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The Sheriffs Office Debt Collection – Do You Have to Pay?

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Scott Nelson

Managing Director

MoneyNerd’s founder, Scott Nelson, has a decade of financial industry experience, including 6 years in FCA regulated loan and credit card companies. Troubled by a lack of conscience in the industry, he founded MoneyNerd to give genuine advice to those in debt and struggling financially.

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Janine Marsh

Financial Expert

Janine Marsh is an award-winning presenter and a valuable member of the MoneyNerd team. With a wealth of experience as a financial expert, she's been featured on BBC Radio 4, BBC Local Radio, and BBC Five Live, and is a regular on Co-op Radio.

Learn more about Janine
· Jan 13th, 2024
Could you legally write off some debt? Answer below to get started.

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This isn’t a full fact find, MoneyNerd doesn’t give advice. We work with The Debt Advice Service who provide information about your options.

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The Sheriffs Office Debt Collection

For free & impartial money advice you can visit MoneyHelper. We work with The Debt Advice Service who provide information about your options. This isn’t a full fact-find, some debt solutions may not be suitable in all circumstances, ongoing fees might apply & your credit rating may be affected.

Have you received a letter from The Sheriffs Office about debt? You might be thinking, where did this debt come from? Should I pay it? Is this real?

Don’t worry; you’re not alone. Each month, over 170,000 people visit our website for guidance on debt issues.

In this article, we’ll explain:

  •  Who The Sheriffs Office Debt Collection is and why they might be contacting you.
  •  What you can do if you get a letter from them.
  •  How to check if the debt is yours.
  •  How to handle the debt, even if you can’t pay right now.
  •  What happens if you don’t pay the debt.

We understand how scary it can be to get a letter about debt; some of our team members have been in the same position. With our expertise, we’ll help you understand your options and find the best way forward.

Could you legally write off some debt?

There are several debt solutions in the UK, choosing the right one for you could write off some of your unaffordable debt, but the wrong one may be expensive and drawn out.

Answer below to get started.

How much debt do you have?

This isn’t a full fact find. MoneyNerd doesn’t give advice. We work with The Debt Advice Service who provide information about your options.

I’ve received a letter from The Sheriffs Office, what should I do?

So, we’ve established who The Sheriffs Office is and why they might be contacting you. But how to respond to a debt collection letter from Sheriffs Office? Below, we’ve outlined some of the actions you should take:

Don’t dismiss it

One question that’s often asked when it comes to debt collection letters is whether or not you should ignore them. Of course, it’s incredibly tempting to just throw them away. The hope is that they’ll forget all about it and leave you alone. Sadly, this is almost never the case. A letter from a company such as The Sheriff Office is often bad news, and it needs addressing.

If you decide that you’re going to ignore their correspondence, things will escalate pretty fast. For example, if they’re collecting for a CCJ, you only have 14 days to pay. After that, they can start taking further actions against you. It’s always best to face the problems and deal with it in a timely manner.

Get your affairs in order

The first thing you should do is gather as much information about the case as you can. You’ve probably already received mail from the original creditor by the time The Sheriffs Office gets involved, so make sure to collect that.

You should also look for documents relating to the initial loan amount, credit agreement, or other paperwork about your debt. Bank statements can also often help, especially if you think you’ve already made payments to the creditor.

Once you’ve got a clear picture of whether or not you think you owe the debt, you can start taking your next steps by getting in touch with either The Sheriffs Office or the original creditor.

Prove the debt

When it comes to dealing with debt, one of the first things you should do is to send a ‘prove the debt’ letter to the creditor. Essentially, this letter highlights some of the FCA regulations that say the creditor has to provide detailed proof and a breakdown of what you owe. If they can’t prove it, they can’t legally enforce it.

Follow my ‘prove it’ guide with letter templates and get them to prove that you owe the money.

You can find such a letter template online, and simply need to fill in your details where relevant. Be wary of signing the letter, however. There is a chance they’ll try and use this signature against you further down the line.

Depending on what stage of the debt collection process you’re at, they may have already sent you this information. Either way, it’s important that you get an idea of what they claim you owe.

