Can Sheriff Officers legally enter my home?

April 11, 2016

Sheriff officers may become involved in the collection of your debt if the original creditor has made several unsuccessful attempts to recover their money, and gone on to obtain a court order against you.

They have the right to enforce this order only in relation to the debt specified, and in the majority of cases will not attempt to enter your home. They have no legal right of entry unless a specific court order has been granted, and this is called an exceptional attachment order.

Sheriff officer firms are often used by government departments, organisations, and individual creditors, with the purpose of recovering debt. Sheriff officers may be self-employed, or work within a larger firm of sheriff officers and messengers-at-arms.

What is an exceptional attachment order?

As the name suggests, an exceptional attachment order is granted only in rare circumstances. It allows sheriff officers to legally enter your home to identify non-essential goods that can be seized and sold at auction to repay your debt.

The key phrase here is ‘non-essential’ as many household items are exempt. Goods eligible for sale will be seized and removed from your home immediately, but you still have seven days in which to apply to court for their recovery.

What happens prior to an order being granted?

Your creditor will have previously taken steps to recover their money, and as a last resort, taken you to court. Prior to applying for an exceptional attachment order, they need to prove to the court that they have attempted negotiations to settle the debt, and tried an arrestment of earnings or other enforcement action.

They can apply to court for an exceptional attachment order once the 14-day time limit on the charge for payment has expired. Prior to it being granted, the court will ensure that you have received a Debt Advice and Information Package from the creditor, and money advice from a finance professional.

The sheriff will also need to be satisfied that the value of assets to be seized will cover the costs of enforcement.

Restrictions on entry into your home

Sheriff officers holding an exceptional attachment order must give you at least four days’ notice of their visit, and there are certain restrictions on when they can legally enter your home:

Only between 8am and 8pm Monday to Saturday

  • Not on a Sunday or Bank Holidays
  • If you are not at home when they arrive, there must be someone there who is over the age of 16 and understands what is happening

Under an exceptional attachment order, sheriff officers are also allowed to force entry by breaking a window or door lock.

If you have been contacted by a firm of sheriff officers and need advice on what to do next, call our expert team at Scotland Debt Solutions. We provide advice and support to Scottish residents on how to deal with debt, and can arrange a same-day meeting to discuss your options.

John Baird

Insolvency Adviser

Tel: 0800 063 9250

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