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What can a sheriff officer do?

A sheriff officer can evict a tenant provided that the landlord has a possession order. sheriff officers cannot evict tenants at night (unless they have been granted special permission or are securing someone's safety), they can however do it anytime during the day.

Where required, sheriff officers are entitled to use necessary and reasonable force (eg provided they have the correct warrant they can force a door or break a lock or a window) to enter the property and remove:

  • the tenant(s)

  • the tenants’ possessions

  • anyone else living in the property

Once the tenant has been removed from the property, the sheriff officer will change the locks and secure the property for the landlord. The landlord or the landlord’s representative must be present when the tenant is evicted, so that the sheriff officer can give them possession.

For more information, read Sheriffs.


The landlord should inform the tenant of the eviction date by sending them a letter (called a ‘Form of Charge for Removing’). This letter must be served on the tenant by the sheriff officer and will generally give the tenant 14 days to vacate the property.

If the tenant fails to leave the property within this time period, the sheriff officer will inform the tenant of when they will arrive to evict them. Generally, the sheriff officer will give the tenant 48 hours’ notice.

How to delay an eviction

A tenant may be able to delay a sheriff officer where neither the tenant nor a representative of the tenant was present at court when a Sheriff agreed to the eviction.

Tenants seeking to delay an eviction should Ask a Lawyer for advice.

Complaining about the sheriff officer

A tenant can complain about the sheriff officer where they believe that the sheriff officer acted unreasonably or outside of their powers. Examples of such behaviour include:

  • harassing the tenant or other people in the property

  • threatening arrest or imprisonment

  • using offensive language

  • causing damage to the tenant’s belongings

  • carrying out the eviction when only children are at home

  • evicting vulnerable people without suitable arrangements having been made

Such a complaint in writing should be sent to the Sheriff Principal. Contact details can be found by calling the local Sheriff Court. The tenant can also make a complaint to the Society of Messengers-At-Arms and Sheriff Officers.

Tenants seeking to complain about a sheriff officer should Ask a Lawyer for advice.

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