The Sheriffs are coming – do you know your rights?

Having unpaid debt causes a great deal of stress. This stress can be made worse if you know you are expecting a visit from a Sheriff Officer about your debt. However, some of that stress can be eased by understanding a bit more about who Sheriff Officers are and the powers they hold.

This article will explain more about Sheriff Officers and what they can and can’t do. It will also tell you where you can get free help to deal with Sheriff Officers.

Who are Sheriff Officers and who do they work for?

Individuals, companies, solicitors, local authorities and government departments can go to the Sheriff Court to obtain court orders for things such as eviction, debt collection and property disputes.

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Sheriff Officers are officers of the Sheriff Court and they have the power to enforce court orders. They are engaged by the person or organisation that has obtained the court order to enforce it on their behalf.

There are lots of firms of Sheriff Officers in Scotland. You may have heard of some of the bigger names such as Scott and Co and Stirling Park. Sheriff Officers can also be self employed.

What powers do Sheriff Officers have to collect debt?

Councils may engage Sheriff Officers to enforce court orders to collect council tax, HMRC tax arrears, non domestic rates, housing benefit overpayment or former tenant arrears. Companies may engage them to collect unpaid consumer debt. Sheriff Officers act on behalf of the creditor (the person, organisation or business that is owed money).

Because they are officers of the Sheriff Court, Sheriff Officers have considerable powers to enforce court orders. However, their official status also means that what they can and can’t do – and can and can’t charge – is strictly regulated.

Sheriff Officers have the authority to negotiate with the person who owes the money to put a repayment plan in place. They can also request information such as employer details, National Insurance number and bank account details to help them with this.

If a repayment plan is not agreed and if the creditor obtains a formal charge for payment from the Sheriff Court, Sheriff Officers have further powers to help them collect the debt that is owed.

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