Tenants can only be evicted if their landlord gets an eviction order from the court. Once they have this, your landlord still doesn't have the right to make you leave, but they can get sheriff officers to evict you.
What can the sheriff officers do?
Sheriff officers can evict you if your landlord has a possession order from the court and the date on it has passed. Your landlord can only ask the sheriff officers to come if you haven't left after this date.
There are no restrictions as to what time of day the sheriff officers can carry out the eviction but they cannot come at night. They must act reasonably. They are entitled to use necessary, reasonable force to enter the home and remove:
- anyone else living in the accommodation
- your possessions.
How will I know when the sheriff officers are coming?
Your landlord should send you a letter telling you when the eviction date is. This is called a 'Form of Charge for Removing' and must be served on you by a sheriff officer. This letter will normally give you 14 days to leave the property.
If you don't leave the property by the eviction date, the sheriff officers will write to you to inform you of the date and time they will arrive. They should give you at least a forty eight hours' notice.
What should I do when I get a letter from the sheriff officers?
If you are unable to move out of your home, get advice as soon as you receive a notice of eviction. An adviser can tell you:
- whether you might be able to stop or delay the eviction
- what your other housing options are.
Can I stop or delay the sheriff officers?
You may be able to stop or delay your eviction by the sheriff officers if you were not in court and no one else was there on your behalf when the sheriff agreed to your eviction. You will need to act immediately and it would be best if you could get advice beforehand. Find out more about challenging the court's decision here.
What happens when the sheriff officers arrive?
The sheriff officers will remove you from the property. After you have left, or been removed, the sheriff officers will change the locks and secure the property, so you can't get back in. If you are not there when the eviction takes place, the sheriff officers will change the locks and secure the property. Your landlord or your landlord's representative must be present at the eviction so that the sheriff officers can give them possession. When this has been done your landlord can change the locks to prevent you re-entering the accommodation.
The sheriff officers can ask the police to be present if they think you might try to stop them from getting in. The police are not allowed to help the sheriff officers with the eviction but are there in case there is any disturbance. The police can arrest anyone who is violent.
What about my belongings?
The sheriff officers will not usually remove any of your furniture or belongings - it's up to you to do this. Once you've been removed from the property and your landlord has taken possession, it's up to them to decide what to do with your belongings. If you can't remove your things before you have to leave, you'll need to arrange a time with your landlord to pick them up later.
The landlord has no duty to look after the property on your behalf. If there is a break in at the house after the eviction and your property is stolen, you cannot seek compensation from the landlord.
If you do not collect the property, the landlord may try to contact you to make arrangements for you to pick it up. However, if you do not contact them, or they do not know your whereabouts, they may just dispose of your property, because they have to clear the house before they let it to someone else. To avoid hassle, it's best to take your things with you when you leave, or arrange to remove it as quickly as you can.
How can I complain about the sheriff officers?
If you believe the sheriff officers have acted unreasonably or beyond their powers, you may be able to complain. Examples include:
- harassing you or other people in the property
- threatening arrest or imprisonment
- using offensive language
- causing damage to your belongings
- carrying out the eviction when only children are at home
- evicting vulnerable people without suitable arrangements having been made.
You can send your complaint in writing to the Sheriff Principal - call your local sheriff court for contact details.You could also make a complaint to the Society of Messengers-At-Arms and Sheriff Officers.
You will probably need help from a solicitor or specialist adviser. Get advice if you want to complain about sheriff officers - you can use the Advice Services Directory to find agencies in your area.