Should you be worried about Sheriff Officers?

Should you be worried about Sheriff Officers?

No, you shouldn't be, but nor should you ignore them.

In Scotland, even the mention of the phrase Sheriff Officers can strike fear into people. It conjures up images of people being evicted and of the poll tax. Often they are confused with Bailiffs, who work in other parts of the UK and feature on programmes like "If you don't pay, we'll take it away".

Should you ignore Sheriff Officers?

Sheriff Officers should not be ignored. They are Officers of the Court and as such have powers normal debt collectors don't. They occasionally will give you the impression they can do things they are not allowed to, but this is just to try and pressurise you into making offers of payment.

It's also not unusual for the language in their letters to be misleading. They will say they are visiting your home, and this may lead you to believe they can come into your home. This is almost never the case.

Their primary role, however, is to enforce the orders of the court, so if they have contacted you, you cannot ignore them.

How to deal with Sheriff Officers

The important thing is don't panic. Just because they state in a letter that they are coming  to your home, doesn't mean they will.  Nor does it mean they are going to come into your home, unless you invite them in.  Most likely they will want to hand you a legal letter or post it through your letter box.

Alternatively, they might try and speak to you and ask how you propose to deal with your debts.

The best thing to do is to seek advice from an advice agency, such as your local Citizen Advice Bureau and tell them this is what you are doing. Also tell them your adviser will be in touch with them with shortly.

Don't offer them  any information about yourself, at this point, such as your bank account details or where you work.  Wait until you have spoken to an adviser.  Don't invite them into your home. The chances are, they won't even ask..

Who are Sheriff Officers and Messenger at Arms?

Sheriff Officers and Messenger at Arms are not employed by public bodies, but by private firms.

It is important to note, it is not the private firms that are authorised by the Courts to enforce their orders, but the individual Sheriff Officers and Messenger at Arms.  It is also important to note they act with the authority of the Court, so if you prevent them from doing their job, you could be found in contempt of court.  This is a serious offence and can be punished by either a fine, or  in the worst cases, a prison sentence.

It is therefore, important you don't obstruct them when they are doing their job.  Instead be calm and polite and treat them the way you want them to treat you. .

Who regulates Sheriff Officers and Messenger at Arm?

Sheriff Officers and Messenger at Arms are strictly regulated  and can only act to the extent they are allowed to by the court and the law.

This means, for example, should they try and force entry into someone's home, they must have the authority to do so.

In practice this means they must have an Exceptional Attachment Order. Where they do have one they will present it to you before trying to access your home. If your premises are empty, they may use a locksmith to open it, however, it must be emphasised this rarely happens and only in the worst cases.

Making a complaint about Sheriff Officers

If you do believe an Officer has exceeded their authority, or behaved in a manner which brings themselves, their profession or the Court into disrepute, you should make a complaint.

When making a complaint about a Sheriff Officer or a Messenger at Arms, you have two options:

What powers do Sheriff Officer have?

Sheriff Officers and Messenger at Arms normally enforce the payments of debts using an area of law known as diligence.  They are also involved in evictions and repossessions.

Sheriff Officers enforce the orders of the Sheriff Court, whilst Messenger at Arms enforce the orders of the Court of Session, which is Scotland's national civil court.

Most debts are recovered through the Sheriff Court, so it's usually sheriff officers who are involved in recovering debts (although in reality they are the same people)

Some examples of types of diligence that Sheriff Officers and Messenger at Arms can execute are:

How should a Sheriff Officer behave?

Sheriff Officers and Messenger at Arms should act in a polite and professional manner and be honest in their dealings with you. Their professional body has produced a Code of Practice. This is not an exhaustive set of rules that they must follow, nor does it prevent them from using their discretion, however, they should try an conduct themselves in the spirit of the code.

They should never perform their duties under the influence of alcohol or drugs and should always, when on duty, have a clean and professional appearance..

A Sheriff Officer should never refuse to provide you with identification if you request it.

Do Sheriff Officer firms always have the power of the Court?

In Scotland some firms who employ Sheriff Officers and Messenger at Arms, also act as debt collectors.  This is an additional service they offer and should not be confused with the functions of their employees as Court Officers.  When acting as debt collectors, Sheriff Officer firms have no additional power over those held by other firms involved in debt collection. They are not allowed to remove your property and cannot your arrest wages. They cannot enter your home without your permission.

What capacity are they working in?

These dual roles, however, can cause confusion, particularly as local Sheriff Officer firms are usually well known in local areas, so people often assume they are acting as Sheriff Officers or Messenger at Arms.

It is, therefore, important, when you are contacted by a sheriff officer firm to ask in what capacity they are acting, as Sheriff Officers or debt collectors.  The reason being, is if they are acting as debt collectors, then they have no legal powers to enforce a debt in the way they can as Sheriff Officers or Messenger at Arms. They can only ask you make a payment, telephone you or send you letters.

Complaining about Sheriff Officers when they are debt collectors

When Sheriff Officers act as debt collectors, they must follow guidance which is laid down by the Financial Conduct Authority, and regulates debt collection practices in the UK.

Sheriff Officers must never misrepresent their authority, as this would be a clear breach of their Code of Practice.

Where you have a complaint about a Sheriff Officer firm that is acting as debt collectors, the correct organisation to make any complaint to is not the Court or the Society of Sheriff Officers and Messenger at Arms, but the Financial Conduct Authority. Their complaint procedure can be found here.

Readers Questions

  1. Debs

    Hi, in 2017 I had Stirling Park contact me for an outstanding parking ticket. I had moved address and not updated the dvla yet plus the date and time I had received a parking ticket I had never physically found one on my car in the first place. I tried to rectify this by informing both the council and Stirling park I had not received a parking ticket. Both were unhelpful. Years went past and there was no contact from Stirling park. 3 years later they are now chasing me again for this payment but are saying it is now £180. Can they leave it so long and then start to chase me again? They have sent me a letter from a sheriff officer and seem unwilling to help at all. Will this fee have been growing interest in the three years they did not contact me? Can I do anything at all?

    1. Scottish Adviser Post author

      Hi Debs

      Yes they can still pursue you for this debt, as it appears to have been a Penalty Charge Notice, and has been registered with the courts.

      This means they could pursue you for it for up to 20 years or longer.

      The debt may have increased as they are adding judicial interest of 8% per annum or it may be Sheriff officer fees that have been added.

      The liklihood is the longer you leave it, the more it will increase.

  2. Lucas

    Hi, Ive obtained my decision decree from my simple procedure case and Im now available to enforce the decision if required. The other party told me they can pay me in full by June and I accepted. I know where they bank and where they live, and I know that I have to wait now 4 weeks, and then I’ll be able to speak with a sheriff officer, pay the fees and enforce the decision. Question is, does the enforcement have an expiration date? I dont trust their word 100% so I want to be ready In case they miss the date and try to avoid the payment.
    Best regards.

    1. Scottish Adviser Post author

      Hi Lucas

      A Court Order can be enforced for at least 20 years, so you don’t need to worry that it will expire. Also if you requested and were awarded interest at 8% on top of your claim for money, then that will continue to be added.
      Its entirely up to you whether you wait or not, but if you take further action, then that will cost you. So if you want to do a Bank Arrestment, you will need to instruct a Sheriff Officer to do this for you. The problem here, is if the person is in an overdraft, it will fail. Likewise if they have less than £529.90 in their account at the time it will fail. You can only arrest amounts over that. Also you may be left waiting 14 weeks before you know if it has been successful and before you get any money.

