THE OFFICIAL VIEW:
THE LONGER VERSION
In a suitable setting wouldn’t ‘The Official View’’ make a fantastic house name!
We are convinced that the vast majority of people who name their houses do so, when they are already numbered, without reference to anyone or any official body, and without major problems.
We believe that everybody should have the right to name their house. However rules, regulations and recommendations touch on every aspect of our lives, including naming houses.
When naming our homes, we need to be responsible citizens and be absolutely certain how we are legally placed. To this end it is always advisable to first look into the law as it affects where you live and determine the attitude of Local, Regional or National Government Authorities and mail service providers.
We strongly recommend, and would insist if we could, that if your house already has a number, it should always be clearly displayed along with your house name in order to help the mail and courier services and, more importantly, the emergency services.
The situation becomes more involved if you are wishing to name a house that doesn’t already have a number, or wanting to change the name of a house when it already has a name. In these situations you are advised to check up on official requirements or at least any official ‘advice’.
All the following is UK based. If you are anywhere else in the world we would always recommend that you check your official position locally. We should however be pleased to hear of the different rules, requirements and recommendations that apply elsewhere in the world to see if there is any commonality of approach to house naming.
For UK based homes, we print the information given by Halifax plc to accompany the results of their 1998 House Name survey (Favourites) : “Under various Acts of Parliament, Local Authorities have obligations to ensure that properties have a number wherever possible. The exceptions tend to be relatively isolated homes situated in rural areas, where there is no existing numbering system. A key advantage of having a house number is that the emergency services can generally find the property more quickly if called.
“If your house has a number and this is already recognised as the official address, and you want to give your property a name, you are advised to contact the Local Authority to establish whether they need to approve this change. Most Local Authorities will confirm that they do need to approve this change and will require you to send them details in writing”.
(Note - this refers to a ‘change’ in the means of identification. If you are ‘adding’ a name to an existing house number we recommend that both the name and the number should be clearly visible. Whether the Local Authority needs to approve the addition of a name to an already numbered property that will remain numbered, is uncertain. You are advised to check.)
“If your house has an existing name but is not numbered, and you wish to change the name, you will need to advise the Local Authority (it is also advisable to check for any implications with the Land Registry). The Local Authority will liaise with the Royal Mail to ensure there is no conflict with names of other properties in the same street or immediate area, before formally registering the name. If there is a problem, an alternative name must be submitted. In some cases, the Local Authority may explore the possibility of a house number being registered at this point, in addition to (or instead of) the new name. Once the change has been approved, the Local Authority will normally advise relevant bodies such as the emergency services. The same procedure applies for brand new properties which, for whatever reason, cannot be numbered (however, virtually all new properties today are numbered).
“The Royal Mail’s preference is for a house to have a number rather than a name, or at least to have a number as well as a name. This helps them, for example, during holiday periods, where the person delivering the post may not be the usual Postman/woman.”
In the press release of the Halifax/HBoS 2003 survey of house names, the editor included the following note:
‘If you want to name your home for the first time – or change its name – and it already has a number, it is important to contact your local Royal Mail delivery office. If the name clashes with a very similar one nearby you may be asked to choose an alternative. You should also inform all those who need to contact you by post including the local authority, household utilities such as gas, electric and telephone as well as financial organisations such as your bank, building society and insurance companies. The Land Registry also welcomes details of new names and name changes.
If your house has an existing name, but no number, and you wish to change it you will need to advise the Local Authority. The Local Authority will liaise with the Royal Mail to ensure there is no conflict with other properties in the same street or immediate area before formally registering the name. If there is a problem an alternative name must be submitted. Once the change has been approved, the Local Authority will normally advise relevant bodies such as the emergency services although the onus is on you to inform organisations that need to write to you. As well as telling the Land Registry of the name change you should also inform Ordnance Survey’.
The Post Office Guide used to give advice to UK residents on the use of house names. However, writing in 2008, this seems to be no longer published or at least not according to our local reference library. We are directed instead to the Royal Mail website www.royalmail.com.
The Royal Mail website, www.royalmail.com in 2003, under the heading ‘How do I go about changing my house name?’ stated: “Royal Mail doesn’t name and number properties or streets. This responsibility lies with the local authority naming and numbering department (sometimes known as Engineers or Highways). You’ll need to put your request to them in writing and they’ll make checks (including asking our (Royal Mail) opinion for delivery purposes) to ensure that the name doesn’t exist within the local area. It may pay to suggest alternatives. Be aware that if your property is officially numbered you can’t drop the number but you can use a house name in addition to it.”
Local Authorities tend to detail their policies, procedures, comments and ‘advice’ on their websites.
For example, West Devon Council – www.westdevon.gov.uk – under the heading ‘Naming Your House – Guidelines’ state the following (in which the first sentence is illuminating):
‘Although the council has no jurisdiction in this matter, and will only act in an advisory manner, you are quite at liberty to incorporate a name into your current address, change the existing name of your property or give a name to your new house. Follow these simple guidelines:
- You must retain the postal number in your current address, if you have one.
- To avoid confusion and misdirected deliveries it is prudent to check that no other properties with a similar name are already in use within the local vicinity.
Once you have decided upon a name, inform the street naming and numbering section (of the local authority) in writing, by email or by completing the (supplied) form, (detailing) your current address, your proposed address and enclose a copy of a plan to indicate the location of your property.
The council will liaise with the Royal Mail before writing to you to confirm your official postal address.
The council will advise various departments internally, the Royal Mail, the emergency services and various other agencies of your new official postal address’.
‘If your property has already been designated a number, you must display the house number clearly within the boundary of the property and always use the house number in your address line. You can then also choose to use any house name you like without notifying the Post Office or local council as long as you use your house number in your address line. For example if your house number is 20 and you decide to name your house ‘The Laurels’, the address line should always be as follows:
20 Anywhere Street
‘If your property already has an existing house name and NO house number allocated and you wish to change the name of the property, permission must be sort from the Post Office (Royal Mail) and your local authority first – you need to notify your local council of your intention of changing the house name in writing before you can use the new house name for your address.
‘In the case of addresses where there is no number allocated, the registered house name forms part of the official address. In this instance property owners wishing to change their property name should put a request in writing to Royal Mail Address Maintenance Unit, Sunderland, SR3 3XW, email firstname.lastname@example.org AND also (to) their local council’s department responsible for street naming and numbering.
‘The request should state your full name, the present full address of the property and the new preferred name. The owner must contact the Royal Mail Address Maintenance Unit (see above) to see if the name is satisfactory, then the new address needs to be registered by the Royal Mail Address Maintenance Unit. If there is an issue with your preferred name, they will ask you to choose an alternative name. . . . if a property in the local neighbourhood already has the same name that you have chosen, or if it sounds similar, you may not be able to use the house name because it could cause confusion to the post office, emergency personnel or council workers – it is worthwhile just taking a walk around your local neighbourhood making notes of existing house names and thinking of several alternatives before applying to the council. Some councils charge a registration fee for their service and some don’t.’
It is always best for property owners to assume responsibility themselves for informing personal contacts, council services, insurers, banks, emergency services, utility providers, etc. of the new, full and correct official postal address.
The information given above relates to the UK. Please Contact Us to tell us about the house naming rules that apply in other countries.
In conclusion, wherever you live the onus is on you to check that your house naming intentions meet all official requirements.