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House to house collections licence

No collection for a charitable purpose can be made unless the requirements of the House to House Collections Act 1939 are satisfied.

The Act requires a licence (unless one of the exceptions below applies) to be in place for house to house collections for charitable purposes and the process for this is contained in the Act and in Regulations under the Act.

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The licence is issued by the local authority.  If a person promotes a collection for a charitable purpose, and a collection is made, then, unless a licence is in force authorising him, or authorising another under whose authority they act, to promote a collection they are guilty of an offence.  The penalty for this on summary conviction is imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months and/or a fine not exceeding £1,000.

If a person acts as a collector, unless there is in force a licence authorising a promoter under his authority they act, or authorising the collector themselves, to promote a collection they are guilty of an offence. The penalty for this on summary conviction, in the case of a first conviction, is a fine not exceeding £500.  In the case of a second or subsequent conviction the penalty is imprisonment for a term not exceeding three months and/or a fine not exceeding £500.

Some of the larger well-known charities such as Christian Aid and Help the Aged have an exemption order granted to them by the Home Office and this saves them from having to apply to the licensing authority for a permit.   Most charities that hold exemption orders still notify the licensing authority of their collection dates which helps to avoid clashes, but inevitably there is overlapping of dates with these blanket type collections. 

The Police also have the power, when an application is referred for comment, to issue a certificate for the collection.  This is permitted where the collection is local in character and likely to be completed in a short period of time.  In practice, the Police tend not to issue these certificates.

'Charitable purpose' means any charitable, benevolent or philanthropic purpose, whether or not the purpose is charitable within the meaning of any rule of law'

‘Collection' means an appeal to the public, made by means of visits from house to house, to give, whether for consideration or not, money or other property.

‘Collector’ means, in relation to a collection, a person who makes the appeal in the course of such visits.

‘House’ includes a place of business.

‘Proceeds’ means, in relation to a collection, all money and all other property given, whether for consideration or not, in response to the appeal made.

‘Promoter’ means, in relation to a collection, a person who causes others to act, whether for remuneration or otherwise, as collectors for the purposes of the collection.

This means that collections of clothing and also direct debit fundraising are included in the need to obtain a licence.

Applications for a licence must be made in the prescribed form to the licensing authority no later than one month before the date of the proposed collection.   

Please note: Before making the application you should contact the council to check that the required dates are available. 

Please follow the link below to apply online for a house to house collection licence:

Apply for a house to house collection licence

The council has produced house to house collection guidance notes which explain the circumstances where a licence is required from Cornwall Council and the duties imposed on persons promoting or taking part in such collections. 

Within 28 days after your house to house collection, you are required to submit a return form. 

Please follow the link below to submit a return online.

Submit a house to house collection return

The Secretary of State has made Regulations which prescribe certain rules for the conduct of collections licensed by a licensing authority.  The regulations include the prescribed documents such as the application, return forms and authorisation and badges for collectors.  A copy of the house to house collection Regulations will be issued by the licensing authority on application for a licence.  It is an offence to contravene or fail to comply with the regulations.  The penalty for doing so on summary conviction is a fine not exceeding £200.  

We will aim to process your application within 28 days of receipt of a valid and complete application. Tacit consent applies to these applications and this means if you have not received a response from us within this time then you can assume your application is granted. 

Please note however that you must be in possession of a licence to carry out a collection.  

Once a completed application is received the council will consult with the Police on the application.  The council is permitted to refuse the application, or revoke a licence, if it appears to the council that:

  • the total amount likely to be applied for charitable purposes as the result of the collection (including any amount already so applied) is inadequate in proportion to the value of the proceeds likely to be received (including any proceeds already received);
  • remuneration which is excessive in relation to the total amount aforesaid is likely to be, or has been, retained or received out of the proceeds of the collection by any person;
  • the grant of a licence would be likely to facilitate the commission of an offence under section three of the Vagrancy Act 1824, or that an offence under that section has been committed in connection with the collection;
  • the applicant or the holder of the licence is not a fit and proper person to hold a licence by reason of the fact that he has been convicted in the United Kingdom of any offences specified in the Schedule attached to the House to House Collections Act 1939, or has been convicted in any part of His Majesty’s dominions of any offence conviction for which necessarily involved a finding that he acted fraudulently or dishonestly, or of an offence of a kind the commission of which would be likely to be facilitated by the grant of a licence;
  • the applicant or the holder of the licence, in promoting a collection in respect of which a licence has been granted to him, has failed to exercise due diligence to secure that persons authorised by him to act as collectors for the purposes of the collection were fit and proper persons, to secure compliance on the part of persons so authorised with the provisions of regulations made under the House to House Collections Act 1939, or to prevent prescribed badges or prescribed certificates of authority being obtained other than persons so authorised; or
  • the applicant or holder of the licence has refused or neglected to furnish to the authority such information as they may reasonably required for the purpose of informing themselves as to any of the matters specified in the foregoing bullet points.

If there are no objections to the application then the licence will be issued.  If there is an objection or concern in relation to the application then it will be referred to the Miscellaneous Licensing Committee to determine the application.

If an application is refused, or granted with restrictions, the applicant has the right to appeal.  Additionally, a licence holder can appeal if his licence is revoked.      

The council will give a written notice to the applicant informing them of the decision, the reason for the decision and right of appeal.  Appeals must be made to the Secretary of State/Minister for the Cabinet Office within 14 days of the date of the decision notice. 

If the Secretary of State decides to grant the appeal, the council must issue the licence or cancel the revocation in accordance with the decision of the Secretary of State.

There is no fee for an application for a House to House Collection Licence.

It is essential that the promoter of the collection is fully aware of the requirements of the regulation under the Act as already mentioned, non compliance is an offence.

In particular the promotor has to apply to a Government Department to obtain badges for collectors, authorise collectors and ensure the necessary statements, in the prescribed form, are returned within one month of the collection. 

If you have a complaint about a collector then please contact licensing services in the first instance.  We will try to assist you or direct you to the appropriate organisation.