      You can serve a formal demand for payment, called a Charge for Payment, and this only lasts for 2 years then has to be renewed. It doesn’t make them pay, but it does make them apparently insolvent and you can use it for the first four months after it is served to make them bankrupt. However, because of Emergency Covid legislation at the moment, that is not an option for you, as you need to be owed £10,000 (normally £3,000) and as it was a Simple Action you raised it won’t be this amount you are owed.

      After serving a Charge for Payment you can, however, do a wage arrestment, but again that will only succeed if they are earning above certain amounts and you will only get it gradually. It won’t work if they are unemployed, obviously, or self-employed. It may, therefore, not be a good strategy.

      You also have a problem at the moment, in that there is nothing stopping this person applying for a Statutory Moratorium at present, which would give them six months protection from you being able to take any legal enforcement action. They could register that now. Again, this normally only lasts 42 days, but because of Covid will last just now for six months.

      You also cannot rule out if this person has other debts, they may apply for Bankruptcy, a Protected Trust Deed or a Debt Payment Programme under the Debt Arrangement Scheme.

      What I am trying to say, is you may be better trying to work with this person if they are trying to pay you. You could ask them to start making small weekly/monthly payments until they can pay the debt off in full, as a gesture of good faith and in return you will hold any recovery action that may add to their debt and cause them hardship.

      The simple truth is if you can get them working with you, you may have a better chance of seeing your money than you will have if you take a more aggressive recovery approach. Its not to say it won’t work, but often it doesn’t and just results in you spending good money after bad trying to recover a debt you may have to wait for to be paid or may never be paid.

  3. Alan

    Please help me.
    I have an Extract of Award letter from the Employment Tribunal for unpaid wages at a guest house I worked at, they simply decided not to pay me. I have served the letter by a Sheriffs Officer, still no money.
    How please can I freeze their bank accounts/arrest ?
    Even with level 4 lockdown they are still trading but saying they are closed, so have money. Also their house is for sale for just under 1 million pounds.
    What is my next process or move, thanks in advance.

    1. Scottish Adviser Post author

      Hi Alan
      You can arrest their bank account by going back to the Sheriff Officers who served the Charge for Payment. The problem is you ideally need to know where they bank. However, this on its own won’t guarantee success.
      First who did you obtain your Tribunal Order against? Was it a company or the people who owned the Guest House individually? You will only be able to arrest the account of the person your Order is against, and if it is against a Company, then you need to arrest the Company’s account. If it’s against the Company, you cannot arrest the employer’s personal accounts.
      In addition to this if you can arrest an account, if its their personal account, the first £529.90 is protected, which mean you can only arrest amounts over and above that. If their account is in overdraft or the sums in the account are less than £529.90, then the arrestment will fail.
      The next problem is once you arrest the account, you may have to wait up to 14 weeks before you find out if it has been successful or not. You can find out more about Bank Account Arrestments here.
      There is also a cost in doing a bank account arrestment, so you will have to spend more money and may still not be successful. Also if they have registered a Statutory Moratorium (not out the question if they are having financial difficulties), this can protect them for 6 months and mean you may have little choice but to wait before you can try and do anything.
      However, from what you have said if the Tribunal Order is against them personally and they are trying to sell a property, that they personally own, what may be worth considering is registering an Inhibition. This prevents them from selling any land or houses they own and if you have one registered against them individually before any sale goes through, you may be able to block any sale until they pay you the money you owe. This can be very effective especially when people are keen to sell their property. If you want to consider this, I would speak to a solicitor.

  4. K McIntyre

    Hi, I have a parking fine which dates back a few years that I forgot to pay and Stirling park told me last year that this I would be able to set up a payment plan if I have them income & expenditures which I did and we agreed to a fair amount, this was paid. They then told me I had another which I had spoke to them about and set up a plan but I was furloughed and have lost two family members to covid so have had their funerals to pay for also and I just simply didn’t have the money to give to them at the time then I totally forgot about it. I received a letter saying they would arrest my bank but I can’t afford for them to do this, so I contacted them to speak about the payment plan again today and they have refused saying they want way more than I have and I’ve given them income and outgoings and they’re still unhelpful. If I paid them what they’re asking I would have no money for the basic essentials, is there anything I can do? Thanks.

    1. Scottish Adviser Post author

      Hi K McIntyre

      There is somethings you can do to help yourself.

      First, you could look to register a Statutory Moratorium. This will give you six months protection from the Sheriff Officers taking any action against you. It will stop them freezing your bank account.

      You can register one of these for free and do it online. Find out more here.

      Once you have registered it let Stirling Park know you have registered one. It normally takes 24 hours before it appears on the Registers of Statutory Moratoriums. It will protect you from Sheriff Officers for 6 months.

      The next thing you should do, as this is not a pernament solution is contact your local advice agency and ask them for advice and assistance to negotiate with the Stirling Park on your behalf.

  5. OB

    Hiya,

    I recently got a letter asking me and my old flat mate to pay a debt for council tax. We are full time students and dont need to pay council tax. Additionally it is from a year that we werent even living in the flat. What should I do?

    1. Scottish Adviser Post author

      Hi

      Make sure you and your Mate are registered with the Council for a Student Exemption and get it backdated to when you became Students.

      Also make a complaint you have been sent a Bill for a Property you were not living in at the time. Send them copies of your Tenancy agreement and detail of where you were living.

      If they don’t resolve your complaint satisfactorily, make an Appeal to the Tribunal Valuation Appeal Board. Ask the Council how you do this.

      If your worried Sheriff Officer action may be taken against you in the meantime, you can register for a Statutory Moratorium. These are currently lasting for 6 months if you registered one before the 31st March. It is just a temporary measure until you get things sorted, but the Council should put things on hold until your complaints dealt with, but they may not.

      They are free, and you can do them online and let the Council and Sheriff Officers know you have done it.

  6. Colin

    Hi

    I had Scott and Co at my door last week with respect to council tax arrears. I tried to set up a payment plan online ( £25 a month as myself and partner are on U C). Got a letter today refusing this amount.
    Can they refuse payment?
    Many thanks.

    1. Scottish Adviser Post author

      Hi Colin

      They can refuse, however, it doesn’t seem very reasonable to me (albeit I don’t know all your circumstances).

      I do think, however, you may have to pay a bit more and I will explain why.

      Basically, their options are to do diligence, so this means:

      Arrest you Wages (they can’t as neither your nor your Partner work).
      Arrest your Bank Account (they can do this, but the first £529.90 is protected, so they can only take amounts over that, which are in the account the day they arrest it).
      Attach your Car (but if it is subject to finance like HP, Conditional Sale, or PCP, then they can’t as you don’t own it. Also if you do own it and it is worth less than £3,000 and you can show you have a reasonable requirement for it, it is protected)

      You can also register for free, online a Statutory Moratorium, which protects you from all these things for 6 months (your Partner has to also).

      They can Bankrupt you, but only if your debt is over £10,000 at present (normally, its £3,000, but because of Covid 19 its being increased temporarily until the 31st March).

      However, the Council can also request Third Party Deductions from your Universal Credit and take 5% of your Standard Allowance (this is £594.04 for a couple over 25; so 5% is £29.70 per month). This is why I think the £25 per month may not be enough as they can get more via your Universal Credit.

      However, what is important is come April you also set up a direct debit to pay next years bill directly to the Council, otherwise a Summary Warrant will also be issued for that and be sent to Scott and Co and that is the beginning of a vicious circle. This does mean you will need to pay the Council for your current bill, whilst also paying the arrears.

