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What is a Sheriff (Civil) Search?  – An Ellis & Ellis Explainer

The Role and Record Keeping of Sheriff (Civil) Offices in Conveyancing

The Sheriff’s Office origins lies in Irish pre-independence and English legal antiquity. Originally levelled with the discharge of Crown duties, the (high) sheriff’s functions included the enforcement of court judgments. 

However, in Ireland following the 1921 Anglo-Irish Treaty, the vestigial office of (high) sheriff was abolished, with the supervision and execution of court decrees devolved to the newly established County Registrars. Due to a combination of circumstances only Dublin (City and County) and Cork (City and County) retained the title of sheriff’s office.

Accordingly, every county in Ireland has either a sheriff or registrar whose role it is to seize and sell goods belonging to debtors in the discharge of debt. As part of their responsibilities, the sheriff (civil) and/or county registrar’s offices are tasked with maintaining a comprehensive register of judgments lodged with their agencies. It is against these registers that Sheriff (Civil) searches are conducted.

Why Should Purchasing Solicitors/Conveyancers Conduct Sheriff (Civil) Register Searches?

Judgments (Debt/ Money) from the District Court, the Circuit Court and the High Court may be registered in Judgment (Debt/ Money) registers or appear as affidavits of judgment in the Registry of Deeds or Judgment Mortgages in the Land Registry. More pertinently, Judgments (Debt/ Money) may also be registered with the Sheriff’s (Civil) Office.

For purchasing solicitors/conveyancers, a matching entry in the sheriff (Civil) register can serve as an alert, indicating the possibility of a judgment being converted into a judgment mortgage against the sale property. Additionally, it could signal the inconvenience of the premises being saleable only under court supervision.

(Note: Judgments from the Superior Courts, such as the Supreme Court, Court of Appeal, and High Court, and of the Circuit Court for a liquidated sum that requires payment, are capable of being registered as judgment mortgages.

Moreover, a decree from the District Court for a liquidated sum can also be registered as a judgment mortgage under Section 24 of the Courts Act, 1981.

How and what to search for on the Sheriff (Civil) registers?

Ever since the Land and Conveyancing Law Reform Act 2009 came into effect, there has been a broad consensus in the legal profession that there is no requirement to conduct Sheriff’s (Civil) Office searches in relation to the purchase of a tenancy of land unless it was ‘…wholly or partly for the purpose of carrying on a business’. 

In principle, the consequence of the above means that residential freehold title need not be searched against on the Sheriff (Civil) registers.

However, some exceptions to the above include (a) premises that are new builds or (b) lands/ rights/ interests being sold by legal entities/ companies.

Notwithstanding the above, if searches are deemed necessary against these registers, then the purchasing solicitor/ conveyancer needs to consider the following:

Seller Names: Regarding Sheriff (Civil) register searches, reality tends to see conveyancers conducting searches against the names of the individuals and/or entities selling the property/right/interest, alongside the exact address of the property.

Purchasers Names: Similarly, when a solicitor is tasked with protecting a lender/lending institute’s interests where a mortgage is required, searches may extend to include the names of those purchasing the property/right/interest. However, these searches will solely be connected to their stated home address on the mortgage, not the sale premises, as they have no beneficial interest in the sale property prior to purchase

What will the Sheriff (Civil) register search show me?

The Sheriff (Civil) registers record all executable judgments lodged stemming from the High Court, Circuit Courts and District Courts. 

In the High Court, judgments of this nature are referred to as ‘orders of fieri facias or fifa.’ The Circuit Court, on the other hand, designates them as ‘execution orders against goods,’ and the District Court labels them as ‘Court’s judgments or decrees sent to the Sheriff or County Registrar to enforce.’

Sheriffs’ / Registrars’ certificates disclose entries that are extant, remain unsatisfied and still effecting individuals and/ or legal entities in association with the given premises.

The Importance of Using a Trusted Law Search Provider

Given the profound consequences highlighted above, wherein the failure to conduct a search or an inadequate or erroneous Sheriff (Civil) search can have severe repercussions, it is absolutely crucial for purchasing solicitors/conveyancers to rely on a reputable law search provider such as Ellis & Ellis.

At Ellis & Ellis, our unique blend of a quick and easy-to-use ordering platform at www.ellis.ie, coupled with over 130 years of professional expertise and an unwavering commitment to exceptional after-sales service, ensures that our clients benefit from an unparalleled searching experience.

For added assurance, Ellis & Ellis offers Professional Indemnity Cover of €10 million, providing you with enhanced peace of mind.

Join the ever-growing community of satisfied users who trust Ellis & Ellis to equip them with an undeniable competitive edge.

Did you find the above information to be of interest? Why not check out one of our other Ellis & Ellis explainers for some related searches below:


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