News & Blog

Making sense of the census

Over the last few weeks households all over the country have been receiving letters telling them they need to complete the census or face a fine up to £1,000. With the letters being addressed to ‘The householder’ and it being 10 years since any of us have had to complete the census, it is no surprise that tenants and landlords have been asking their agents who needs to complete it.


The letting agent helpline, HF Assist, has seen a sharp rise in calls from agents who aren’t sure, so HF Assist Adviser, Julie Ford, explains all you need to know.


What is the census?

The census is a survey that happens every 10 years to give the Government a picture of all the people and households in England and Wales. Census day takes place on Sunday 21 March 2021.


Answers to the census questions will help the Government make decisions on planning and funding public services in your area, including transport, education and healthcare.


Who needs to complete the census?

Anyone who is occupying a property on Sunday 21 March must, by law, complete the census or be included on a census for the place where they are living or staying on census day. This includes visitors who usually live somewhere else, who are staying overnight.


The person referred to as the ‘householder’ in the census just means a person who usually lives at this address, on their own or with other people. The householder should either answer the individual questions for all the household members, or make sure each member answers their own. You are the ‘householder’ if you:

  • own or rent the accommodation, and/or
  • pay the household bills and expenses


You may also see the term ‘household’, which is either:

  • one person living alone, or
  • a group of people (who do not have to be related) living at the same address who share cooking facilities and share a living room or sitting room or dining area


Who needs to complete the census in rented accommodation?

If the landlord lives there

The landlord and tenants who pay bills are all householders. One of you will need to complete the household questions, but each tenant can complete their own individual questions.


If you live there but your landlord doesn't

The tenant or tenants who pay the bills for the household should fill in the form.


One person will need to take responsibility for answering the questions about the home, but each tenant can complete their own individual questions.



Students should be counted at both their term-time address and their home address. This means they should be included on a census form at both addresses, even if they’ve only left the term-time address temporarily for the Easter break.


The answers should relate to the address at the beginning of each form.


Everyone in England and Wales must complete their census or be included on a census for the place where they're living or staying.


If you don't complete the census, you can be prosecuted and you may have to pay a fine of up to £1,000, plus court costs.


What is meant by "term-time address"?

A term-time address is an address that the tenant intended to stay at regularly during term time in this academic year, even if they're not there at the moment.


For example:

Private rented accommodation or student lodgings near the place of learning that they are paying rent for, a hall of residence that they had planned to stay at for this academic year and have a contract for, but they may not be there because of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.


Halls of residence

The Government will send a letter to students at their hall of residence with an individual access code for their online form. If they're not at the hall of residence at the moment and they're unable to get your access code, they should order a new individual access code for your term-time address.


International students

International students should be included if:

  • They are staying here now and have stayed, or intend to stay, in the UK for at least three months
  • They are not currently in the UK but attended their university in person during the autumn 2020 term, and/or winter 2021 term, and still have a formal agreement to be able to stay at their term-time accommodation


How to answer separately from the rest of your household

If needed, tenants can answer separately from the rest of your household. Whoever is completing the household form, should list all tenants as a resident and record their relationship to other household members. There will then be an opportunity to order an individual questionnaire for any member of the household who wants one.


Need any more advice? HF Assist is available from just £10 a month plus VAT. Find out more about HF Assist here.


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