      If you are having difficulty coming to an agreement with them, contact your local advice agency for help.

  7. G

    Hello,

    I have recently discovered that I have been issued an arrestment of income. Is it normal for a sherriff court to do this without any prior contact? Not by telephone or in person.
    I am willing and ready to pay as I simply forgot about them in the first place. Problem however is I am a professional and have recently applied for a visa without including this as I wasn’t aware.
    Would this affect my visa application? How would I pay this immediately as I am worried it would affect my credit score.

    1. Scottish Adviser Post author

      Hi G

      It is possible for this to happen and the most common way is for Council Tax because they have used a Summary Warrant.

      There is a less common procedure that some creditors can use, but not for Consumer Debts like credit cards, loans etc. and this is known as Summary Diligence.

      Basically, these are accelerated processes that don’t require Court Hearings. The Summary Warrant procedure is justified because it is for a tax (HMRC can also use it), whilst with Summary Diligence, you actually have to agree to it.

      You can pay the debt off quite quickly by contacting the Sheriff Officers who arrested your wages. You can find this out by speaking to your employer as they will have had an Arrestment Schedule served on them.

      Once the full debt and any expenses are paid, they will lift the Arrestment. Just make sure there isn’t other years also owed, as each council tax year is seen as a separate debt and once one arrestment is lifted, because the debt is paid, they will just apply another.

      In terms of the Visa, I cannot comment as it will depend country by country, but I wouldn’t imagine Council Tax debt would impact on your ability to obtain a visa as the information is not shared with Credit Reference Agencies (do your own check here for free), so I am not sure how they would find out. Usually, when it comes to Visas the big issue is have you been made bankrupt, which you haven’t.

  8. Luke

    Hi
    Using the Civil Online portal I obtained an decree warrant order in my favour on 20th December.

    Two months have already passed and I contacted a Sheriff Officer to start with an earning arrestment process, however I’ve been told that I need the Sheriff Order, which I already have, and another one that I’ve never heard of, the Decision Form.

    It’s not on the Online Case page and I didnt recieve any letter during these past 2 months.

    Tried to contact the Edinburgh Court where the case’s been handled and I havent got any response back.

    What would my next steps be? I understand that due to covid things my be slow between simple procedure cases and Royal Post, but Im starting to get anxious about time passing and not being able to enforce the judgment.

    Best Regards.

    1. Scottish Adviser Post author

      Hi Luke

      You need to contact the Sheriff Clerks Office in Edinburgh Sheriff Court, which I know you have.

      You need the Extract Decree from the Court. This isn’t normally given out when you get a decision in your favour, as 14 days normally must pass to allow the other Party to appeal any decision.

      Presuming that hasn’t happened and once the Court has issued you with that, you should be able to take it to a Sheriff Officer.

      You would need to serve a Charge for Payment before you can arrest the other Parties wages.

      Just a word if caution all these procedures will cost you money, and if the Defender registers a Statutory Moratorium, which is free to do so and currently lasts 6 months, you would be prevented from taking any further recovery action during that period of time.

  9. Cameron

    I’m in debt of over 25k. It’s came to a point I can no longer pay the debts due to covid and I have been taken off my shift pattern at work, so that has been a huge reduction in wages.

    My debts are bank loans, overdrafts and a catalogue account.

    I’m almost ready to just stop paying and letting myself get defaulted on for the 6 years or so.

    I pay my mortgage, council tax, so my question is can I be forced by the court to pay these loans (wages arrested, taking goods from me)?

    From what I’ve read, they only force you to pay council tax arrears, child maintenance, government stuff.

    1. Scottish Adviser Post author

      Hi Cameron

      Thanks for getting in touch.

      What you are describing is extremely common at present and there is a lot of support available.

      Now what you are describing also sounds temporary and things may improve again shortly, so this is not the time to be making big decisions.

      The first thing I would do is speak with your Lenders and ask if they can give you some breathing space, possibly in the form of payment breaks. Lots of Lenders are doing this at present, to help people, but you need to contact them and explain, financially you have been impacted by Covid. Hopefully, they will give you some time. Most will allow you to request help if you visit their website.

      However, regardless of whether they will or not, you need to be aware that not paying your debts can have serious consequences for you. They can still add interest and charges and your credit rating can be damaged. Your ability to remortgage or get a fixed rate mortgage may be affected.

      Also they can pass your debts to debt collection agencies, so you can expect lots of letters and phone calls.

      They can also ultimately take you to Court, so Wage and Bank account arrestments are a possibility in the future and that can also mean legal and Sheriff Officer fees being added.

      In addition to that, the six years you referred to is in relation to Limitation laws where debts get written off after six years. These are English Laws. In Scotland, it is called Prescription and is five years. However, where they take you to Court it can become 20 years.

      In the worst case scenario, you can be made Bankrupt if your debts are large enough (its currently £10k because of Covid 19 Emergency Laws, but is normally only £3k). Bankrutpcy, as you are a home owner, could put your home at risk.

      However, it is not all bad news. First, as I mentioned lenders are taking a more sympathetic approach to people experiencing genuine financial difficulties.

      Also, even if your financial difficulties are going to be more long term, there are other options, such as the Debt Arrangement Scheme.

      This is a Scottish Government Scheme that allows your to repay your debts back at a rate you can afford, whilst freezing all interest and charges and protecting you from bankruptcy and Sheriff Officers. Its free to go into and every penny you pay goes to your debts. You also only make one payment per month.

      Also, as of Monday the Scottish Government are launching a new approach to the Debt Arrangement Scheme, called a Low but Grow Approach.

      This will allow people who are financially affected by Covid, like yourself, to begin with smaller than normal payments until you get back on your feet. You can then increase the payments.

      Here is an article about it that was in the Glasgow Evening Times (New Debt Rules will provide Breathing Space for Workers affected by Pandemic), and you can find your Local Advice Agency here

  10. Ann

    Hi.

    Using the Simple Procedure through SCTS civil online portal, I have obtained a Decree Warrant in my favour. As far as I am aware the respondent has neither responded nor engaged with the process. Having read part 8, 13, 18 of the simple procedure rules, it looks like the next step is for me to “formally serve a Charge on the other party by sheriff officer using a method of formal service mentioned in rule 18.3”. Should I contact the sheriff court directly and ask them to ‘serve’. I don’t have legal representation and am trying to work through this myself. If I have to contact a sheriff office, should it be one local to the sheriff court area?

    Thanks for your help,
    Ann

    1. Scottish Adviser Post author

      Hi Ann

      Thanks for your question.

      What I would say if the Sheriff Clerks office should usually be able to give you advice as to what to do next as you are a Party Litigant (representing yourself). If its procedural, they will assist.

      However, I am not sure what stage you are at. You say the other Party has not responded? Contact the Sheriff Clerk and confirm this. If they haven’t then look at Part 7 of the Simple Procedure rules. You have two weeks to make an application to the Court for a decision. If you don’t, the case may be dismissed.

      Once the Sheriff makes the decision, you then must wait 4 weeks, to allow the other Party to appeal or recall the decision (there may be a legitimate reason why they didn’t respond).

      Once the 4 weeks are up, you can then enforce the decision.

      How you do this is up to you. You could write to the other Party and provide them with a copy of the decision and ask they pay within a set period of time (14 days for example).

      Or alternatively you could go straight to legal recovery.

      To do this you need to take your decision to your local Sheriff Officers (who are Officers of the Court, but not the same as the Sheriff Clerks, who are employed by the courts and help organise and administer it).

