What items can sheriff officers take from my home or business?

August 4, 2016

Sheriff officers have certain powers of enforcement when collecting debt. If your creditor has made several unsuccessful attempts to recoup their money, they may seek the services of a sheriff officer to remove goods from your home and/or business premises.

This is done with a view to selling the goods at auction in order to raise money for your creditor, but a court order is needed before sheriff officers can take this kind of action. There are restrictions on how a debt can be enforced in this way, in terms of gaining entry to your property and the type of goods they can seize.

Residential property

Sheriff officers do not normally have to give you prior notice of their visit. If they hold an exceptional attachment order, this does allow them entry into your home, but you would already be aware of the court hearing to obtain this.

It may be reassuring to know that many items inside the home are excluded from seizure by sheriff officers. These are viewed as ‘essential’ to everyday life and could include clothing, beds, sofa, cooker, fridge freezer and other white goods.

Items outside the home are more likely to be at risk, particularly if the bailiff cannot gain entry to your property. Anything of value found in an unlocked shed, garage or outbuilding, such as a bike or garden machinery, could potentially be taken.

The sheriff officer must be in possession of an attachment order from the court before they can seize any items, so what goods might be taken from inside your home?

In general terms – luxury or non-essential items, which could include:

  • Vehicles
  • Furniture
  • Jewellery
  • Art
  • Televisions
  • Technology/games consoles

Business premises

Unless part of your business premises is also used for residential purposes, sheriff officers can force entry with a view to seizing goods for re-sale. They will identify items to at least the value of the debt (the extra is to cover their own expenses), and these might include your computer and peripheral equipment such as a printer or scanner, raw materials or other stock.

The type of debt being collected also influences which items a sheriff officer can take. You must not remove or damage any goods which have been earmarked for seizure if they remain at your business premises, as this would be seen as contempt of court.

As far as personal possessions are concerned, essential items needed for daily life should not be seized. If the sheriff officer attempts to attach an item that they believe is non-essential, but you consider essential to your daily life, you can argue a your case for it to remain.

Scotland Debt Solutions acts on behalf of residents in Scotland, and can offer further guidance on sheriff officer powers in seizing goods for re-sale. We have four local offices in Scotland – call one of the team for a same-day appointment.


John Baird

Insolvency Adviser

Tel: 0800 063 9250

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