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Dealing with Debt: Finding your feet: Advice for you if you are in debt

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6d Exceptional attachment orders

An exceptional attachment order ( EAO) is a court order that allows the attachment of goods inside the home in exceptional circumstances. The sheriff will only grant an EAO if satisfied that the creditor has taken some steps to consider other options for recovering the debt.

When can an EAO be used?

Before this can happen the person to whom you owe money will normally have taken you to court. You will be served with a charge for payment in most cases. After you receive the charge, and unless you pay what you owe within 14 days, your creditor can take action to get the money that you owe them. So, after 14 days they can then apply to court for an EAO.

They then have to:

  • show the sheriff that they have sent you this booklet
  • prove to the sheriff that they tried to come to an agreement with you about how you can pay your debt
  • show that they have a court decree or its equivalent that already proves the amount you owe them.

An EAO will be granted by the sheriff for goods in the home only when reasonable steps have taken place to find out more about your position to repay. The creditor must have made a reasonable attempt to get their money back using an earnings and a bank arrestment. You must have been given this booklet and a creditor must have tried to find out from you about your financial position and to negotiate repayment.

The creditor must satisfy the sheriff that:

  • the creditor has made a reasonable attempt to negotiate settlement of the debt
  • certain other types of diligence have been considered first
  • there is reason to think that selling certain of your goods would be worthwhile in terms of reducing the amount of debt due.

The sheriff has to be satisfied, taking all the known facts into account, that you have non-essential assets in your home that could reasonably be sold to recover a significant part of the debt.

Where any of the above conditions are not satisfied, the order may not be granted. Even if the creditor can show all these things the sheriff may still refuse an EAO.

You will have the opportunity to make a voluntary declaration to the court to explain your circumstances. The sheriff can ask for a money adviser to visit you in your home. The purpose of this visit would be to give you money advice.

You may be suitable for the debt arrangement scheme, or the money adviser may be able to tell you about some other way to negotiate repayment or the writing off of the debt.

If the sheriff does grant an EAO, your creditor can make arrangements to auction items of your property to pay off your debt to them. An officer of court will come to your home to value and immediately remove the items which are to be auctioned.

An EAO only affects 'non-essential' goods. By law, many items cannot be removed from your home under an EAO. These include things like bedding, chairs, sofas, tables, laundry and kitchen equipment, telephones, televisions, computers and radios.

Remember that you can get help and advice about whether any item of property can be sold or redeemed under an EAO - Go here for free helpline numbers.