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Taking things you own (exceptional attachment)

If you owe a debt, the court can decide things you own can be sold to pay your debts.

When this happens, the court can give sheriff officers 'exceptional attachment'. This means they’re allowed enter your home or work and take some things you own.

What they can take

They can only take non-essential items. These include:

  • art
  • designer clothes
  • games consoles and some other technology
  • vehicles (that you do not need for work)

What they cannot take

Sheriff officers cannot take things that are essential for everyday life. For example:

  • beds
  • clothes (you reasonably need)
  • computers
  • cookers
  • food
  • fridges
  • heaters
  • sofas

The law

You can read more about what sheriff officers can and cannot take in the Debt Arrangement and Attachment (Scotland) Act 2002.

Other people's things

A sheriff officer can only take and sell things that belong to you. If they want to take something that belongs to someone else, you need to prove it's not yours.

If you own something jointly with someone else, they can still take and sell it. The other person can claim the value of their share before or after it's sold.

Notice they need to give you

Sheriff officers cannot just turn up at your home or work. They must tell you in advance they're coming with ‘exceptional attachment’ to take the things you own.

They usually must give you 4 'calendar' days' notice in writing of when they're coming.

If you're not in

Although sheriff officers can force entry into your home or work, they cannot take anything if nobody's in.

They also cannot enter your home or take anything if there's someone in but they:

  • are under 16 years old
  • cannot speak or understand English
  • do not understand the situation because of physical or mental disability

Sheriff officers and the police

A sheriff officer may bring the police with them when they come to your home or work.

The police cannot help the sheriff officer carry out their order. But they can arrest you if you break the law. For example, if you cause a breach of the peace.

Contacting the company or person you owe money to

You may be able to stop any further action by either:

  • contacting the company or person you owe money and coming to an arrangement
  • by making a payment directly to the sheriff officer towards the debt you owe

You have the right to do this while the sheriff officer is there.

Get free debt advice

The Scottish Government helps to fund organisations to give free debt advice.

You can get advice by phone, online or face to face.

Check where you can get free debt advice.

Get legal advice

Check where you can get help with a legal problem.

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