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What Sheriffs Can and Can’t Do

Besides handing out judgments and running auctions, sheriffs are also responsible for serving legal documents such as summons, court notices and contracts among others.

Sheriffs are regulated by the South African Board For Sheriffs. The board is responsible for monitoring sheriffs & deputies to ensure that sheriffs humanely execute their duties.

Despite the negative connotation that are synonymous with sheriffs, should you ever encounter a sheriff, do not run away from the sheriff. Instead, try and get as much information from the sheriff about the actions you can take regarding the legal matter at hand. It’s also important to note that sheriffs are well within their scope of rights to:

  • Enter your premises even if you’re not there.
  • Open any door, vehicle, or piece of furniture on your premises.
  • Attach, remove and sell your movable & immovable properties, so long as the attached items won’t impede your ability to generate income.

In addition to ensuring that sheriffs civilly execute their duties, the sheriff board ensures that sheriffs comply with specific sheriff protocols such as presenting their valid identification cards that all sheriffs have, explaining the contents of the issued documents and ensuring that your legal affairs remain confidential.

Despite the various rights that sheriffs have in regards to executing court orders, sheriffs are not however legally able to provide any legal advice regarding legal matters they may present. However, they are legally allowed to refer you to professional legal advisors or pro bono legal institutions such as Legal Aid or university Law Clinics.


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