If they can’t provide you with any proof that you are liable for the debt, you are under no obligation to pay it. However, if they do give you proof, you will have to engage with them and organise some repayment.

Statute-barred debts

If it has been 6 years – or 5 years in Scotland – since you last paid towards your unsecured debts and you have not written to your creditor about your debt during this time, it is statute-barred.

This means that the debt is not enforceable. It still technically exists, and you still technically owe the money, but there is no legal way for you to be forced to pay or for the debt to be enforced.

Keep in mind that not all debts become statute-barred!

Any HMRC debts, for example, will stay enforceable for decades. Any debt that had a County Court Judgement (CCJ) attached to it during the 5 or 6-year window it will be enforceable for the duration of the CCJ. 

If your debt is statute-barred, you can use my free letter template to write to Sheriffs Office and explain the situation.

Understanding statute-barred debts in the UK can be tricky, so if you are unsure about the status of your debt, you can contact a debt charity for some advice. Their advisors will be able to look at the debt in question, determine its status, and advise you on your next steps.

I have linked some charities that offer advisory services for debt collection in the UK at the bottom of this page.

Should I pay Sheriffs Office?

This question is a difficult one to answer, as there are so many factors that influence it. For example, if you feel you do owe the debt and the company has proven it exists, you may want to think about paying the creditor or Sheriffs Office, depending on the stage of the process.

However, if you feel that the debt isn’t yours or there are mistakes with it, you shouldn’t pay right away. You’ll first want to contest the amount owed and give your reasons. This process can take a while, but it means you might not have to pay.

If you’re short on funds and can’t afford to pay, you shouldn’t go into more debt to pay them. Instead, speak with the creditors or Sheriffs Office debt collection department to try and arrange a payment.

If you are in this situation, I recommend getting some advice. There are several debt charities in the UK that offer advisory services for free:

How a debt solution could help

Some debt solutions can:

  1. Stop nasty calls from creditors
  2. Freeze interest and charges
  3. Reduce your monthly payments

A few debt solutions can even result in writing off some of your debt.

Here’s an example:


Situation

Monthly income £2,504
Monthly expenses £2,345
Total debt £32,049

Monthly debt repayments

Before £587
After £158

£429 reduction in monthly payments

If you want to learn what debt solutions are available to you, click the button below to get started.

Get Started

What is a CCJ?

A County Court Judgement (CCJ) is an order from a judge that states you have to pay the debt. This means that the court agrees with your creditor, and you owe the money.

Your judgement will include the following:

  • How much you owe
  • How you should pay
  • Who you should pay
  • Your deadline to pay.

Unless you pay within one month of the CCJ being issued, it will be recorded in the Register of Judgements, Orders and Fines for 6 years. If you pay off your debt within these 6 years, you can request that your judgement is marked as ‘satisfied’ on the register.

To do this, write to the court with proof that you have paid off the debt in full.

If you manage to pay within one month of the CCJ being issued, the judgement will not be recorded in the register. You will need to write to the court explaining that you have paid and provide proof.

CCJs are also visible on your credit file for 6 years. This will make it almost impossible for you to get credit during this time.

This is because companies use your credit file to see if you are a ‘high-risk’ customer – someone who might have difficulty paying their bills on time. If you have a CCJ, you have had such trouble paying back your debt that someone had to go to court about it.

Understandably, companies are going to be reluctant to give you credit!

After 6 years, it is no longer visible on your credit report and you should find it easier to get credit again.

Debt management is the key to avoiding legal action! The legal consequences of non-payment can be easily be avoided by keeping on top of your debts as much as possible.

What if they visit my house?

If a representative from The Sheriffs Office visits your home in the capacity of an enforcement agent, there are a few steps you should take:

  • Confirm their identity and purpose. You don’t have to open the door for this, you can get them to pass their ID and paperwork through a window or letterbox to inspect it.
  • Don’t let them in. In the majority of circumstances, they can’t force their way into your house. You can tell them that you’ll contact their head office to arrange payment and ask them to leave.
  • Secure your property. If they have a legal order allowing them to reclaim property to cover the debt, they can try to take your possessions from outside of your house. Make sure to secure your vehicle or other valuables away from your home.

