• Thu. Apr 18th, 2024

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Is there a difference between bailiffs and debt collectors in Scotland?

Many people use the terms bailiff and debt collector interchangeably, but they actually have quite distinct roles and legal powers.



In Scotland the term for bailiffs is ‘sheriff officer’. Sheriff Officers may work for a company or for themselves, but either way they are considered officers of the court.


Who sheriff officers work with




  • Individual creditors
  • Government departments
  • Solicitors
  • Local authority departments
  • Commercial companies

Typical types of work

The key point here is that all work Scottish bailiffs, such as Stirling Park Sheriffs Officers do is related to enforcing court orders. These include:


  • Pursuing unpaid CCJs
  • Evicting tenants who have not vacated a property by a date the court set.
  • Collecting unpaid VAT, council taxes and fines.
  • Enforcing an order to remove someone from a property, e.g. a child in danger or an abusive partner.

What sheriff officers cannot do

Although their role is quite diverse sheriff officers don’t have the freedom to do any old thing they want to. For example:


  • They are not allowed to do anything the court has not issued an order for.
  • They cannot get involved in civil legal cases.
  • They cannot enter your home unless the documents they have clearly allow it.
  • If they call when you are not at home they cannot break in, unless they are working on an eviction order.
  • They cannot seize possessions to the value of the unpaid debt if there is nobody home aged 16+ and capable of understanding the situation, (i.e. mentally capable and with at least an adequate level of English language understanding.)
  • They cannot attempt to enter and seize property before 8am or after 8pm

Debt collectors

Debt collectors are quite different from sheriff officers (bailiffs), despite both working in the debt recovery business. They are generally employed to recover debts which have not been to court, either via payment or in goods to the same value. Debt collectors have few legal powers, which is something many people simply don’t realise. Consequently, the mention of them may be used as a form of emotional intimidation to secure the recovery of debt which would otherwise be most likely lost.


Who they work with

They may be self employed, but most work for a private specialist debt recovery companies, fulfilling contracts passed on from a company’s admin/billing team.


Typical types of work they take on

The usual type of work done is collecting unpaid debt on credit cards, payday loans or private parking fines.


What debt collectors cannot do:

  • Debt collectors have absolutely no right of automatic entry into your home or place of work unless they are invited in by you.
  • They cannot force entry into a property either, whether you are home or not.
  • Even if invited in they must leave if you ask them to.
  • Debt collectors cannot the items from your property in lieu of the debt owed should you be unwilling or unable to settle it.

Knowing the difference matters if they come to your door!

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