Debt Collection / Sheriff Coming To Your House

5 Reasons Why A Sheriff Would Come To Your House

Written by Ascend Team
Updated Nov 2nd, 2022
There may be nothing scarier than watching a sheriff approaching your house. The uncertainty as to the meaning of his visit is enough to make anyone's heart race! But if you have been falling behind on your debt payments or rent payments, you can probably guess the reason for his visit. In this article, we are going to take a look at three of the main reasons a sheriff may be visiting your home. 

Though this can be intimidating, don’t worry too much! We will also go over your options in responding. 

Why Would A Sheriff Come To Your House?

Ultimately, there is one main reason that a sheriff would show up at your house in this situation: You are probably being served. Being served is the term used to describe being notified of a legal action being taken against you. In some scenarios, this could mean a spouse has decided to file for divorce. It may mean there is a civil lawsuit. And in the case of unpaid debt, it typically means that your creditor (or a landlord in the case of rental payments) has filed a lawsuit against you in an attempt to get you to repay your debt. 

Sometimes, if you are not at home when the sheriff stops by, they will leave a note on your door. They will request you contact the sheriff’s office. You should reach out to the office if the sheriff is missed. If you decide to not reach out to the office, the sheriff may approach you in areas outside of your residence. This means they could come to your work, visit you while you are out in public, or somewhere else they know you are. 

Different Things That Could Mean

What does it mean if you are served? As we mentioned earlier, service papers can mean many different things. Below are some of the most common reasons:

1. Debt Collection Lawsuit

A sheriff or someone at the court may be knocking on your door to serve you a debt collection lawsuit for unpaid debt. A debt collector may sue for as little as $500, so consider whether you have any unpaid debt that may have fallen behind. You have a certain number of days to reply with an answer the debt collection lawsuit and often you can negotiate the debt collection lawsuit in what's known as a stipulated judgment. 

That brings up the following question though.

How Do You Know If It's a Debt Collection Lawsuit?

The lawsuit is often in a public registry, so if it's helpful, please add your information below and we can attempt to check whether you are facing any debt collection lawsuits in your area for free.

2. Eviction Hearing

Are you currently renting the home or apartment you are living in? Have you fallen severely behind on your monthly payments? Oftentimes, if you are not able to make a payment for a month or two, you can work out an agreement with your landlord. However, if you are going on multiple months without paying your rent, there is a chance your landlord may file a motion to have you evicted from the property. You will then receive service papers notifying you of a hearing in which your landlord will ask the court to legally evict you. After the hearing, you may receive service papers again with the ruling from the court. 

When you are given an eviction notice, there are typically stipulations that tell you how long you have to vacate the property. Normally, landlords will issue an eviction notice of 30 days before taking the case to court. After those 30 days, if the landlord takes the case to court and has their request granted, there may be a much shorter time period for you to vacate the property. In some states, you will only get three days' notice. During that time, you can typically restore the original renting agreement by paying back the owed amount in full. However, if you cannot do this, you have to have left the property within the time period stated.

2. Wage Garnishment

Another reason you may receive service papers is if a debt collection agency sued you. Debt collection agencies know all the successful tactics to make money off of debt. If you have fallen behind on debt payments, they know that suing you is an effective way to recoup some of their money. If they sued you and won, they are typically granted a wage garnishment. This allows the company to take a portion of your paycheck until your debt is fully paid off. If you think you are being garnished, check out how much they can garnish using our free wage garnishment calculator that is specific to your state's garnishment guidelines.

3. Divorce

The process of separating from a spouse can be hard enough without the added stress of being served. Unfortunately, when your spouse files for divorce, you will be served. Depending on the amicability of your divorce, there may not be a need for a court appearance. However, you will probably need to contact a lawyer to make sure you and your property are protected. 

4. Child Support

Falling behind on child support payments can be a very serious offense. This type of debt cannot be forgiven. And when you fall behind on the payments, there are many serious consequences you could face.  This could include jail time. If the parent of the child you are monetarily supporting notifies the court that you have stopped making your payments, you will be served. Depending on the severity of the missed payments, you may just be ordered to make a payment, and a Chapter 13 bankruptcy can potentially help with catching up on arrears. However, you may be summoned to court, or you may be notified of your impending arrest. 

What Can You Do If It's Any Of These Options?

If you have outstanding debt or it could be a debt collection lawsuit, you might consider bankruptcy to help relieve you from that debt. Bankruptcy may also help with eviction and back child support. As such, we built the following bankruptcy calculator based on the bankruptcy forms to estimate cost, qualification, and compare to alternatives.

How Can You Respond To The Sheriff's Visit?

When you are served by a sheriff at your home, you will need to respond. Believe it or not, regardless of what you do, you will be responding. Even ignoring the service papers is a response! So what should you do when you get served? Here are three of the most common options available to you.

Ignore the Service Papers

While this is not a highly recommended response, some people may choose this path. If you know your landlord is trying to evict you, and you are preparing to move out anyway, you may be able to ignore the lawsuit — especially if you don’t want to take on any debt from legal fees. However, ignoring lawsuits will normally be hurtful to your situation. In situations where debt is involved, an automatic judgment can be filed against you if you do not respond. Because of this, there are very few scenarios where it would be best to ignore the service papers.

Fight the Lawsuit

If you believe that the lawsuit filed against you incorrectly portrays the situation, then you have the option to fight the lawsuit. This can be done either directly with the entity suing you or through the court. 

Comply With The Lawsuit

If you know that you would either lose the judgment in court or do not have the financial capabilities to countersue, it may be best to comply with the lawsuit. Before doing so, it may be best to take the suit to a law office to look over the documents to make sure you are being treated fairly. 

In Closing

It can be terrifying to deal with being served — especially if that entails a sheriff walking up to your front door. If you have been served, take time to understand what type of service papers you have received and how you can best respond. If you’d like to know more about your options or want to talk to an objective third party, feel free to reach out to Ascend! We’d love to talk to you about your situation.