Sheriff officers work on behalf of government bodies, most commonly they are used to collect council tax arrears and on behalf of individual creditors. They are often confused for the rest of UK equivalent, bailiffs. Creditors use threats of sheriff officers and bailiffs to frighten individuals into repaying debts, most often through further unaffordable borrowing. The terrifying idea of someone taking all your worldly goods is further intensified by well known TV adverts such as Channel 5’s ‘If you don’t pay, we’ll take it away’.
Stirling Park and Walker Love are two of the most well-known sheriff officers and messenger-at-arms companies collecting debt in Scotland. If you’ve received a letter or visit from sheriff officers about council tax debt, or any other type of personal debt such as defaulted personal loans, don’t panic.
Below you’ll find basic help on how to deal with all sheriff officers, from Walker Love, Stirling Park sheriff officers or any other.
Trust Deed Scotland will help you find out what to do if they come to your house and how to stop them from taking your belongings.
If you’ve received a letter or visit from sheriff officers about council tax debt, or any other type of personal debt such as defaulted personal loans, don’t panic. Sheriff Officers and Messenger at Arms are strictly regulated and can only act to the extent that they are allowed to do so, within the Scottish legal system. To try and force entry into an individual’s property in Scotland, they must have the authority to do so. They would have what is known as an Exceptional Attachment Order.
Only where they have an exceptional attachment order, will they issue it to you before trying to access your property.
Find out what to do if they come to your house and how to stop them from taking your belongings.
What should you do if sheriff officers come to your home?
Don’t let sheriff officers in when they come to your door. You’re under no obligation to allow a Sheriff officer in Scotland enter your home.
What can sheriff officers do?
Sheriff officers usually only get involved after your local authority or creditor has taken you to court in Scotland. They have the legal power to remove and sell your belongings to pay your debts. If you let sheriff officer into your home, they can take:
They can’t take things that you need to use to live, work tools or equipment that don’t amount to more than £1,350 or someone else’s belongings.
Proving that items in the house don’t belong to you, can be very difficult without receipts, or proof of ownership.
What if a sheriff officer has already taken your goods?
To get your goods back you will have to:
You will be able to get your goods back if you can prove the sheriff officer did not follow the correct procedure when they took your goods from you. This emphasises why it is important to not let the sheriff officer into your home at any point.
Can sheriff officers really take my car?
Just like in the TV programme, ‘If you don’t pay, we’ll take it away’, bailiffs do often take vehicles, as this is the easiest thing for them to seize. The same rules apply in Scotland with sheriff officers as it also means that they don’t need access into your property.
They can take your car if it is owned jointly with someone else.
If it’s owned independently through a third party, then they will not be able to take it. This will be true if the car is still under a hire purchase agreement. Walker Love sheriff officers will also not be able to take your car if you have a blue disabled badge. Nor will any other sheriff officer from Stirling Park or anywhere else.
What other charges can sheriff officers add?
There is the possibility that you will be charged additional fees by sheriff officers such as:
- The cost of storing your belongings when they’ve been taken
- Any court fees that they have had to pay
- The cost of locksmiths
They will even charge a fee to you for the cost of putting your goods up for auction or a commission on the selling price
You have the legal rights in Scotland to see receipts or evidence for all of these expenses that have been added to your debt. You do need to pay these fees in Scottish law. Once a warrant has been issued by the court, these fees become legally due.
Making a complaint about Sheriff Officers
If you do believe that a Sheriff Officer has behaved in a manner which brings themselves, their profession or the Court into disrepute, you can still make a complaint.
When making a complaint about a Sheriff Officer or a Messenger at Arms, you have two options:
The first option is to complain to their professional body, which is the Society of Messenger at Arms and Sheriff Officers.
The second option, you can also make a complaint to the Court whose authority they were acting upon. In the case of a sheriff officer this means the sheriff principal of the local sheriff court. Secondly, in the case of a messenger-at-arms, their equivalent is the lord president’s office.
In Scotland some creditors employ sheriff officers and messenger-at-arms as debt collectors. When acting in this lesser capacity of debt collectors, sheriff officers have no additional power over those held by other debt collection companies involved in collecting defaulted debts. They are not allowed to remove your property and cannot your arrest wages. They cannot enter your home without your permission.
Trust Deed Scotland can give you advice and help on how to set up plans that will put an end to harassment from sheriff officers for the long term. Help is available for residents of Scotland and we’re here to get you on your way to becoming debt free.