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What is a Sheriff (Receiver of Fines) Search? – An Ellis & Ellis Explainer

The Sheriff (Receiver of Fines) offices – Their role and record keeping in a conveyancing context.

Predating Irish independence, and with a genesis in English legal antiquity, the evolution of the various Sheriff’s Offices has developed over time to meet the demands of the Irish state. 

Presently all taxes, interest and duties owning to the state are collected via the Office of the Revenue Commissioners. They in turn can confer their Sheriff’s power to the offices of the local sheriffs, authorising them to carry out the enforcement of certificates issued. 

However, the power of the Sheriffs (Revenue) or Sheriff (Civil) does not currently extend to cover real estate property, which was up until the Land and Conveyancing Law Reform Act 2009 the domain of the Sheriff (Civil). The consequence of the 2009 enactment meant that residential freehold title (with some exceptions) could not be seized by the Sheriff (Civil). 

So, on 11th January 2016, the Fines (Payment and Recovery) Act 2014 came into operation; its intent being to restore the debt collection reach of the Revenue Commissioners.

In essence, the new act created dedicated officers of the court entitled ‘Receiver of Fines’ who had ‘…the power to seize real property…’. In practical terms, these Sheriffs (Receiver of Fines) are invariably also the sheriffs (Revenue) for a county, albeit wearing different ‘hats of authority’ and maintaining separate registers.

It is against these registers that Sheriff (Receiver of Fines) searches are conducted.

Why should the purchasing solicitor/ conveyancer search the Sheriff (Receiver of Fines) registers when investigating title in a property/ right/ interest purchase?

A Revenue Judgment is valid for 12 years during which time Revenue is entitled to progress with execution of the Judgment, that is, enforce the Judgment by taking further action such as Judgment Mortgage, Forced Sale, Instalment and Committal Orders, Bankruptcy for Individuals, Liquidation of Companies, Mareva Injunctions, Garnishee Orders and/ or Receiver by way of Equitable Execution.

Freehold property once briefly immune to enforcement by the Sheriff (Civil) and/ or sheriff (revenue) now became subject to the characteristics of the Fines (Payment and Recovery) Act 2014. The new act provided that ‘…recovery orders for fines over €500 may be made by the court’. Secondly that a receiver appointed may ‘seize and sell property’ as part of the recovery process, and that a definition of ‘property’ now includes ‘land and personal property’.

Accordingly, if a Sheriff (Receiver of Fines) has being appointed against a property it is not dissimilar to a bankruptcy in that the sellers can no longer control (or deal in a sale, mortgage etc of) their real property assets for sale purposes, as their interest in the property would now be vested in the Sheriff (Receiver of Fines).

For those reasons, solicitors or conveyancers acting on behalf of the purchasers need to be certain that the property in not in receivership and that the sellers still retain the authority and control over the property for sale.

How and what to search for on the Sheriff (Receiver of Fines) registers?

Seller Names: In practical terms, a Sheriff (Revenue) register search is typically conducted against the names of the individuals (and/ or entities) selling and in conjunction with the exact address of the property/ right/interest being sold.

Purchasers Names: Additionally, when there is an undertaking by the solicitor to protect the interest of a lender/ lending institute where there is a mortgage to be issued, searches may be also conducted against the names of those persons or entities purchasing the property/ right/ interest, but solely in conjunction with their own address (not the sale premises as they have no beneficial interest in the sale property prior to purchase). 

For the purchasing solicitor/ conveyancer a matching entry appearing in the sheriff (Revenue) register can alert them to the potential parsing of a judgment into a judgment mortgage against the sale property, and the inconvenience of the premises possibly being saleable only under court supervision. 

It could also be indicative of other potential impediments i.e., bankruptcy, company insolvency coming down the line for the seller, and the knock-on effects of same.

 What will the Sheriff (Receiver of Fines) register search show me?

Sheriff (Receiver of Fines) results will disclose if any executable orders against goods and chattel have been lodged with the Receiver of Fines. Moreover, a search result will state whether a Receiver has been appointed in respect of the property.

Use a trusted Law Search provider.

Given the serious ramifications set out above of either not conducting a search at all, or worse, conducting an inadequate or erroneous Sheriff (Receiver of Fines) search; it is imperative that purchasing solicitors/ conveyancers use a trusted law search provider such as Ellis & Ellis.

With our blend of a quick and easy-to-use ordering platform at www.ellis.ie , over 130 years of professional know-how, and a quality after-sales experience, we provide clients with a superior searching service. 

For added peace of mind Ellis & Ellis provide Professional Indemnity Cover of €10 million.

Why not join the 1000’s of users who trust Ellis & Ellis to deliver them a 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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