended to. If you are a respondent, a default judgement may be placed against you.

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