We believe it is important that you understand why we have contacted you. The legal terminology sometimes makes it a bit more complicated to understand. That is why we want to give you some more explanation about some difficult terms that you may have come across.
To bring a case before court
When “a case is brought before court”, this means that a procedure is initiated and adjudicated by a court which is to render a court ruling (sentence/decision/judgment).
Payment reminder letter
The “payment reminder letter” (also known as “formal notice”) is the first letter with which we contact you in order to obtain a solution for the conflict of payment between you and your creditor. Even though legal obligations pertaining to the despatch of a reminder letter in the amicable phase only exist vis-à-vis consumers (see the Belgian Law of 20 December 2002 pertaining to the amicable recovery of debt from the consumer – ”Loi du 20 décembre 2002 relative au recouvrement amiable des dettes du consommateur”), we send all our clients a reminder letter. Moreover, the despatch of a reminder letter is not an obligation. All our reminder letters feature a clear overview of the cause of the payment dispute, how you may make payment, how you may contact us for more information, and the breakdown of your debt.
Notice by service
A “notice by service” is an official announcement/notification. This is often used in procedures of attachment, public sale, eviction etc.
The term “deed” refers to authentic deeds. A deed is any document written up by an authorized public official and from which rights and obligations result. Examples are a writ of summons, drafted by a judicial officer, or notarial deeds, drafted by a civil law Notary, for instance a deed for the purchase/sale of a house. Throughout the legal proceedings, it is the responsibility of the judicial officer to draft clear, complete and correct deeds, which he will then serve upon the recipient, thereby offering the guarantee that the latter shall be informed of his rights and obligations vis-à-vis other parties in a timely and complete manner (e.g. when a party is to appear before court, or has been sentenced to the payment of a specific sum).
A “judgment” is a court ruling by a higher court within a certain jurisdiction (Court of Appeal – “Cour d’Appel” - and Labour Court – “Cour du Travail”), the province (Assize Court – “Cour d’Assises”), or at the level of the federal government (Court of Cassation – “Cour de Cassation” -, Council of State – “Conseil d’État” -, Constitutional Court – “Cour constitutionnelle”) or at the international level (e.g. European Court of Human Rights).
A “decision” is a court ruling which is passed in matters that are urgent, in case of great urgency
- in summary proceedings: ordering an investigative measure or protective measures without affecting the merits of the case, or
- as in summary proceedings: ordering an investigative measure or protective measure or passing a ruling which does affect the merits of the case.
When the judicial officer proceeds with an “attachment”, the party against whom the attachment is implemented is no longer free to administer the part of his assets upon which the attachment has been imposed. Elements that may be attached are: income, a bank account, movable property (such as household effects or a car) or immovable property (such as a house).
“Service” denotes the instance where a judicial officer delivers the copy of a document to you (at your residence or at your head office), so that you may take cognizance thereof. When you are absent, a copy of the document is deposited in your letter box. Shortly thereupon you will receive a letter from the judicial officer possibly inviting you to collect a copy of the served document from the judicial officer’s offices.
Collective debt settlement
A “collective debt settlement” are legal proceedings open to private individuals with structural debt issues which are requested from the Belgian Labour Court (“Tribunal du Travail”) by means of a petition. The idea is that you pay off your debt with the intervention and assistance of a debt negotiator while still leading a dignified life. If the judge grants you a collective debt settlement, a debt negotiator will receive your income and utilize it to offset your debts while providing you with the requisite subsistence pay. Creditors can no longer enforce amicable or legal claims pertaining to these debts. However, all claims made subsequent to the date of decision of the admissibility of a collective debt settlement are not part of this settlement. These may indeed be subject to amicable and legal claims.
A deed served by the judicial officer which informs you that you have been summoned before the court (“tribunal”)/Justice of the Peace (“Justice de Paix”). This deed mentions the date and time of the session at which you are to appear as well as the motives on which the claim is based.
An “enforcement order” is a written order issued on behalf of the government which is served upon you by the judicial officer. With this “order”, the government body obtains the possibility to forcibly collect a sum from you. Before an enforcement order may be issued, you must first receive a payment reminder from the Government, and you must have been given the opportunity to formulate any objections you may have against the claim. What is special about the enforcement order is that it is also an enforceable order, meaning that in case of a lack of payment or reaction within one working day after service by the judicial officer, the latter may impose any form of attachment (see above) upon you.
When a ruling is passed by a judge, this may be enforced by a judicial officer. This is called the “execution” of a ruling. This execution may occur by means of attachment or eviction for instance.
