Moving house and gun certificates – what you need to know
We can't do much to help with the stress of moving house. But this is what you must do in relation to your shotgun and firearm certificates and guns. Bill Harriman tells you what you need to know.
Q: I am about to move house. What do I have to do and what should I know about moving house and gun certificates?
A: Once you have moved, you must tell the Chief Constable who issued your certificate that you have done so, and give details of your new address. You do not have to send your certificate in, and in these times of excessive delays you should not do so. The certificate remains valid throughout Great Britain.
You are under a statutory duty to tell the police that you have moved “without undue delay”. That is an open-ended time frame designed to accommodate your situation. You will need to unpack, settle in and reinstall security. Undue means disproportionate or excessive, so do not leave things for too long before telling the police. Make fitting your security cabinet a priority, and then send the notification.
If your move is within the same police area, all the Firearms Licensing Unit (FLU) will do is update your records. If you move to another area, your file will be sent to the new FLU. In both cases there will be a check on your new security, probably by a visit, but I have known the check conducted by a video call and photos. You do not have to fill in the Form 201 again.
You only have to tell the police if your move is permanent. If, for example, you were going into temporary accommodation for a few weeks while building work was being undertaken, you would not have to tell them.
More on moving house and gun certificates
I recently received this query from a reader of Shooting Times.
Q: I have recently moved house into a different police area. They are telling me that I have to complete a full application form again. They also want my shotgun licence back because it is no longer valid now my address has changed. Now that the season has started, I will be travelling a lot and want to buy cartridges. Is it law that I have to do this?
Here’s what I replied:
A: All that you are required to do when you move house is to tell the chief constable who issued your certificate that you have done so. You do not have to fill in the application form again as your certificate is valid irrespective of the address printed on it. The certificate authorises you to possess shotguns and is not address-specific. Due to the unreasonably long delays in firearms licensing these days, you should not give up your old certificate until the new one is in your hands. (Read how long will you have to wait for a shotgun and firearms certificate?) If you are travelling, you need it to prove lawful possession of shotguns. You also need to buy more cartridges and have to show it when you do so. If anyone tries to coerce you into filling in the form or to give up your certificate, politely decline. If they persist, take a photo of them on your phone, ask them to leave your home and make a complaint to the Professional Standards department, whose details will be on the force website.
What to remember about your firearms certificate when moving house
You must tell the local police about your forthcoming move at the earliest opportunity. Keep them posted. One of the listed conditions (condition 3) that you must follow on your firearm or shotgun certificate covers moving house. It says: “The holder of this certificate must, without undue delay, inform the chief officer of police by whom the certificate was granted of any change in his permanent address.”
Forget this at your peril – it is a criminal offence not to abide by any condition on a firearm or shotgun certificate.
Permanent not temporary move
Notify the police when you are going to be in your new property long-term, not just for a couple of weeks.
- What does “without undue delay” actually mean? There is no set time period for notification, but it shouldn’t be excessive. As a suggested guide, give notice of your address change when you have unpacked your boxes in the new home and installed your gun cabinet.
- Notice the use of the word ‘permanent’. This means that you really have upped sticks, registered to vote in your new location, pay community tax, signed up with a GP etc. A short-term move into rented accommodation while you have building work done is not a permanent move. Neither is a student who is away from the family home at college or someone who works away and only returns home on an intermittent basis.
How to notify the police of your house move
- The notification must be sent to the police force that issued your certificate (but don’t send in your certificate).
- Send it by recorded delivery and keep a copy of the Royal Mail slip with a copy of the letter.
- You could also email it to the address on the police force website and ask for a read-receipt. This makes you bomb-proof if you are ever accused of not notifying a change of address (police forces are big organisations — sometimes things go missing).
- When you move from one police area to another, your file will be sent to the licensing department that covers your new address.
- It is likely that you will have a visit from an enquiry officer to check your security and to match up your firearms against those entered on to your certificate(s).
- If someone turns up without an appointment — which is both discourteous and bad practice — you do not have to let him into your house if it is not convenient.
If you are asked to give up your old certificate pending the issue of a new one, you should politely decline
You will need your certificate to buy ammunition and to show that you are in lawful possession of your firearms if you are stopped by the police. Instead, help the enquiry officer by providing a photocopy of your existing certificate and return the old one when the new one arrives. Your existing certificate remains valid even after your move.
If there is no significant change to your circumstances, your security should be acceptable in a new police jurisdiction unless you have moved into an area where the risk of crime has increased. The Home Office Guide says that each case must be taken on its merits and the police are not allowed to have blanket policies.
If you are asked to make changes, ask for a detailed explanation. If this does not satisfy you, ask for it in writing, plus a proper risk assessment. Also, if you are a member of an association, ask for help and representation.
When you receive your new certificate you must sign it immediately. If it is a firearms certificate, check its conditions against those of your old one. If they have been changed without reference to you and you are not happy with them, get in touch with the licensing department and ask for them to be changed. Firearms licensing should be consistent across the UK and conditions should not be altered merely due to a change of postcode.
Other FAQs about firearms certificates when moving house
Q: Do I have to have my licence changed every time I move?
I am a newly qualified junior doctor. As part of my final training I am being sent on various placements in Britain and abroad, but I am still living at home with my parents. The licensing department has told me that I will have to inform the police and have my licence changed every time I move. Some jobs are only for a few months, so I would have moved before my licence was reissued. Is this advice right?
A: Absolutely not. The person who told you this clearly had no idea of what the law provides. Condition three on your shotgun certificate reads: “The holder of this certificate must, without undue delay, inform the chief officer of police by whom the certificate was granted of any change of permanent address.”
If you are not moving away from your parents permanently, you do not have to tell the police. End of story. There is case law on the subject — Burditt vs Joslin (1981). Colonel Burditt was an Army officer who let his house on posting to the British Army of the Rhine. He applied to a UK police force for a certificate. This was refused on the grounds that he was not a UK resident at the time.
Col Burditt appealed and his appeal was dismissed. The test the court applied was that to be a UK resident you needed unfettered access to a UK address.
My advice is to ignore the advice and, if challenged, cite the above case.
This article was originally published in 2015 and has been updated.