Common Myths and Facts about Sheriffs

Summary
This brochure unpacks some of the common myths about sheriffs and explains exactly who the sheriff is and what powers they have.

Sheriffs are the bearers of bad news who should be avoided at all costs.

Sheriffs are unbiased officials of the court responsible for the serving of all court documents including summonses, notices, warrants, orders and execution of judgements and orders. A sheriff is the public face of the civil justice system.


Sheriffs can break your door down, damage your property and abuse you.

The South African Board for Sheriffs monitors the service provided by sheriffs and their deputies ensuring it is executed in a humane manner in terms of the Code of Conduct for Sheriffs. If anyone feels a sheriff has not acted fairly, they are encouraged to report the incident to the CEO of the Board.


Once a sheriff arrives at your door there is nothing you can do to fix the situation.

On arrival, sheriffs will explain the contents of the document they are serving and what you need to do next. They are there to help explain the legal process but cannot give you legal advice.


There is no way of knowing if the person at your door is a genuine sheriff or a debt collector.

Every sheriff and deputy sheriff must be able to produce a valid identification card issued by the South Africa Board for Sheriffs.


Sheriffs only represent big business. They are not there for the ordinary man in the street.

It is the duty of sheriffs to serve all people, rich and poor, with empathy and dignity at all times.


Sheriffs are self-appointed and do as they please.

Sheriffs are appointed by the Minister for Justice and Constitutional Development and act under rules of, and orders from, the Court.


Sheriffs should be chased away with stones and any documents served can be ignored or thrown away.

If you interfere with a sheriff performing their duty or do not follow instructions given to you by the sheriff, you may be liable for prosecution.


The sheriff can do nothing, if you refuse to cooperate.

In terms of the law, a sheriff can enter your premises and open your house, even when you are not there. They can attach remove and sell your vehicle, furniture and other moveable property, or if necessary our immoveable property to recover your debt.


Sheriffs can take anything they want from your home.

Sheriffs must explain the contents of the document they are serving and may not attached and remove necessary items such as food and beds, bedding and clothes. Furthermore, they may not, subject to certain guidelines, remove all your tools that you may rely on to earn a living.


Sheriffs can demand money and don't have to issue a receipt.

Sheriffs are supposed to issue receipts for any monies paid and to make sure both the original and copies of documents are marked with any payment made and acknowledged with your signature or mark. You are entitled to keep a copy of the original document.


If you have any questions regarding the role or function of the sheriff please feel free to contact:

South African Board of Sheriffs
PO Box 5454, Cape Town, 8000
Tel: 021 462 3209
Fax: 021 462 2099
Fax for Legal Division: 021 462 2087
contact@sheriffs.org.za
www.sheriffs.org.za

The content on this page was last updated on 15 March 2014