A licence is required by any charity or similar organisation which wishes to collect money of other articles by going from house to house. This also applies if the collection is carried out by visiting public houses. Collections for a charitable purpose can't be made unless the requirements of the house to house collections act 1939 are satisfied.

Some of the larger well-known charities have an exemption order granted to them by the Home Office and this saves them from having to apply to every 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 types of 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.

This includes groups such as

  • Small charities
  • Local groups e.g. scouts, guides

Collections of clothing and direct debit fundraising also require a licence.

It is essential that the promoter of the collection is fully aware of the requirements of the regulations under the act. In particular, the promoter must obtain badges for collectors, authorised collectors and ensure the necessary returns are made.

If you are collecting in the street you will require a street collections permit.

If you are selling goods door to door then you will require a pedlar’s certificate.

Apply for a licence

You must apply 20 working days before you wish to start collecting. You must include the names of any people who will be collecting on behalf of the charity or organisation. These are known as the authorised collectors. You must include your own name if you’re planning to be an authorised collector. Please note: Before making the application you should contact the council to check that the required dates are available. 

Application process

The council will consult with the police and may refuse the application if it appears that the applicant does not meet the requirements of the legislation. One of the key grounds for refusal would be where the total amount likely to be applied for charitable purpose as a result of the collection is inadequate in proportion to the value of the proceeds likely to be received. So, for instance, where an applicant intends to claim an unreasonable proportion of the proceeds of the collection for expenses a permit could be refused. There is no statutory guidance to local authorities on what would be a reasonable amount for expenses

If there are no objections then the licence will be issued. If there is an objection or concern then the application will be referred to the relevant committee to determine the application.

Please note that tacit consent does not apply in respect of house to house collection permits as it is in the public interest that the local authority considers and processes all applications. As an indication of the length of time the team require in order to process your application please see the timescale policy.

Cost and length of a licence

There is no fee for a house to house collection licence.

Licences can be issued for any period up to twelve months. A return is required showing the amount collected and how it was spent within one month of the licence expiring.

Supply a return

Within one month of the expiry of the licence you must make an appropriate return to demonstrate what has been collected.

Supply a return for a house to house collection

Make representations for or against a licence

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

Additional information on house to house collections can be found on the Charity Commission website.