      Sheriff Officers are Scotland’s equivalent of Bailiffs and are the only people who can legally recover debt in Scotland using Diligence.

      They are private firms and will charge you for taking action.

      So the first step normally would be a Charge for Payment, which is a 14 day legal demand for payment of money.

      Alternatively you can go straight for a bank arrestment, but you would normally need to be able to tell the Sheriff Officers where the person banks.

      If you serve a Charge for Payment and the Person does not pay, you can look at other options, like Wage Arrestments, Attachments and Inhibitions.

      The thing is all these procedures cost money and may not succeed. If they don’t they will cost you money.

      You can recover your expenses normally from the person, but first you have to get them to pay.

      I would, therefore,speak with a Sheriff Officer and ask what type of recovery they think would be most likely to succeed

      1. Scottish Adviser Post author

        One other thing Ann, there will be Sheriff Officers who are authorised to act in your area. Most people know the name of their local firm as they are usually the ones that do all the work for the Local Authority to recover Council Tax. However, if you don’t know a local firm, just Google Sheriff Officers and Messenger at Arms and some firms should come up, who if they can help will tell you.
        Their fees are all set by law, so you don’t need to worry about shopping around to get the cheapest.

  11. Stephen

    Hi

    I have lived in Scotland all my life, and in the last 4 to 5 years, have accumulated council tax arrears.

    I am willing to pay it back in instalments as I was doing before I moved home.

    I now live in England and have received a letter from the Sheriff Officer advising me to pay my debt or risk wage arrestment or auctioning of goods or posessions.

    Do they have the same power they did when I lived in Scotland?

    1. Scottish Adviser Post author

      Hi Steve

      Sheriff Officers have no powers in England or Wales. However, as the Local Authority will have a Summary Warrant for the debt, there is a relatively easy process they can use to register a debt for enforcement in other parts of the UK.

      If they do they can then hand it over to the Bailiffs for collection.

      Bailiffs have different powers to Sheriff Officers. You can find out more here.

      I would suggest contacting the Council and trying to enter into a repayment plan.

  12. Peter

    I have a buy to let which was unlet and empty for a while. At the start of the new Tax year, 2019-2020, I looked into selling it and received an offer at the Start of May (4th or 5th) 2019 which was accepted. Due to a delay with lawyers on both sides, and a change in price, the keys were not exchanged until October. I had had a couple of demands for council tax from May to Sept for council tax which I duly paid. I then got a demand from Debt agency in October for the rest of the year’s council tax. (The way the sale of the house is structured, is, The buyer has paid a years upfront rent to me in Oct, when all final lawyers work was completed. The rest of the money for the property is paid in Oct 2020. )

    Knowing that the Buyer has all responsibility for bills from October 2019, I never pursued the letter from Stirling Park, demanding the rest of the year’s council tax.

    I never heard anything until, today 11th Feb 2020, when they turned up at my door to serve me with a notice to pay the outstanding money within the next 14 days. I did explain this to the sheriff officer (wish I had seen your site before this). Anyway, is it just a case of trying to sort this out with my local authority, will they put a stop to the sheriff officer’s actions or should I pay and then try and reclaim it back ?
    Thanks
    Peter

    1. Scottish Adviser Post author

      Hi Peter

      I would suggest speaking to the Local Authority first.

      Normally the owner is liable, but if there is a tenant in the property then they are normally liable. You will need to provide proof of the tenancy or agreement, otherwise as your name will not come off the Title Deeds until Ocotber 2020, they will presume your liable and pursue you.

      It is your responsibility to inform them who the tenant is if your don’t want them to hold you liable.

      If the property is vacant, then as your name is on the Land Registry, then the liability falls upon you. You may be entitled to a vacant property exemption, but you should speak to Local Authority about that.

  13. Dean

    I received a parking ticket at the Glasgow royal infirmary when my fiancé was in intensive care after a gas explosion at work.

    I parked in a space which the parking attendant told me I can’t park in but directed me to where I could park, he watched me park here and buy a ticket and display it on the windscreen.

    I then came back to a parking ticket.

    I have appealed this and got knocked back for an appeal. The original ticket was £90 which I didn’t have due to being on sick pay and now a year on from when it happened. My fiancé has lost his job and is on disability benefits.

    I got a letter from the court saying if I don’t pay £171 they will arrest my wages, arrest my bank account or auction of my movable property.

    This is obviously really concerning.

    I emailed before I got this letter explaining the situation and got ignored.

    Any advice would be greatly appreciated

    1. Scottish Adviser Post author

      Hi Dean

      I am not totally clear from what you have said what type of parking ticket you have received, but I am assuming it is a Penalty Charge Notice, issued by a local authority rather that a Parking Charge Notice issued by a private firm.

      Regardless of the type, you do say you have received appealed and this was unsuccessful and you have now been receiving letters from the Court.

      This means in reality it is too late to challenge the charge and the only option now is to try and pay it at a level you can afford, otherwise the person owed the money could take further action against you to recover the debt.

      If you are on Staturory Sick Pay (SSP), it unlikely an Earnings Arrestment will be successful, as although SSP is classed as earnings, it is usually not enough to be arrested. If you get contractual sick pay of a higher amount it could be arrested. They could also freeze your bank account, but the first £529.90 is protected. They can, however, take any amount over that up to the level of debt you have.

      They are not likely to try and enter your home as that would involve further legal action and is extremely rare.

      They may try and attach you car but if it subject to a Hire Purchase agreement, or PCP agreement, this will fail as the finance firm, not you, own the car. If you do own it, then it is protected if it is worth less than £3k and you have a reasonable requirement.

      If you are struggling to repay the charge, can I suggest you visit you local Citizen Advice Bureau or Local Authority Money Advice Service, as they will help negotiate for you.

  14. Alex

    Hi

    I have recently seperated from my partner.

    We have accumulated council tax arrears that I have always paid through my bank to Scott and Co.

    Today I called them up to ask them if they could split the amount owed in two so I would pay my half and the rest would be left to my ex partner to pay, as I know I will be left, like always, paying off his debts and as I am no longer with him dont feel this is fair.

    I know he wont make any effort to make any payments.

    Scott and Co said they couldn’t do this that we would need to come to an arrangement between ourselves which won’t ever happen as I have left due to domestic abuse.

    If I dont make payments to them they only have my bank details and work history and threats of Arrestment of Earnings terrifies me.

    So I am having to make payments to them, which I dont mind as half of it is my debt and I am happy to pay that, but not my ex’s debt.

    would appreciate any advice you can give me on what else I can do, if anything.

    1. Scottish Adviser Post author

      Hi Alex

      I am sorry to hear about your situation, but glad to hear you are at least putting it behind you.

      In terms of your Council Tax debt, you are both joint and severally liable for it.

      This means basically they can choose who to go after for the debt and can pursue you for the full amount if they choose to.

      Unfortunately, there is nothing you can do about this. They can expect you to pay the full amount.

      However, this is not to say they cannot try and pursue him also, to recover the money faster. They will likely only do this if they know where he works or where his bank account is.

      In terms of you though, the important thing to do now that you are on your own, is make sure you are getting all the benefits you are entitled to, as your circumstances have now changed.

      There is a link to a benefit calculator on my website that you can use to check if there is any further help you are entitled to.

      In terms of your debt, can I suggest you speak to your local Citizen Advice Bureau or Local Authority Money Advice Service.

      You may not be able to avoid paying the Council Tax Arrears, but its important what you are paying is affordable and that you are also paying your current Council Tax and not just the Arrears, if not at present, from at least next April.

