HELP WITH DEBT

Sheriff Officers Scotland – Help & Advice

HELP WITH DEBT

Sheriff Officers Scotland – Help & Advice

Overview

Sheriff Officers are bound by heavy regulations within Scottish law, so it’s important to know what rights you have should you ever come into contact with one.

We have laid these out below to help you know not only what you are entitled to do but what the officers can and cannot do as well.

Sheriff officers must provide identification if asked for it. They are required to carry a red book that contains a photo of themselves and a countersign from the sheriff clerk for the region/area where they are permitted to operate.

Even if they provide this, you are still within your right to ask who they are working for and contact their employer to confirm what they say is true.

You don’t have to give them any information

You do not have to give a sheriff officer any information that you are not comfortable with. You are free to withhold your name and address and should never give away your phone number or bank details.

If an officer obtains your phone number and is continuously calling you to intimidate you, you can report them for harassment under The Communications Act 2003 and The Protection from Harassment Act 1997.

You are not required to let them into your home

Unless they possess a court order allowing them access to your property, you do not have to let them in. Deal with them outside your house, asking all questions without letting them in the door.

Sheriff officers and eviction

It’s important to note that sheriff officers can only work certain hours of the week – which from Monday-Saturday, 8am-8pm. The only exception to this is if they are granted a specific court order to work at additional times, for example if they are recovering a child or someone in danger.

Generally, you will be given two weeks’ notice of eviction. If you have not left the property by the date on the notice, the sheriff officers will send you a further notice with a date and time that they will arrive to evict you – which is normally within 48 hours.

In these instances, with the provision of a court order, officers are able to force entry into the property, including breaking locks, windows or forcing doors, whether you are present or not. The costs incurred are the responsibility of the creditor but can be passed back to you as part of the settlement.

Where it is called for, they can use physical force to remove you from a property. In cases where this seems likely, they may appear accompanied by the police. They are not allowed to help with the officer’s duties but will intervene if the law is broken throughout the eviction.

Sheriff officers and debt recovery

The main point here is – they can’t take everything.

Sheriff officers are only able to take non-essential items under the guidelines of Exceptional Attachment, meaning they are unable to take items such as beds, clothes, computers and fitted electrical appliances. You can find a list outlining recoverable and non-recoverable items here.

In cases where items are to be seized under exceptional attachment, the sheriff officers have to give you notice that they are doing so. Although they can gain access using force, they cannot take any items if no one is present, if the person present is under 16 or has a problem understanding what is happening due to language barriers or a physical or mental disability.

If the debt recovery is not accepted as a case of exceptional attachment the sheriff officer doesn’t have to give you notice and can visit you to remove property at their discretion.

Making a complaint about a sheriff officer

If you wish to make a complaint against a sheriff officer, write to them and the office they work for. Our advice is to speak to an expert in order to make sure your requests and complaints are within the law and appropriate to your situation.

If you are not provided a reasonable solution to your complaint, you can write to the Sheriff Principal, who can organise an investigation if it’s deemed appropriate.

You can also make a complaint to the Society of Messengers-at-arms and Sheriff Officers, who cover all officers currently in operation in Scotland with disciplinary and complaint procedures.

If you need help

You can take steps to prevent problems escalating with sheriff offices by trying to find a compromise that will work for everyone. It’s best to do this as soon as you have been notified that an action is to take place by contacting them either in person or via email/telephone.

It is also possible to try to come to a compromise with the officer themselves. They will often understand your situation and can outline the various problems that you need to overcome.

If you would rather not deal with the sheriff officer, you can contact the company, landlord, solicitor or other that you are in debt to. It’s always best to do this before any action escalates too far so that you can come to an agreement that could prevent you from receiving a visit.

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