Each year every household in the UK is sent a Household Enquiry Form to check the right people are registered to vote.
It may look like a council circular or piece of junk mail, but DON'T ignore it. By law, you have to respond – even if it shows the correct info. If you continue to ignore it and all the reminders you could be fined up to £1,000. This short guide explains how to spot it, when and why you'll get one – and what to do if you don't get one.
Forms are being sent now – respond in time or risk a £1,000 fine. This is the key time to ensure you respond before the deadline, which varies by council between now and the end of November
What is a Household Enquiry Form?
It's a form sent to every household in the UK to check whether voter registration records are correct. The form's part of the Electoral Commission's Annual Canvass, but is organised locally, usually by local councils. It's posted out between July and November each year (the exact date varies).
The form lists the current eligible voters in your household and asks you to check and update the details. It'll look something like this:
You must respond by the deadline
Each council has a different deadline, which can be anytime from July to the end of November, and you must respond in time or risk a £1,000 fine.
In truth, you're unlikely to be fined if you miss the council's deadline before the final November cut-off, it's just some councils ask you to send it back earlier. Why take the risk, though, when it only takes five seconds?
You don't always need to fill the form in; if everything is correct you only need to confirm the details (which some councils let you do online). If, however, you need to make changes, it's likely you'll have to send the form back.
If you've missed your council's deadline, though, just contact it ASAP to find out what to do.
What if I don't have a form?
Confusingly, although the Household Enquiry Form is sent to everyone in the UK, it's sent at different times in different parts of the country.
You may also be sent a second form and then a reminder, and in some cases canvassers are sent to visit any households that haven't replied.
If it's getting close to the end-of-November deadline, contact your council to explain you haven't had a form.
What if I've thrown it away?
If you've binned the form by accident, or you're worried it's gone astray, you simply need to contact your council (find out how to here) and tell 'em.
If you miss the form and all of the reminders and don't reply by the final end-of-November deadline, the Electoral Commission says you'll need to contact your council.
What if I don't respond – can I really be fined £1,000?
The form warns you can be fined up to £1,000 for failing to respond. It's an offence under the Representation of the People Regulations (England and Wales) 2001 not to provide the information asked for, and in a small number of cases people have actually been fined. You could also ultimately be booted off the electoral register if you don't respond.
But removal from the register and fines would be a last resort for the authorities, and they would only happen after you've been sent a Household Enquiry Form, and usually a second form and a reminder.
Your home may also be visited by canvassers (they usually visit anyone who hasn't replied) and the Electoral Registration Officer would have to formally review if you have a right to remain registered (for example by checking council tax records) before taking action.
If you don't reply by the final end-of-November deadline, contact your council.
Remember, being removed from the electoral register not only means you can no longer vote – it could also affect your credit rating.
You MUST fill in the form honestly – if you knowingly give false information you could face an unlimited fine and/or up to six months in prison.
Do I still need to reply if I'm already registered to vote?
Yes, you need to reply even if you're already registered to vote and all the details on the form are correct – even if you've only just registered. In fact, you have to do this every year. Electoral law means every local authority has to conduct an annual canvass.
Who in the household is responsible for replying?
Only one person in the house has to reply – they can do so on behalf of everyone living there. The form is addressed to "The occupier" and so everyone living at the property is jointly responsible for returning the form.
What happens next?
If the details on the form were correct, then once you've replied confirming that, that's likely to be it. But if changes need to be made, you'll need to do more.
If one or more people in your household weren't registered to vote and should have been, you may be sent an Invitation to Register. If you (or they) want to vote, you'll need to either fill this form in too, or register online if you prefer.
Again, replying isn't optional. If you don't fill in the form you'll be sent reminders, someone will visit your home and you may eventually be sent a "requirement to register" – fail to do so without good reason and you could face an £80 fine.
You must register to vote YOURSELF. Each voter is now responsible for their own registration – it's no longer the head of the household's job, so don't fall into the trap of thinking your mum, dad or more-organised housemate can do it for you.
Don't forget you can always register to vote at any point throughout the year – though you'll still need to fill in the Household Enquiry Form even if you're newly added to the register.
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