      Unfortunately, Sheriff Officers often just have you paying them and nothing towards your current bill, so every year you get another Summary Warrant and that is then passed to the Sheriff Officers, so you keep having to pay them and never get your feet clear.

      I hope this helps and hope you do contact your local advice centre to see if they can help negotiate an affordable repayment plan for you.

      1. Elizabeth

        Hello,

        Alex’s situation is exactly the same situation that I’m living.

        I’m trying to make them to contact him also, but I really don’t know how to do it.

        I went to council and they found an address that seems to be his address. They told me the will pass the information to Scott & Co and hopefully they will send him the letter with all the terms regarding the debt.

        I called Scott & Co, because the council told me to do it, to find out if they will try to reach him too, but they told me they wouldn’t.

        All that they tried to do is to ask for my personal details and I refused to give them any information.

        You have said above that they could try to go after him if they know his details, like where he works or where his bank account is.

        I know all this details, but how can I make them known to them?

        Thank you so much for your help,

        Elizabeth

        1. Elizabeth

          Sorry,

          I just wanted to add that is not exactly the same situation.

          I paid my half the total amount we had to pay, he told me he had paid his half before he moved out, but I found out later on that he hadn’t. T

          he amount we owe now to Scott & Co, is just his half of the total.

          Thank you

          1. Scottish Adviser Post author

            Hi Elizabeth

            Unfortunately, the legal position is you are liable for the full amount along with your ex-partner and it is for the Council to decide who they pursue.

            It sounds to me like the Council are actually being helpful, but the Sheriff Officers are not. The reality is they are just interested in getting the money and they think they can pressurise you into paying it.

            However, its worth to note the Sheriff Officers act on behalf of the Council, so it may be worth taking this up with your local councilor and asking him if he can ask the Debt Recovery Department of the Council why their agents, the Sheriff Officers will not use the information that you are offering. This may make a difference.

            However, it is also worth noting that they are entitled to continue pursuing you, even if they do take the information, and I expect they will, so if you don’t come to an agreement with them, they can try and arrest your wages or freeze your bank account.

            If you do need advice you can contact your local Citizen Advice Bureau or ask if your Local Authority has a money advice Service.

            1. Elizabeth

              Hello,

              Thank you so much for your help.

              I got in contact with Scot & Co through email, explaining them the situation and offering them the possibility of giving them this person’s details.

              They have just replied and told me that he paid the whole amount a couple of days ago.

              Pressuring him about the consecuences (I told him they would arrest our bank accounts (both) and our wages) hashad a good result.

              I hope this is useful for whoever face a situation similar to mine.

              1. Scottish Adviser Post author

                Hi Elizabeth

                That is great, it will be a great weight off your mind and thank you for letting me know. I am glad I have been of some assistance.

  15. Sarah

    Hi,

    I had agreement set up with Scott & co for council tax arrears but direct debit failed last month due to new bank account and forgot to update. I have been in contact with Scott & co though and set up with new details, however sheriff officers came to door today when I wasn’t home. Do you know why this could be?
    Nearly 9 months pregnant so panicking a little especially since payment is set up!

    1. Scottish Adviser Post author

      Hi Sarah

      It could be for any number of reasons. If you have been home and they have not left any documents, then it may have just been a chase up visit, because you missed your payment.

      Wires may have got crossed and they may not have realised you have been in touch. Give them a call and just ask. It will put your mind at rest and let them know you are 9 months pregnant.

      If it is anything more serious, I don’t think it is, come back on and let me know.

  16. Alan

    Hello
    I had sheriff officers at my partner’s home today, looking for me for an unpaid personal debt.

    I was just wondering how they could possibly suspect I lived there, as it’s not my place of residence.

    I only stay there now and again.

    1. Scottish Adviser Post author

      Hi Alan

      Sheriff Officers aim to be as effective as they can for their customers, the creditors.

      They are private firms, so if they do their job well, they hope they can get more work.

      They are also executing Court Orders, so they are driven by a strong belief these orders should be implemented. They are professionals and highly driven people who take pride in doing their job well and I would say this, if you ever need a court order implemented, such as against a former employer who has not paid you your wages, you would want them to be like this.

      I can’t tell you how they knew. Have you ever used the address for any other purpose? Even as a temporary address? Could it be revealed from Social Media, or that you are in a relationship with your partner? Could they have found the address for her from the electoral register?

      Could they have spoke to your neighbours on the basis they wanted to confirm you still lived where you do and then maybe one has said you have a partner and where they lived?

      There is no way of knowing, it could have been a completely different source they had for the information, but they are good at it. It’s basically intelligence gathering and using that information to locate you.

      This is perfectly legal, even using social media, if you put information in the public domain. As long as they don’t tell people why they are looking for you or give people the impression they are someone they at not, what they are doing is allowed.

      Remember they are enforcing court orders, so the courts want their orders enforced, so Sheriff Officers can make reasonable enquiries.

  17. Andrew

    Hi

    My previous employer is due my brother and I over £4000 in wages and holiday pay.

    We have went to a tribunal and won, but still not getting the money from our previous employer.

    Would you say it is worth getting a sheriff officer to try and get the money or do you think it would just be a waste of time?

    1. Scottish Adviser Post author

      Hi

      There is no easy answer to this. Much of it depends on who the order is against: your employer as an individual (was he a sold trader?); or his Company?

      This matters as this is the person you have a right to recover the money from.

      This also may restrict/ limit how you recover your debts.

      If your employer worked from home, it’s more difficult to send Sheriff Officers in to a home than it is to send them into business premises.

      And there is recovery procedures that can be used to seize money on business premises, but cannot be used in a home.

      I would suggest you think about what you know about your former employer or his Company.

      Where does he bank (bank arrestments)? When does he pay his staff (this is when he is most likely to have funds in his bank account)?

      Does he own cars, vehicles? Are these subject to finance agreements? If they are, it’s unlikely Sheriff Officers could take them.

      Does he keep cash on his business premises? Sheriff Officers could attempt a Money Arrestment.

      Does he get paid by someone else? Sometimes if someone is going to pay him money, Sheriff Officers can order the money is paid to them.

      The problem with Sheriff Officers is they charge fees and there is no guarantee they will be successful.

      However, if you don’t use them, your former employer just doesn’t need to pay you.

      Getting as much information about your former employer can help reduce the risk as the Sheriff Officers could suggest the procedure most likely to succeed.

      I would think about what you know and then contact the Sheriff Officers and ask if they would discuss your options with you.

  18. Derek

    Hi

    We had an envelope that was addressed to a previous owner/occupier of our property (who sold it to us in March 2017) suggesting it contained a citation for the Sheriff Court (although the district of the court was not written in the space provided).

    I returned the envelope to the Edinburgh Sheriff Court who opened it and said that it had in fact been sent from Scott & Co (Edinburgh), and as they had opened it they said they would send it back to them as they did not deal with the contents of the letter.

    We have sent post back to Scott & Co previously on a “non known at this address” basis previously (as you can tell it is from them looking at the return address on the back).

    My concern is that despite the previous occupant not living here they will turn up looking to look for assets to recover the debt.

    Will they accept evidence that the previous occupant is not her so that they stop?

    1. Scottish Adviser Post author

      Hi Derek

      I don’t think you have any thing to worry about, but there are a few steps you may want to take to be on the safe side.

      First make sure the electoral register is up to date and the previous occupant is still not listed at your address.

