I saw a lovely couple this week who had asked me to act for them on the purchase of a house in the country where they hoped to retire. So, lovely couple, lovely house (indeed it was) but just one problem – the house had a stupid name. I won’t mention the actual name but it fell into the Dunroamin, Duneverything, Llamedos category, you know the sort of thing, where the great British public gets a chance to prove their wit and sense of irony.
Naming your house dates back to at least Babylonian and Roman times. In Britain names were primarily given to large and prominent houses belonging to the aristocracy, and so Buckingham House (which is now the Palace) was built as a large townhouse for the Duke of Buckingham. The names were usually stand alone words: Chatsworth, Broadlands and fictionally, Pemberly, Longbourn and Rosings in Pride and Prejudice.
Merchants and artisans starting naming their houses after their trades – Mill House, Forge Cottage, Wool Hall etc. Since the Postage Act in 1765 every house built in a town and city has a designated number followed by the name of the road in which it is located. In rural areas many houses remain named but un-numbered. Typically, the odd numbers will be on the left-hand side as seen from the centre of the town or village, with the lowest numbers at the end of the street closest to the town centre. Intermediate properties usually have a number suffixed A, B, C, etc. I believe we have nine houses in Kiln Road Newbury numbered 17 A-I .The number identifies the location of a property in a road and so makes it easier for the postal service or emergency personnel to find houses.
If your property has already been designated a number, you should clearly display the house number on the property and use it in your address line. You are free to choose any house name you like without notifying anyone, as long as you use your house number in your address. You cannot change a number (apart from adding a letter for an extra dwelling) or swap a number for a name, but you can use a name in addition to the number.
If your house currently has a name but no number you must make a written request to the highways or engineers department of your local authority, including an alternative suggestion in case there’s already a house locally with your first choice name. The highways department will tell Royal Mail of an approved name change which will be registered by the Royal Mail Address Maintenance Unit. If there is an issue with your preferred name, they will ask you choose an alternative name.
If a property in your area 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. The Cottage and Rose Cottage are currently the most popular names. Some Councils charge a registration fee for their service and some don’t.
It is then your responsibility to inform your personal contacts, you will also need to register the change with Land Registry, your local Council Tax Department, the Electoral Roll, BT, utility providers, mortgage lender, doctor and the rest of the long list of interested bodies.
Do have a quick look at the legal title to your house. It is not unusual for there to be a covenant prohibiting the use of certain words for your house name, for example the Church of England often put in a covenant saying a property cannot be given names such as The Vicarage or The Rectory.
Finally, do think carefully about the name you choose. There have been surveys suggesting that a suitable and well chosen name can add to the price and saleability of your property and conversely a negative impact if chosen badly. In a recent study a ‘silly house name’ came tenth in a list of external factors which put people off buying a house, with 36% suggesting this was a factor, although this did come behind such things as musical door bells, garden gnomes and abandoned vehicles.
My lovely couple are now very close to completing their purchase, and I am sure one of the first things on their To Do list is to set about changing the name.
For more information on this issue, please contact Stuart Durrant, at Gardner Leader.