Enforcing writs for levy of property or property seizure orders
The Office of the Sheriff can seize and sell a person's property after:
- the court has issued a writ for levy of property or
- the State Debt Recovery Office has issued a property seizure order because the individual failed to pay a fine.
This is often the final measure after the debtor has had a chance to pay the court judgment or fine. Sheriff's officers visit the address of the person that owes the money or an unpaid fine to enforce the writ or order.
Property that can be taken and sold
The person is notified that his or her property will be taken and sold if the fine or amount owing, plus any additional costs, is not paid. If the amount or fine is paid, the matter is finalised and the sheriff takes no further action.
If the amount or fine is not paid, the sheriff will make a list or inventory of the property that will be taken and sold.
This can include personal assets such as furniture or jewellery, or if the amount owing is more than $10,000, can include houses and land. Cars, boats and appliances are among other goods that can be seized.
The sheriff is not entitled to seize certain items, including personal clothing, bedroom or kitchen furniture and tools of trade that do not exceed $2,000.
Once the list is made, the sheriff can either remove or seize the items from the premises immediately (known as closed possession) or can appoint a person as the custodian of those items (walking possession).
The custodian is responsible for making sure that the items on the list are not removed from the location, interfered with or disposed of. If any items are removed, sold, damaged or destroyed, the custodian can be charged with an offence.
If you are the creditor (the person who is owed the money) more information on what happens with a sheriff's seizure is available on the fact sheet 'Notice to creditors: service and enforcement of process'.
What if the property belongs to someone else?
If any property listed on the inventory belongs to someone else, the legal owner can apply for its return by filling in a Notice to Sheriff of Disputed Property form (go to Civil forms and download Form 75). The legal owner or claimant will need to provide proof of ownership, such as receipts or proof of purchase, to the sheriff's office that made the seizure.
The sheriff will then ask the creditor if they agree to the claimant's property being released.
If the creditor does not agree, the Office of the Sheriff may have to apply to a court to consider the ownership of the property. The creditor, the claimant and the sheriff's officer may need to attend court.
Can you make a payment arrangement with the sheriff?
No. The Office of the Sheriff cannot take instructions from people who owe money or their representative.
If you are the person who owes the money, the property seizure order directs the sheriff to take and sell your property. To try to make a payment arrangement, you must speak to the creditor or make an application to the court office.
Should you succeed in making an arrangement to pay the money back directly to the creditor, then it is up to the creditor to inform the Office of the Sheriff about this.