What is a Bank Arrestment?

One of the most likely ways a sheriff officer would be instructed to go about recovering money that you owe is to arrest your bank account. In doing this, they attach your funds (meaning that they are frozen, which is known as Actions of Arrestment) and then the bank – on their instruction – moves the funds to a holding account before giving the recovered funds to your creditors (this is known as the Furthcoming).

This is a two-stage process and the second stage can only go ahead in two situations. Either you authorize this transfer by signing a mandate, which can occur at any point after the arrestment. Or, if 14 weeks have passed after the arrestment where you have made no objection, then by operation of law the funds will be transferred.

A bank arrestment typically comes as a bit of a shock, since often individuals only learn that this action has been taken after it has already happened.

In Scots Law this process is a form of diligence. It cannot be executed by anyone who is not a sheriff officer of a messenger at arms, as this is a legal method or debt recovery. Creditors require the authority of the court if they wish to carry out a bank arrestment.

The arrestment takes place immediately when the sheriff officer arrests your bank account. However, only funds that are already in the account at the point can be seized. Moreover, there is a Minimum Protected Balance, which means that only funds over £494.01 can be frozen. The bank is required to leave at least this amount in your account. You will be unable to access the remaining funds, which will have been moved into a holding account.

You will hear from your bank of the arrest of your funds and will have a period of 14 weeks to contest the arrestment, typically on the grounds that the action will bring you considerable hardship.

Sheriff officers can execute as many bank arrestments as it takes to recuperate the debt in full. This is the reason you are advised to transfer your account to another bank if your bank account is arrested.

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