It is widely known that Sheriff Officers who enforce debt collection use heavy-handed scare tactics to try and shake you down. But what sheriff officers are and are not legally allowed to do is not common knowledge.
Sheriff Officers are the Scottish equivalent to bailiffs, and act as debt enforcement agents to help private companies and local councils collect unpaid debt. Examples of these companies are Walker Love, Stirling Park and Scott & Co.
Sheriff Officers will use broad and ambiguous language in their letters and when on your doorstep. This is to make it seem like they are all-powerful and you have to do what they say – or else….
In most cases, this is not true.
While there are few rules on what sheriffs can say to you, what they are allowed to actually do is heavily legislated.
Sheriff officers know the law, and will try their hardest to work right up to the edge of what it allows. Luckily for you, there are a lot of simple precautions you can take that are well within Scottish law.
As long as you know your rights, you can prevent sheriff officers from taking your belongings and arresting your wages – or at least stall them so you have time to seek advice from the experts.
Here are 4 ways you can use Scottish law to stop Sheriff Officers in their tracks:
1. You don’t have to tell them anything.
The number 1. piece of advice to anyone getting threatening letters orvisits from Sheriff Officers – You are not legally obligated to tell them anything: not your name, not your current address, not your employer, and especially not your bank details.
No matter how reasonable or aggressive they may be – tell them you aren’t answering questions. Any information you give can be used against you. You can even deny that you are who they say you are. Withholding information gives you time to seek help and fight back.
If you still feel intimidated or have let slip vital information, the best thing to do is seek free expert advice.
2. Don’t let them in.
Unless a Sheriff Officer has been given a court order granted by the correct authorities, they have no right to be granted or force entrance into your home – DO NOT let them into your home, for any reason.
Ask for their identification, and tell them anything they have to say they can say on your doorstep.
If they have a court order, they are allowed to force entry if you don’t let them in. However, your creditor will have to pay for any broken locks or forced doors.
3. Don’t put up with their phone calls
Just like the rest of your personal information, don’t be fooled into giving debt collectors your phone number. If they manage to get your number, their constant calling could count as a form of harassment.
Send the offending Officers a letter quoting the Communications Act 2003 and the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 and demand they remove your phone number from their database.
If you need help with writing this letter, call an expert debt advisor to get help.
4. They can’t take what they can’t find
Due to Scottish laws protecting debtors, the list of what Sheriffs CAN NOT take is much longer than the list of what they can. Put simply, they can only take non-essential, luxury items like stereos and televisions.
There are some circumstances in which Sheriff Officers can take your belongings, but they cannot enter your house to evaluate your belongings for auction without an “Exceptional Attachment Order”. An Exceptional Attachment Order requires a court hearing where you can go to defend yourself.
If they have the exceptional attachment order, you will be normally given a few days notice of when the Sheriff Officers will come to review your belongings. This would be a great time to let your friends borrow some of your more expensive electronics.
NOTE: Sheriffs can take belongings outside your house without an Exceptional Attachment Order, such as vehicles and bicycles. Parking your vehicle around the corner from your home and keep your bikes in the hallway may buy you enough time to seek help from an independent advisor.
While all this information will help you delay Sheriffs, you cannot run away from your debt forever.
To help stop Sheriff Officer’s calling permanently, you are going to have to seek expert advice to help clear your debts.
Luckily, Council Tax Advisors are a community interest company that will answer any questions you have about debt, sheriff officers and Council Tax arrears FOR FREE.
So if you have any questions about defending yourself and your property from Sheriff Officers, click here to get in touch with Council Tax Advisors for FREE advice.