Confirm your voting details or risk a £1,000 fine
You have to fill in the Household Enquiry Form by law
Each year every household in Great Britain 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 by the deadline – even if it shows the correct info, or you risk a £1,000 fine.
What is a Household Enquiry Form?
It's a form sent to every household in Great Britain to check whether voter registration records are correct. It is organised locally, usually by local councils. Northern Ireland doesn't conduct an annual canvass, but tends to have one every few years.
In England, Scotland and Wales, the form is posted out between July and November each year (the exact date varies by council). Some councils now send you an email if they have your address and then, if you don't respond to that by a certain date, will follow it up by posting you a form. Councils must publish the revised register by 1 December.
The form lists the current eligible voters in your household and asks you to check and update the details. It will look something like this:
You must respond by the deadline
Each council has a different deadline, which can be any time 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 they publish the revised register on 1 December (although it does happen), 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 even need to send back the form in many cases – a lot of councils now let you confirm or change your details by phone, text or online using the security codes in your email or on your form, making it even easier to respond. Some councils actively encourage this as it saves them money - Dorset Council is entering residents who respond online by the deadline into a prize draw to win £1,000.
If you have missed your council's deadline though, contact it ASAP to find out what to do.
Want less junk mail?
The Household Enquiry Form, which you should get in the post between July and November, should also tell you if you’re registered on the optional public ‘open register’ which is used by companies for marketing.
If you opt out of it, you should end up with less junk mail because companies that use it to sell on your details, will no longer be able to do so.
To do that, you’ll need to respond to your form online, or contact your local council and ask it to take you off – there’s no tick box on the paper form to opt out.
You can also join the Mail Preference Service (MPS) register to stop unwanted mail. See our guide to stopping unwanted mail and cold callers for full details of how to sign up.
What if I don't have a form?
Confusingly, although the Household Enquiry Form is sent to everyone in England, Scotland and Wales, it's sent at different times by different councils.
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, contact your council to explain you haven't had a form.
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.
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 info 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 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.
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.
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.
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