Sheriff Officer Scotland - Bailiffs in Scotland

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What Is A Sheriff?

A sheriff is an individual who has been given special powers by the courts to collect unpaid debts. In the rest of the UK, they are known as bailiffs, however a Scottish sheriff has fewer powers.

Sheriffs are employed to carry out the work of both local authorities, government organisations and private firms such as solicitors.

The main function of a sheriff is to enforce a court order. These could include:

  • Evicting you
  • Collecting a debt
  • Making a change to property following a dispute.
  • Issuing legal papers


It is important to realise that sheriffs are not the same as the police and they do not hold the same powers. Sheriffs only have the power to enforce court orders, but this can include detaining individuals or removing them from properties, if the court order requires it.

Scotland’s Sheriff Officers are:

Scottish Trust Deed
Will A Sheriff Enter My Home?

Sheriff Officers can potentially enter into your home, but they would require a court order that grants them the power to do so.

If you are the subject of a home visit from a sheriff, then it is essential that you ask to see the court order documentation that they are enforcing. Unfortunately these documents are often very complicated and as such, it can be difficult to determine whether or not the sheriff has the authority to enter your home or not.

In these circumstances, you should look for a phrase like grants warrant for all lawful execution.

If there is any doubt, then call the sheriff officer firm that has sent its officers to your home for clarification.

If a sheriff officers has been granted the correct authority to enter your home, and you refuse them entry, then they are able to use reasonable force to gain entry to your home. This can include forcing a door open or breaking a window or lock. You could also be charged with a breach of the peace order for obstructing an officer of the court.

If a lock or window is broken and needs replacing, then the cost of this will be covered by the company who is pursuing the court order e.g. the creditor.

Will A Sheriff Enter My Home If I’m Not There?

If a sheriff officer arrives at your home when you are not there, then they can still enter your home using force. This action would only be appropriate if the sheriffs were:

  • Evicting you
  • Making sure work has been carried out, like chages to the property
  • Recovering property (this is not the same as seizing property in order to cover a debt).

If sheriff are at your property to seize goods in order to sell them to cover a debt, then this cannot be done without someone being present.

The individual present would have to be:

  • Over 16 years of age
  • An English Speaker
  • Is mentally capable of understanding what is happening.
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Scottish Trust Deed

How Much Notice Will A Sheriff Give Me Before Coming To My Home Home?

A Sheriff Officer should normally write to you to inform you that they are coming to your home, however there are some exceptions to this.

If you are being evicted, then you should be given 14 days from the date of the court decree to leave the property. If you don’t then you should be given a minimum of 48 hours after this to leave before you will be forcibly evicted by a sheriff officer.

If you are being pursued for debt, then the sheriffs can only visit between 8am and 8pm. They cannot come on a a Sunday or on a public holiday.

If the sheriffs have been ordered to check if someone is in danger or if a child needs to be removed from a home setting, then no notice needs to be given. The visit could also take place at any time during the night and would normally include the police being present.

What Sort Of Possessions Will Sheriff Take?

Sheriffs can take items that are considered luxury or non-essential for example:

  • Televisions
  • Games Consoles/Computer equipment
  • Jewellery
  • Vehicles that you own and are on your property


They cannot take items that are considered essential for living such as:

  • Clothing
  • Cooking equipment or items
  • Work tools with a value of under £1350
  • Items belonging to other people (you may be required to prove this)


During their first visit, they will usually compile a list of items they wish to seize, without actually taking them.

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Scottish Trust Deed

What Can I Expect to Happen If I am Visited by Sheriffs?

When sheriffs arrive at your door, they should identify themselves. If they don’t then you should always demand that they do so. All sheriffs should carry an idenfication booklet, which is often red in colour. This booklet should contain photo ID and a crest of the Scottish Courts and Tribunal Service.

It is worth noting that, if you are being served with legal papers, then there should also be a witness who comes along with the Sheriff. Their ID will be different to that of the Sheriff’s.

If you are concerned about the idenfication of the Sheriffs, then you can ask them for the phone number of the firm they represent, or Google it to acquire it yourself. Contact the office to confirm the Sheriffs are who they say they are.

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What is the role of a sheriff officer in Scotland regarding debt collection?

A sheriff officer in Scotland is an official responsible for enforcing court orders related to debt recovery. They have the authority to serve warrants and execute attachments, earnings arrestments, and bank account arrestments to recover money owed by individuals or businesses as ordered by the court.

How does a sheriff officer get involved in the sequestration process?

A sheriff officer becomes involved in sequestration (the Scottish legal term for bankruptcy) when appointed by creditors or the Accountant in Bankruptcy. Their role is to serve statutory notices, carry out asset valuation and realisation, and distribute funds among creditors according to legal priorities set out by the sequestration order.

Can a sheriff officer enforce a warrant without prior notice?

Generally, a sheriff officer must provide advance notice before enforcing a warrant, such as serving a charge for payment (a formal demand for debt repayment). However, there may be exceptions depending on the specific circumstances of the case and urgency of the matter.

What powers do sheriff officers have when executing a money warrant?

When executing a money warrant, sheriff officers have several powers including entering property; attaching (seizing) goods; arresting wages; freezing bank accounts; and selling seized goods at auction to satisfy debts. They must follow strict rules regarding what can be seized and how assets are handled.

What rights do individuals have if faced with action from a sheriff officer?

Individuals have several rights when facing action from a sheriff officer. They can request proof of identity and official documentation authorizing their actions. Debtors can negotiate payment plans before seizure occurs, seek advice from debt counselors or solicitors, lodge complaints if they believe an officer has acted improperly, and attend court hearings related to enforcement actions.