      Secondly, make sure the previous occupant is not linked to you or any other adults in your household on their credit reference file (they shouldn’t be, but sometimes this can happen and have a detrimental effect on your credit rating).

      You can do this by requesting a free statutory credit reference report (see here). If they are you just submit a Notice of Disassociation to the Credit Reference Agency (again for free) and they will remove the person and notify the other Credit Reference Agencies, so they can do the same.

      Finally, you may want to contact Scott and Co and bring it to their attention the person has moved, to avoid them coming out to your home. It is not your responsibility to tell them where the person moved to or to trace them.

      Sheriff Officers when they come to your home are reasonable people and are not likely to be trying to come into your home. This is a very rare procedure, called an Exceptional Attachment Order and only happens as a last resort.

      If Sheriff Officers do come to your door, just explain you purchased the property from the person they are seeking and provide them with proof of your identity.

      They should be fine with this and update their records. You do not need to give them any further information as you are not liable for this debt.

      If they continue to harass you, you can raise a complaint with them and take it to their professional body, The Society of Sheriff Officers and Messengers at Arms.

  19. James

    I had a citation put through my letterbox today trying to stop me taking my son out of Scotland, to move down to England.
    Because they recieved no answer from my door, they knocked on another five neighbours doors asking if I stayed there and was I home.
    The sheriff’s officers obviously know I lived there, as that’s why the sheriff’s clerk told them I stayed.
    Is this legal for the officers to be doing this?

    Jimmy.

    1. Scottish Adviser Post author

      Hi Jimmy

      They are expected to make reasonable enquiries to ensure the Court paperwork is served properly.

      So, possibly asking neighbours if you live there or have they seen you, I think would be deemed reasonable.

      If you were not living there, for example, they would need to return the paperwork to the Sheriff Clerk, as the Sheriff may havd to order another mode of service to be used.

      What they shouldn’t do is tell your neighbours what it is about.

      Unfortunately, everyone thinks Sheriff Officers only deal with debt, but as you have found out they can be involved in serving a whole variety of Court paperwork for lots of different matters.

      I am pretty certain there would have been no intention to embarrass you. They will just have wanted to ensure you received the paperwork.

  20. Karen

    Hi

    I’ve just had Sheriff Officers at my door with a Charge for Payment of Money for a 13 year old council tax debt from my previous residency.

    What will I do. I live on my own and on benefits. I refused to give them bank account details when asked.

    I would appreciate an early reply as I suffer from depression and acute anxiety

  21. R Fitzpatrick

    Hi

    I was served with a divorce settlement by Sheriff Officers. The only thing is I do not live at property address that is on the document and part of my name is wrong.

    Can they take my friends stuff?

    We were also married but divorced in 2012, but remain friends.

    I have my own house which I own.

    She stays in council house with her daughter.

    They can have my house, I don’t care, as the bank owns it.

    I own nothing

    1. Scottish Adviser Post author

      Hi

      What you are asking about is a matter of Family Law, which I don’t deal with.

      I can tell you there are strict rules regarding service of documents by Sheriff Officers, but I could not tell you if how they have served the documents in your case is correct.

      You would need to speak to a solicitor, preferably one that specialises in Family Law.

  22. Tam

    Hi

    I am in the social bite village for homelesss people.

    I have been served with a notice to quit by a sherriff officer, that wasn’t actually served on me.

    Two members of staff signed for it, then gave it to me when I came home.

    I refused to accept it as it wasn’t served on me.

    I wasn’t given a letter to tell me I was going to recieve this.

    The excuse they used for it was they said I vandalised the property.

    They also said I intimidated another member.

    I am wondering were I stand regarding the letter they served on me, as it wasnt actually handed to me.

    1. Scottish Adviser Post author

      Hi Tam

      I am sorry to hear about your situation.

      I have edited some of your comment, as I think you should speak with a housing solicitor before giving any explanations.

      I am not familiar with the type of tenancy agreements that are used in the Social Bite Village, but as Sheriff Officers served you an eviction notice, I am assuming your case did go to Court. If this was the case and you were not represented and did not appear, it may be you may be able to get this eviction notice recalled.

      In terms of the serving of the Notice of Eviction, this is served by Sheriff Officers and normally they can serve it by leaving it at your place of residence. Whether giving it to staff at the Social Bite Village is proper service from a technical point of view, I am not sure. If it wasn’t given to you personally by the Sheriff Officer or left at your place of residence, I am doubtful whether it is. This is a more technical argument and if you can get a recall this would be a better course of action.

      Can I ask you give Shelter a call tomorrow? They are the experts on this stuff and can give you proper advice and possibly even provide you with assistance in recalling the eviction if possible.

      You can call them on their Helpline on 0808 800 4444 or chat online with them here.

  23. Elaine

    Morning

    I wonder if you can advise.

    I have received a change of payment letter from Scott and Co on behalf of The city council re council tax arrears.

    I have a wage arrestment at the moment which has been running for the last few months.

    The debt outanding on that is £2,700.

    The letter I have received is £4,000 as this years council tax has been added, plus a charge.

    I am about to phone them to try and make an agreement to pay more outwith the wage arrestment, if I can, as I want this resolved too.

    Do you think this would be acceptable?

    Quite worried as have young children, as to what they can do.

    1. Scottish Adviser Post author

      Hi Elaine

      You can call them and offer more money, in addition to the Earning Arrestment. I am sure they will happily come to an agreement with you.

      I would suggest, however, first you seek debt advice from your local Citizen Advice Bureau or Local Authority Money Advice Service.

      My concern is out of fear you offer them too much, as that is what much of their tactics are about, and in future you continue to fail to pay your current Council Tax to your Local Authority. This means you will get more Summary Warrants and 10% surcharges added to your debt. You will also end up in a vicious cycle of just paying the Sheriff Officers.

      What would be better is if you get help to draft a full income and expenditure and look at all your financial obligations, to see what you can afford and what is the best solution for you.

      In terms of what they can do, they cannot arrest your wages twice, so what they are taking is the most they can take. They can arrest your bank account, but they need to leave £529.90 in your account. They can try and attach your car, if you have one, but if it is worth less than £3,000 and you have a reasonable requirement for it, it should be protected. If it is subject to a Hire Purchase, Conditional Sale or PCP agreement, they will not be able to attach it, as legally it is still owned by the finance company.

      If you are worried about them coming into your home, they need another order called an Exceptional Attachment Order. These are relatively rare and there has to a further court hearing, so I would not worry about that.

      They could also try and make you Bankrupt and that is more a concern, particularly if you are home owner.

      Without knowing all your circumstances, I would suggest you may want to look at the Debt Arrangement Scheme. This has many benefits, namely:

      It would protect you from everything above;
      It would lift the earning arrestment;
      You only make one payment per month;
      You can include all your debts into it, including credit cards and loans.

      It would also ensure next year you can set up a direct debit to pay your current Council Tax to your Local Authority and just pay your arrears through the Debt Arrangement Scheme. You would break the vicious cycle of debt.

      You can get help to apply to the Debt Arrangement Scheme from your Local Citizen Advice Bureau or Council.

  24. Michael

    Hi

    My partner ran up debts on my cards without my knowledge over 6 years ago.

    We split and I moved overseas.

    My brother lives at the property and sent all mail back for me as “return to sender” as I didn’t live there.

    A solicitors letter has now arrived and on a Google check of the address I saw it was a debt law firm.

    If there is a CCJ against me, I no longer live at the property and am untraceable what can they do?

    I have huge health issues and haven’t worked for several years, so have no money.

    The house though is the family property.

    The debts were credit card debts and an unsecured loan.

