Sheriff officers rights in Scotland

Written by Chelsea Potter on 8 February 2016

Sheriff Officers, or bailiffs as they are otherwise known, collect debts on behalf of your creditors. They are seen as a last resort by your creditors to try and obtain some form of repayment. If you ignore your creditor’s attempts at contact and don’t come to a payment agreement, they can employ sheriff officers to come to your home and seize your possessions. This article looks at the rights of sheriff officers in Scotland, and answers a few common questions we get asked about what to do if they come a knocking.

Firstly it is important to know that creditors must have obtained a decree and issued you with a charge for payment which must have expired before they come anywhere near your house and they can only do so after they have made several attempts to contact you about missed payments. You can prevent action by contacting them and setting up a payment plan or by entering a debt solution. Debt solutions like trust deeds and the debt arrangement scheme can halt legal action so if you are worried about sheriff officers taking your possessions it would be advised you call a free debt advisor. They will discuss your options and help prevent this at all costs.

What do I do if a sheriff officer comes to my house?

If a sheriff officer comes to your home, you should check their court documents. They only have permission to enter if they have an ‘exceptional attachment order’ granted by the courts. This is only valid if you have received a formal demand from your creditors in advance. If they do have this order, they can only enter your house between 8am and 8pm Monday to Saturday. They cannot enter your home outside of these hours or on Sundays or bank holidays. Most items in your home should be exempt also from the court order so you should check what they are allowed to take.

When a sheriff order visits your premises you can also check their IDs. They should carry a red book with the Scottish court crest and have a photo ID. They are legally obliged to show you this.

At this point it isn’t too late to still negotiate repayments with your creditors. If you arrange to repay your debts, you could prevent further action.

Can they break into my property?

If the sheriff officer has the right court documents, you are required to let them into your home. Failure to do so could lead to you getting in trouble. Officers can force entry if they have the relevant authority to get in but if you obstruct the officers you could be charged with breaking the peace.

Can they take my possessions?

If they have an exceptional attachment order, sheriff officers can take your possessions from inside your home. However a lot of possessions will be exempt by the courts as they don’t allow creditors to take goods that you require for your day to day living.  If the officer only has an attachment order, then they can only take goods from outside of your home or in a garage, although this could include vehicles such as cars and bikes.

Filed under Debt advice

This article was checked and deemed to be correct as at the above publication date, but please be aware that some things may have changed between then and now. So please don't rely on any of this information as a statement of fact, especially if the article was published some time ago.

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