In principle a court ruling can only be enforced within the territory of the state in which it was passed. In order to obtain enforcement abroad, the ruling must be granted “exequatur” status. Exequatur procedure must be initiated by the lawyer of the claimant within the country of enforcement, and in Belgium the Court of First Instance (“Tribunal de Première Instance”) is designated as the competent legal authority.
On 21 January 2005, European Regulation (EC) No. 805/2004 of 21 April 2004 entered into force, regarding the introduction of a European Enforcement Order for uncontested claims. The European Enforcement Order is a certificate with which rulings, legal settlements and authentic deeds pertaining to uncontested claims can be automatically acknowledged and enforced in another member state, without the requirement for initiating the aforementioned exequatur procedure. This abolition of initiating exequatur procedures in a member state of the European Union is limited to claims in civil and commercial matters, regardless of the nature of the court.
In order to obtain a European Enforcement Order Certificate, a request is to be submitted with the head registrar of the legal authority which has provided the ruling or legal settlement. For authentic deeds the request is to be submitted with the civil-law notary public.
The delivery of the European Enforcement Order Certificate by the head registrar or the civil-law notary public shall allow the Belgian ruling, legal settlement or authentic deed to become enforceable without any further procedural steps being needed, within any other member State of the European Union.
This is the official instrument which a judicial officer serves upon you at your residence or at your head office. This may be a writ of summons, the service of a sentence/judgment/enforcement order, etc.
A party to legal proceedings may choose to authorize someone to act on their behalf in the proceedings. This could be a lawyer, a legal assistant or a judicial officer.
An “authentic copy” is a certified copy of a ruling, i.e. an original ruling passed by a court (each party to the legal case is entitled to 1 original copy) or a deed drafted and passed before a civil law notary.
The judicial officer serving and/or executing a court ruling must always have an authentic copy of this ruling.
The “capital sum” is the initial (invoiced) sum which you owe to the claimant. Besides the capital sum, a total claim often also consists of interests, damages, and costs incurred.
see “Reminder letter”
Attachment of wages
“Attachment of wages” is a third-party attachment, whereby money is attached (net wages, holiday bonus, end-of-year bonus, ...) which an employer or distributing authority owes to the party against whom the attachment is imposed. Part of the wage is protected. The attachment remains in place until the entire claim for which the attachment was enforced has been settled, or until the employment or distribution of benefits has been terminated.
Another word for out-of-court is “amicable”. A debt collection process often comprises a minimum of two phases. First, the out-of-court (amicable) phase and second, the legal phase. During the out-of-court (amicable); phase no court intervention has been requested (or enforceable order in the case of an enforcement order). At this stage, the parties attempt to come to a mutual understanding on the matter of the debt and the payment thereof.
An “official record” is a written report. A judicial officer writes up official records, including records of attachment, which are written inventories of the movable property found in the possession of the debtor which are entered into his deed for a possible subsequent sale. A record of findings is a written report of what is observed by a judicial officer for instance in the case of irregular construction works, regarding which he may also create a photographic account to be added to his record.
“Recovery” is the right of the owner of movable or immovable property to reclaim said property from anyone who is illegitimately in the possession thereof. For instance, in the case of attachment, it is possible that goods are present at the residence of the party against whom an attachment is imposed which do not belong to him but to a third party (e.g. a family member). This third party may resist the public sale thereof when they can prove ownership of these goods. This can be done by means of a summons for recovery, which is to be served upon the party implementing the attachment (i.e. the creditor), upon the party against whom the attachment is implemented itself and upon the judicial officer who implemented the attachment. The recovery claim suspends proceedings, thus preventing the planned sale of the recovered goods. Should any goods have been attached other than those mentioned in the recovery procedure, then the public sale of the unrecovered goods may take place.
An “order” is a document with which a judicial officer may undertake further steps in order to settle an outstanding claim or to have it settled. Examples of orders: a sentence, a judgment, a decision, an enforcement order, a notary deed.
A “ruling” is a court order made by a lower district court (Court of First Instance – “Tribunal de Première Instance”, Labour court – “Tribunal du Travail”, Court of Commerce – “Tribunal de Commerce”, Arrondissement Court – “Tribunal d’Arrondissement”, Correctional Court – “Tribunal correctionnel”, Police Court – “Tribunal de Police”) or a canton court (Justice of the Peace – “Justice de Paix”).
A claim is an entitlement enforced by a party vis-à-vis another party: for the payment of a sum, for the performance of an act or precisely the prevention of an action.