As we’ll see, there are certain powers they have when it comes to reclaiming debt, so it’s worth knowing these ahead of a scheduled visit.

» TAKE ACTION NOW: Fill out the short debt form

It’s essential that you know your rights when it comes to dealing with an enforcement agent. They have a bad reputation, and restrictions have tightened over recent years as a result. Here’s what you need to know:

What can they do?

Bailiffs (enforcement agents) like The Sheriffs Office have certain legal powers when it comes to recovering money. Perhaps the most significant, and where they differ from debt collectors, is that they can visit your home and take your belongings up to the value of your debt. They need what’s known as a ‘writ of control’ to do so.

They can take things like cash and ‘luxury’ items. On this list are things such as TVs, jewellery, antiques and games consoles. They can also take your car or other vehicle, even if it’s locked in a garage you own. Essential items that you need to survive can’t be taken.

If you have debts such as unpaid income tax, stamp duty, or outstanding criminal fines, The Sheriffs Office might have been given the power to force entry to your premises. They can’t physically break your door down, but they can hire a locksmith to let them in.

It’s worth noting that if you’re a vulnerable person, or there are only people under the age of 16 home, they can’t enter. Similarly, they can only go through the door, and only after 6am and before 9pm.

Keep in mind that they must have a write of control to take your possessions.

What are my rights?

Although a visit from an enforcement agent sounds scary, there are plenty of protections in place to make sure the situation doesn’t get out of hand. You have a range of rights when dealing with companies like The Sheriffs Office:

  • They can’t harass you or barge past you to enter your home.
  • They can’t threaten you
  • They can’t lie to you and pretend they have legal powers they don’t have

It’s important to know where you stand when it comes to bailiffs. In all but the most extreme circumstances, you don’t have to let them into your home.

What if I refuse to pay?

If you refuse to pay a bailiff and don’t let them enter your home, they will keep trying to recover the money you owe. This could include asking the courts for permission to force entry. They can also reclaim items from outside of your house, such as your car.

Depending on the debt, you may have to appear in court if you refuse to pay. In the most extreme cases (such as refusing to pay Council Tax) you could even face time in prison if you continually refuse to pay.

If you can’t pay, you may be able to benefit from a debt solution. I recommend financial advisor consultation if you are considering a debt solution.

Getting help dealing with The Sheriffs Office

So, it’s clearly very serious if you receive a letter from The Sheriffs Office or a similar High Court Enforcement Officer. Thankfully, there are several options when it comes to getting help with your situation:

What are my debt options?

If you’re struggling with debt, the organisations mentioned above can help give you advice. There are also several financial options you might want to consider:

Debt Management Plan (DMP)

A DMP is an informal debt solution that lets you pay off your debts via a single monthly payment.

Because it is informal, it is not legally binding so you are not tied into a DMP for a minimum number of payments.

Individual Voluntary Arrangement (IVA)

An IVA is a formal agreement between you and your creditors. You agree to pay a monthly sum that is distributed amongst your debts, and your creditors agree not to contact you during your IVA.

IVAs typically last for 5 or 6 years, and any outstanding debt is wiped off when it ends.

Keep in mind that IVAs are not suitable for everyone. You need to owe several thousand pounds to more than one creditor to be eligible. You also need to demonstrate that you have some disposable income every month.

Trust Deed

IVAs are not available in Scotland. Instead, you will need to opt for a Trust Deed.

Trust Deeds work in the same way as an IVA – you pay an agreed sum each month that is shared amongst your creditors, they can’t contact you, and any leftover debt at the end of your Trust Deed term is written off.

Debt Relief Order (DRO)

A DRO is a good option for those facing financial hardship with no assets and little income.

For 12 months, you make no payments, but your creditors freeze your interest and don’t contact you.

If your finances haven’t improved during this year, you may be able to write off your unsecured debts.

Bankruptcy

If you have debts but no realistic possibility of ever paying them off, you may need to declare bankruptcy.

