The introduction of Article 166A and Article 166B by virtue of Act IX of 2004 has established an effective and time efficient procedure. The former article treats the recovery of certain unopposed claims, within the parameters provided by law. While the latter outlines the mode of registration of executive titles obtained pursuant to  Article 166A.

In efforts of alleviating some pressure and promoting efficiency of justice, the law provides for the possibility for certain scenarios to be dealt with summarily.

The most noticeable being the judicial letter procedure for obtaining an executive title on specific unopposed claims and the special summary proceedings whereby proceedings are heard summarily due to the fact that the plaintiff shall declare on oath that in his belief the defendant shall not have a defence to the claim being made.

The judicial letter procedure shall only be applicable to claims which do not exceed the monetary value of €25,000. In addition, such debt must be certain, liquid, and due; the debt due shall not be a performance of an act or debt due by virtue of a vacant inheritance.

Nonetheless, due to the law barring this procedure to a quantified sum, any greater claims may still use this procedure however limiting their debt to €25,000 and renouncing to the difference that would otherwise be due.

Due to the inherent nature of summary proceedings ie. obtaining an executive title, this procedure shall only be used when the debtor is present in Malta. The judicial letter shall, under pain of nullity include:

  • Cause of the claim;
  • Reason why the claim should be upheld;
  • Statement of facts to support the claim; and
  • Intimation to the debtor that failure to file a rebuttal letter within 30 days shall constitute an executive title.

The debtor shall state his defence to the creditor’s claim under oath.

In the case ‘Borġ Vincent vs Risiott Shaun’ (2011)[1] the court declared that although the 166A procedure is based on the presentation of the judicial letter from the creditor to the debtor, such letter must not simply be used as a mode of obtaining payment from a debtor when there was no initial and basic understanding between the parties that the debt was due. The debtor must therefore know what the debt he is asked to pay relates to.

In the case of ‘Camilleri vs Magro’ (Courts of Magistrates, Gozo) (2012) the court further added that the 166A procedure must not prejudice the debtor’s rights. For example; his right to defend himself. This is therefore why the legislator tied the nullity of the said procedure and executive title derived therefrom to the failure to meet the law’s ad validatatem requisites.   

It is also interesting to note that as seen in the case of ‘F. Advertising Limited vs Mifsud’ (2012) the issuance of a judicial letter under article 166A does not preclude the issuer from also filing a precautionary warrant with this same letter.

After the 30 days, in order to enforce the judicial letter as an executive title, the creditor shall present to the Court Registrar a copy of the judicial letter, evidence of service to the debtor, and a copy of any response received.

The Registrar shall then examine the presented documents and if it is satisfied with the conditions for registration, it shall include it in the register of judicial letters as Executive titles, which register is maintained by the registrar.

Special summary proceedings may be utilised when the action is demanding:

  • The recovery of debt that is certain, liquid, and due and not consisting in the performance of an act; or
  • Eviction of any person from any rural or urban tenement, with or without the claim for rent, damages, compensation up to the date of surrender; or
  • Eviction of operators, lessee, or any other occupants.

This procedure with respect to the recovery of debts, also provides a summary route to debts which go beyond the €25,000 ceiling imposed on the use of the previous procedure.

The applicant shall file an application with the declaration that in his belief the defendant shall have no defence to the action being instituted. If the defendant’s defence is deemed to be sufficient prima facie, proceedings are held ordinarily.

In the event that the defendant does not impugn proceedings or convince the Court that he has a prima facie defence, the Court shall proceed to pronounce judgement.

Article 166B deals with the registration of executive titles obtained pursuant to Article 166A. A judicial letter issued in terms of Article 166A does not constitute an executive title unless it is registered.

In conclusion, the law offers summary procedures to enhance judicial efficiency and alleviate pressure on the legal system. The judicial letter procedure allows for the swift enforcement of claims up to €25,000, provided they are certain, liquid, and due. Special summary proceedings extend these benefits to higher-value claims and specific scenarios like evictions, ensuring swift justice when the defendant is unlikely to present a valid defence. These measures streamline the legal process, promoting timely resolutions in applicable cases.

For more information or assistance please contact Dr Robert Tufigno and Dr Delilah Vella

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[1]. 175/2011

Disclaimer This article is not intended to impart legal advice and readers are asked to seek verification of statements made before acting on them.
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