    What should I do?

    1. Scottish Adviser Post author

      Hi Michael

      I would suggest you could first get a credit check done for yourself. You can do this for free (see here).

      This should show whether you have a court order against you (if you were previously residing in Scotland, it would be known as a decree, rather than a CCJ).

      In terms of the debt, it really depends what stage things are at. If they have obtained a decree against you, you won’t be able to argue the debt is statute barred in Scotland under the 5 year rule, as the running of the prescription period will have been interrupted when they got the court order.

      Even if they have not got a court order, the debt may still not be statute barred as prescription only begins running when the default notice is served (another good reason to get a credit report run, as you will see when the debt went into default).

      The basic rule is in Scotland is prescription begins running after the debt goes into default (see here)and if the prescription is not interrupted, then after 5 years the debt becomes statute barred, so is no longer recoverable.

      However, if the 5 years is not up yet, they may want to obtain a court order to stop the debt becoming statute barred (if they haven’t already got one).

      If they get a decree and the debt is for more than £3k, ultimately you could be made bankrupt (even in your absence); and in Scotland if you cannot be located, you will not be discharged until they find you. So in theory, it can, be kept open for the rest of your life.

      Also you mention your house. I am assuming this is a bought home and you are the owner (or joint owner).

      Ultimately if there is equity in it, the Trustee in Bankruptcy could try sell it. He can get a court order to do so.

      Even if you are not made bankrupt, the creditor, if they get a Court Order, could place an inhibition on you, preventing your house being sold until the debt is paid.

      It is also worth mentioning if they get a Court Order, the judicial rate of interest is 8% per annum. So the debt will be increasing.

      Ultimately, it may be the debt is statute barred, but if they raise a court action and you are not there (or represented) in court, they will likely get decree.

      The point is, not engaging with this issue is not a solution, particularly if you have a house still here in the UK.

      I would get the credit check done first.

      See if they have a decree and when the debt went into default. Hopefully, they have not got a court order and you can argue the debt is statute barred.

  25. Luke

    Hello,

    I am seeking advice on behalf of my father who today received a letter from Glasgow Sheriff Court for the payment of £1811.09 in council tax arrears to be paid within fourteen days to Scott and Co., Glasgow. My father was off work sick for three months last year but has made an arrangement with Scott and Co. in which he pays £170 per month at the post office which covers current council tax plus a token payment of roughly £30 towards his arrears. He has the receipts for all of his payments which are paid at the end of each month, and he has been diligent in paying this, with a Scott and Co. payment card, as he was scared of something like this happening. I would just like to ask if there is any precedence for something like this and if the Sheriff Officer is allowed to do something like this even though my father has made an arrangement to pay off his arrears and has stuck to it, with receipts as proof. The letter he received mentions further action being taken if he does not pay the full amount in two weeks such as arrest, arrestment of earnings, and the attachment and auction of articles belonging to him, but surely this must be some kind of clerical error if he has been paying the money and has receipts. I am also worried as I am a student living with my dad and am concerned about how this will affect us. I am going to phone the Citizens’ Advice Bureau tomorrow but would greatly appreciate any advice you can offer us.

    1. Scottish Adviser Post author

      Hi Luke

      No problem.

      Can you check the letter your Father has received from the Court. Does it say Summary Warrant on it?

      1. Luke

        Hi,

        Thank you for your speedy reply, yes the letter says summary warrant on it.

        1. Scottish Adviser Post author

          Hi Luke

          That is reassuring. A Summary Warrant is issued by Local authorities when you fall into arrears with your Council Tax. They then add a 10% surcharge onto your bill. It is issued by the Sheriff Court and has the effect of a court order.
          The reason I say it is good is my fear is it was a Charge for Payment, as they need to serve that before they can arrest wages, attach cars or freeze bank accounts.
          I suspect this may be for this year 2019-20, as I think what may be happening is your Father is under the impression that he is paying his current Council Tax to Scott & Co, but they don’t collect current Council Tax until it goes to the Summary Warrant stage.
          This is a common problem. Sheriff Officers get people to prioritise their arrears to the expense of their current Council Tax and it becomes a vicious circle. Your Dad keeps paying everything to Scott & Co and every year he goes into arrears with his current Council Tax which goes to the Summary Warrant stage and gets 10% added. He never gets out of arrears.
          What you thought should be happening, is what should happen.
          He should pay his current Council Tax to the Council and a smaller amount (what he can afford) to Scott & Co.
          The best way for him to get this sorted and look at all his options is to go to his local money advice service (local authority or Citizen Advice Bureau).
          Hopefully he can do this and get it sorted out soon, but if he gets a Charge for Payment, he needs to get advice ASAP.
          I may be wrong, but £1,800 sounds like a full years Council Tax and as that would have started in April, it sounds like he hasn’t been making the payments to the Council Tax, but the Sheriff Officers. Very common problem and Sheriff Officers don’t explain this very well.

          1. Luke

            Hi,

            Thank you for your advice. I have to say I actually misread the letter and it is a charge of payment, though it said this in small print at the top. I am going to call the citizens’ advice bureau tomorrow on my dad’s behalf and see what they can do to help. I am just disgusted that the Sheriff’s Office would do something like this as this is the first letter my dad has received this year about council tax – he never received anything else from the city council etc asking why he wasn’t paying council tax, if Scott and Co. have just been funnelling the money into paying for arrears. I am disappointed at the lack of transparency and their behaviour as according to my dad, when he spoke to a Scott and Co supervisor, he was assured they would pay £150 of what he paid for his current council tax and the rest of the payment would go to arrears.

            1. Scottish Adviser Post author

              Hi Luke

              That is bad form by Scott & Co. especially as your Father has an agreement in place and is paying it.

              Legally, there is nothing to stop them serving a Charge for Payment, however, they should not do this whilst your Father has an agreement in place and is paying the agreed amount.

              Not least because the cost of the Charge will be added to his debt as a fee.

              Sheriff Officers never collect current Council Tax until it has went beyond the Summary Warrant stage.

              What should have happened is your Father should have set up a direct debit with the Council to pay his current Council Tax at the beginning of the financial year and then negotiated an amount towards the arrears separately with the Sheriff Officers. This should have been based on affordability and took into consideration that he was paying the Council this year’s tax.

              By just paying everything to the Sheriff Officers they would just have been crediting the arrears account and the Council will have not been receiving this year’s Council Tax. So it would be about this time have it would went to the Summary Warrant stage and been passed to Scott & Co for recovery. So now they have another years Council Tax to collect.

              Truly appalling, if this is what has happened, but very common, unfortunately.

              In terms of the Charge, speak with the Citizen Advice Bureau and try and get an appointment to speak to an adviser. Your Father will have to go, but you can accompany him if he wants.

              The Charge expires after 14 days, so they can take enforcement action after that.

              If you are worried about the enforcement action, speak to the Citizen Advice Bureau about whether your Father should register a Statutory Moratorium.

              This protects you Father from the Sheriff Officers for 6 weeks and is free to apply for. He can use it only once in any 12 month period, so he doesn’t want to use it unless he has to.

              Ideally if he can see the Citizen Advice Bureau adviser before the Charge for Payment expires that is best.

              If they think he should use the Statutory Moratorium, your best not using it until the day before the Charge expires to get the full benefit of the 6 weeks, as they cannot do anything until the Charge expires.

