A visit from a Sheriff Officer is one of the things that people in debt fear the most. But you can take away some of the fear by understanding the powers they hold and what you can do if you are expecting a visit from a Sheriff Officer about unpaid council tax debt.
Sheriff Officers are officers of the Sheriff Court and are appointed to enforce court orders. It means they hold considerable powers. It also means those powers and what they can and can’t do are strictly regulated.
Despite being officers of the court, Sheriff Officers are in fact private companies. There are lots of firms of Sheriff Officers in Scotland. Two of the biggest companies are Stirling Park and Scott and Co. Sheriff Officers can also be self employed.
A Sheriff Officer is appointed to carry out the orders of the Sheriff Court by the individual, business or organisation that asked the Sheriff Court to give the order. The Sheriff Officer that is appointed has the authority to act on behalf of the individual, business or organisation that has appointed them.
Councils may appoint a Sheriff Officer to enforce a court order from the Sheriff Court to collect unpaid council tax, non domestic rates, housing benefit overpayment or former tenant arrears. Companies may engage them to collect unpaid consumer debt.
How will Sheriff Officers try to collect unpaid council tax debt?
Sheriff Officers will try to collect the money that is owed in several different ways. The first thing they will do is ask you to contact them to put a repayment plan in place. They can request information such as employer details, National Insurance number and bank account details to help them with this.
If a repayment plan is not put in place, the creditor can return to the Sheriff Court to ask for a formal charge for payment. This gives the Sheriff Officer additional powers to collect the money. It means they can arrest your wages (take money directly from your pay packet), freeze your banks accounts and take money from your bank accounts. They can also carry out what is known as exceptional attachment. This is when the Sheriff Officer visits your home to collect your belongings and sell them to repay the debt.
If you are expecting a visit from a Sheriff Officer to collect unpaid council tax debt, here is what you need to know.
Sheriff Officers cannot enter your home at any time of the day or night
If a Sheriff Officer is visiting your home to collect your possessions to sell them to recover the unpaid debt (or, to use the official term, carry out exceptional attachment), they cannot enter your home at any time.
They must come between 8.00am and 8.00pm on Monday to Saturday. They cannot come on Sundays or on public holidays such as Christmas Day or Boxing Day.
The Sheriff Officer should write to let you know when they are coming. You must also have received a Debt Advice and Information Pack from your creditor (in the case of unpaid Council Tax, this is your local council). Read More