Bankruptcy has an unfair stigma attached to it as it may be your only way of getting a financial fresh start. That said, it is a serious financial situation that should not be taken lightly.

Sequestration

Sequestration is the Scottish version of bankruptcy.If you have little income and no valuable assets, you may be able to apply for a minimal asset process bankruptcy (MAP). A MAP is a quicker, cheaper, and more straightforward version of sequestration, so worth considering.

Can I complain?

Yes, the High Court Enforcement Officers’ Association oversees the activity of companies such as The Sheriffs Office. You can email your complaint to [email protected]. If they don’t resolve the matter, you can complain to an ombudsman. If you owe a debt to your local government or magistrate’s court, this will be the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman.

The complaints procedure for these organisations will differ, so you will need to contact an organisation like Citizen’s Advice for some guidance.

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Can unpaid debt affect my credit score?

Yes, unpaid debts can affect your credit score.

Once you have missed a few payments or defaulted on an account with your original creditor – which negatively impacts your credit score, too – and your debt is sold to collectors, it will appear as a second collection account on your credit file and the original entry may be marked as ‘sold’ which doesn’t look good!

 If they don’t add a second entry to your credit file, the entry for your original debt can be changed to add the debt collection company’s information. 

These collection accounts will negatively impact your credit. They are visible for 6 years and will impact your ability to get credit or use some credit products during this time.

This is because companies use your credit file to see if you are a ‘high-risk’ customer – someone who might have difficulty paying their bills on time. If you have a CCJ, you have had such trouble paying back your debt that someone had to go to court about it.

Understandably, companies are going to be reluctant to give you credit!

After 6 years, it is no longer visible on your credit report and you should find it easier to get credit again.

You also need to be aware that any debt solutions that you use will also be visible on your credit file for 6 years, and your credit score may be affected. However, once these 6 years are over, your debt solution will no longer be visible, and you may find it easier to get credit again.

If you end up in a situation where you have a CCJ against you and don’t stick to it, you could end up with Sheriffs Office contacting you.

Other Debt Collectors 

You should check for more outstanding debts that you may have with other companies or debt collectors. Here are four steps you could take: 

  1. Check your credit report for other defaults 
  2. Check your email and post for reminders or overdue notices
  3. Check the court records for CCJs against you
  4. Check your bank statements for the names of other debt collectors 

There are hundreds of debt collectors in the UK and each works with different companies to collect debts.

For example, Cabot Financial have been known to collect for the DVLA while Lowell Financial and PRA Group buy debts from various credit card companies like Barclaycard.

If you see a name on your bank statement that you don’t recognise then you can search MoneyNerd to see if they’re a debt collector. 

The Sheriffs Office Contact Information

Main Address: SHCE Ltd t/a The Sheriffs Office, Vaughan Thomas House, 141 Walter Road, Swansea, SA1 5RW
Registered office: SHCE Ltd. 22 St. Andrews Crescent, Cardiff CF10 3DD
Registered in England & Wales Company No:  06422666
Data protection registration: Z1380140
Phone: 0333 001 5100
Contact us on: Clients [email protected]
Debtors [email protected]
Website: https://www.thesheriffsoffice.com/
Could you legally write off some debt?

Answer below to get started.

How much debt do you have?

This isn’t a full fact find, MoneyNerd doesn’t give advice. We work with The Debt Advice Service who provide information about your options.

References

CONC 7.3 Treatment of customers in default or arrears (including repossessions): lenders, owners and debt collectors

CONC 7.9 Contact with customers

The authors
Scott Nelson Profile Picture
Author
MoneyNerd’s founder, Scott Nelson, has a decade of financial industry experience, including 6 years in FCA regulated loan and credit card companies. Troubled by a lack of conscience in the industry, he founded MoneyNerd to give genuine advice to those in debt and struggling financially.
Janine Marsh Profile Picture
Debt Expert
Janine Marsh is an award-winning presenter and a valuable member of the MoneyNerd team. With a wealth of experience as a financial expert, she's been featured on BBC Radio 4, BBC Local Radio, and BBC Five Live, and is a regular on Co-op Radio.
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