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What is an attachment of property for individuals in debt?

Sharon McDougall - Updated - 3rd May 2024 - 3 minutes to read

One of the most common worries of people in debt is whether they could have their home taken away from them or their possessions sold in order to pay back the money they owe. Unfortunately this is a possibility; however, it is often the final step after a long process of debt recovery by the creditor. If you are currently struggling with debt it is advisable to take action now to prevent this type of more serious action from happening further down the line.

What happens if a creditor applies for an attachment order?

Should a creditor have exhausted all channels to recover the debt you owe, they may decide to apply for an attachment order through the courts. If granted this gives a sheriff officer the right to seize moveable property owned by the debtor. It is important to note here that your home cannot be taken from you under an attachment order. There are three levels of this type of order and the rules surrounding what can and cannot be taken from your home vary according to which order has been granted. It is therefore important for you to check carefully exactly which order has been made against you.

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Which types of orders can be made?

The three orders which can be granted are:

  1. Interim attachment
  2. Attachment
  3. Exceptional attachment

Interim attachments and attachments cannot be used to seize items in the debtor’s home; this can only be done if an exceptional order has been granted. However, items housed in an outside garage or shed can be taken by the sheriff officer. There are restrictions on what can be taken under an interim attachment or attachment order, with certain items exempt.

Which exceptions are there to attachment orders?

These exceptions include:

  • A mobile home - if this is classed as your main or only home
  • Work tools - this can include any machinery or tools which are required by you in order to do your job. There is a limit of £1,000 on these items
  • A vehicle - there is a limit of £3,000 and you must be able to demonstrate that you need it, e.g. in order to get to work, for childcare or care of a relation
  • Clothing and children’s toys
  • Essential household goods and garden tools – this includes furniture, bedding, and white goods

What are exceptional attachments?

Exceptional attachments are slightly different and give the sheriff officer more power when it comes to taking your belongings.  Unlike with an interim attachment or an attachment, with an exceptional attachment possessions can be seized from your home. Sheriff officers have the right to open any places which are locked or closed and remove the goods they find. Bear in mind that the exempt items listed above still apply with exceptional attachments meaning the majority of your basic household goods such be left untouched.

Despite the enhanced power exceptional attachments give, sheriff officers do not have the right to force entry into your property to recover these goods and there must be someone in the house who is at least 16 years of age and understands what is going on and why. This means a sheriff officer cannot enter the building if the person answering the door does not speak English, or has a physical or mental disability which prevents them from understanding the situation.

This can only be done between the hours of 8am and 8pm, and cannot take place on a Sunday or public holiday. You will be given advance notice that the sheriff officer will be visiting your property and be told what will happen during this visit.

If you have been served with an attachment order you should contact your local Citizens Advice who will be able to give you the specialist information and guidance you need to understand the situation you find yourself in and the best way to deal with it.

If you are struggling with mounting debt and you are worried about how this may affect your property and possessions going forward, speak to Scotland Debt Solutions. Our team of debt experts work with individuals across Scotland every day helping them to overcome their debt problems and look forward to a brighter future. Call us today to arrange a free no-obligation consultation with one of our experts and take the first steps towards becoming debt free.

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Sharon McDougall


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