              1. Scottish Adviser Post author

                Hi Luke

                Can I just add, having re-read the original question, your Father cannot be arrested, (this is a wholly civil matter), and it is not likely to damage you or his credit score, as Council’s don’t share this information with Credit Reference Agencies.
                Also there is no to little chance of them using an Exceptional Attachment Order and trying to come into you home to seize goods.
                Also you say you are a Student.
                Do you live alone with your Father? Have you checked whether he is entitled to and receiving a Single Person Discount of 25%?
                This can be backdated, possibly to you becoming a student.

  26. Rachel

    Hi,
    I have had sheriff officers at my door for unpaid electricity from a previous property.

    It’s for £800, but we are on disability benefits and can barely make ends meet as it is ( hence the debt in the first place).

    Is there much they can do we don’t have any items that they could seize as we only own essential items.

    1. Scottish Adviser Post author

      Hi Rachel

      Thanks for coming on.

      I will deal with the issue of the Sheriff Officers first.

      They have a number of options.

      First, they can execute an Earnings Arrestment, but if neither you or your partner are working, that won’t succeed.

      They can Attach items outside your home, but the most likely thing they could go after is a car.

      However, if it is subject to a Hire Purchase agreement, or is a Mobility car, they won’t be able to take it, as you don’t own it.

      If you do own it, then providing you can show you have a reasonable requirement for it (your disability?), then you can argue it’s exempt from attachment.

      You should seek advice about this (see below).

      They can try and arrest your bank account, but again this will only succeed if the amount in your account is more than £529.90.

      They cannot take anything below that figure as it is protected.

      If they take anything over that and all your income is benefits, you can challenge them, but you should seek advice (also see my page on challenging bank arrestments).

      They cannot come into your home, as they would need an Exceptional Attachment Order. These are extremely rare.

      Also you can see here, there is very little they can take.

      What I would suggest is you seek advice from your Local Authority Money Advice Service or contact your local Citizen Advice Bureau.

      Lots of Energy Firms operate hardship funds and you may qualify for a grant that can help pay this debt off.

      Alternatively, they will help you negotiate with the Sheriff Officers and the Energy Firm.

      You can find details of you local Citizen Advice Bureau here, or your Local Council here.

      1. Rachel

        Hi

        Can they touch savings accounts in my children’s names as they have over that amount?

        That is their money from birthdays and Christmas, not ours.

        1. Scottish Adviser Post author

          Hi Rachel

          No they cannot arrest your kid’s accounts, providing the accounts are in your children’s name.

          It’s okay that you or your partner are the signatories on the accounts, as long as the accounts are in your children’s name.

          Do you know if they have a court order against you, called a decree in Scotland?

          It’s just sometimes Sheriff Officers also work as debt collectors and don’t have the same powers they have when they work as Sheriff Officers.
          If they are just working as debt collectors, all they can do is ask for the money nothing else.

          If they have a decree, they could try and arrest your bank account or serve a Charge for Payment (and after the Charge the other things I mentioned above).

          They can arrest your bank account if they have a decree, even if they have not served a Charge, but the other diligences I mentioned above require a Charge to be served first.

          Diligence is the legal term used to describe the legal enforcement procedures (as mentioned above), that only Sheriff Officers can use.

          1. Rachel

            Hi

            Yes they have a decree.

            The other thing I want to check, as I wouldn’t want it to effect this, I am treasurer for my local community council. I am on their business account.

            Will they be able to touch that as it’s not my money?

            1. Scottish Adviser Post author

              Hi Rachel

              No they won’t as you are just a signatory and the account is in the name of the Community Council.

              Thankfully, the debt is only £800, so they cannot sequestrate you (make you bankrupt), as the Debt would need to be over £3,000. That would affect that.

              Speak to your local advice agency, as you do need to address this debt, but clearly don’t have the means at present.

              There is a good possibility you may be able to access a hardship fund and get some help to paying it off.

  27. Maureen

    Hi

    I was at court seeking declarator for damage done to a fire surround that was proven in court.

    I was awarded £424.00 and he had twenty eight days to pay.

    He hasn’t done so, so it is now in the hands of Sheriff Officers, who intend to go to his house, but I think he has moved in the last two days or has moved some of his belongings out.

    Can you advise, as I have no clue where he has moved to or what happens next?

    1. Scottish Adviser Post author

      Hi Maureen

      Unfortunately, getting a Court Order is just the first part of recovering a debt and usually the hard part is getting the person to pay.

      I am guessing the Sheriff Officers were just going to go to his house to give him a copy of the decree or serve on him a Charge for Payment, which is a formal demand for payment.

      To enter his home an additional court order is required called an Exceptional Attachment Order, and can only be applied for after you have tried to arrest his bank account or arrest his wages.

      Even if you get an Exceptional Attachment Order, so much is protected in his home (see here), so it is not always a very effective way to recover a debt.

      You can try attaching his car if he owns one, build he can possibly avoid this if he has got it on finance, as it will belong to the finance firm.

      If you know where he works or banks, this may be useful to the Sheriff Officers, but other than that, there is not alot more you can do.

      Speak with the Sheriff Officers and ask their advice, as they do this every day for a living, but remember there can be costs in trying to recover a debt, as the Sheriff Officers have fees and if you are not successful, you could be throwing good money after bad.

  28. Paul

    Hi

    I’ve had sheriff Officers turn up at an address I moved out of a year ago.

    A neighbour sent me a text and told me. I don’t know what to do?

    1. Scottish Adviser Post author

      Hi Paul

      I am sorry.

      I always try and put myself in other people’s shoes and my first instinct would be to worry and not want to go near them.

      However, here is the problem with that from my experience. If this is for Council Tax, it is not going to go away, as local authorities can try and recover the debt for up to 20 years.

      Also, you have said you moved out? Do the Local Authority know that? If it was for Council Tax and they didn’t know, your bill may be higher than it should be. They will usually adjust the bill to reflect you moved out if you can provide them with proof that you moved out.

      It may be the best place to start is the Local Authority. Ask if they are aware you moved out and if not what Sheriff Officers they use? Also how much do you owe?

      If it’s not the Local Authority for Council Tax are you aware of any other debts? There are usually only a couple of different Sheriff Officer firms in your area. The one the Council use are probably the main one. If it is not them, maybe your neighbour caught their name?

      Ultimately, I think, my view is you are best getting to the bottom of this and dealing with it. It won’t go away, and may be a mistak. If the Local Authority weren’t aware you moved out, it may be an opportunity to clarify somethings and reduce your liability for Council Tax.

      Hope this helps and please fee free to come back on.

  29. David

    Hi.

    I have had a Sheriff Officer at my door who handed me a letter that says they can remove me from my own home, which I own.

    I was made bankrupt in 2010.

    Can they throw me out?

    1. Scottish Adviser Post author

      Hi David.

      I am sorry to hear this, especially at this time of year.

      Sheriff Officers are used to evict people from their homes when courts grant orders. This is normally for rent and mortgage arrears, but can also happen when someone has been made bankrupt.

      This is because when you are sequestrated in Scotland (made bankrupt), your home, where you own it vests with your Trustee in Bankruptcy.

      They have a duty to realise any equity in your home for the benefit of your creditors. In the worst case scenario, this can mean selling your home.

      The Trustee can do this even after you have had a discharge, as his interest in your home can continue beyond this point.

      I cannot advise you on your particular circumstances, however, it sounds like your Trustee may have obtained an order of ejection to remove you from your home and he wants to sell it.

      I would suggest you treat this seriously and get advice as quickly as possible from a law centre, if there is one close to you, or from a local solicitor.

      Alternatively call the Shelter Housing Helpline on 0808 800 4444

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