Leaflet dropping rules and laws in the UK can be divided into two classes. One class of leaflet dropping needs permits, but the other does not. 

Therefore, in order to avoid legal consequences you should carefully investigate the laws pertaining to your general area.

For the purpose of this post, we will be talking in broad generalities and we highly recommend double checking the information you will read here to ensure that it complies with the local laws.

Leaflet Dropping Rules: Legalities

The UK introduced the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act in 2005, which regulated the rules about the distribution of printed materials in order to reduce littering. The specific parts of the Act to bear in mind are from Part 3 (23) of the Act. In summary:

* “A person commits an offence if he distributes any free printed matter without the consent of a principal litter authority”

* “A person commits an offence if he causes another person to distribute any free printed matter without the consent of a principal litter authority”

* “[T]o “distribute” printed matter means to give it out to, or offer or make it available to, members of the public and includes placing it on or affixing it to vehicles, but does not include putting it inside a building or letter-box”

* Religious, political or charitable leaflets are exempt from the Act.

The third point is the one you will have to research to find out the specific rules for your area because ultimately, the power of defining what is and is not litter depends upon your local authority.

Potential ramifications for breaking the laws range from a fixed penalty up to £80 or a fine of up to £2 500 and a criminal record.

It is likely that you will have to buy a permit in order to distribute your business leaflet on the streets, so this is something to take into consideration when you start printing your leaflets.

Leaflet Dropping Rules: Distribution

As an independent business owner, the most risk-free method of distribution is posting from door to door, or gaining permission from a business to display your leaflets. 

It is also the most cost-effective up front as you will not need to buy permits and many businesses or locations may allow you to advertise for free or for a nominal fee.

The drawbacks to advertising with leaflet display way is the restriction of leads due to people ignoring your leaflets.

There is also a good chance that you may end up having to print more leaflets than expected because you are not gaining as many customers as you would like because of the increased risk of subjecting your leaflet to the junk mail pile without being given a chance.

It is up to you to weigh the benefits and drawbacks of handing out leaflets in person. What follows is a list of recommended guidelines for in-person leaflet distribution that assumes that you have obtained the necessary permits for your local area.

Leaflet Dropping Rules: Hand to Hand Leaflet Distribution

As the most interactive form of leaflet distribution, all small businesses should give it a go at least once or twice in order to spread word about their business to their local market.

By presenting your business as a person with a face, it instantly makes your business more notable than posted leaflets or websites.
Again, we shall go straight to the legal side of things.

You have the necessary permits to give out your leaflets, now you must consider the presentation of your business and leaflets. The key legal issue here is aggressiveness.

You or those who help you distribute leaflets must be careful to present themselves smartly and not be too persistent. Talking to, and attempting to strike up conversation with passers by is permissible by law, but your actions cannot be perceived overly persistent or too aggressive.

If a person declines your leaflet or to talk to you, you must let them pass as anything else could legally be termed harassment – impeding a person’s ability to go about their daily life.

It is advised that you practice your approach and sales pitch with friends, family or others who will be able to give you an honest opinion about your actions. It would also be a good idea to have some form of uniform, even if just a printed t-shirt.

It is important to present yourself as a business from the moment of outreach. A friendly approach with some form of branding is likely to leave a neutral or good first impression.

Following the creation of a first impression you must then consider the timing of your advertising campaign. The best times for periods of high traffic would be around the lunch hour or weekends, or at least in the afternoons.

As you want to make your brand as visible as possible we suggest that you assess several high density streets and locations to find out when the times of highest traffic are.

It may also help to distribute at local transport hubs, however, you run an increased risk of giving leaflets out to non-residents.

If you wish to distribute leaflets in shopping centres, outside even within local businesses, then it is important to get the permission of those places of business as well to be on the safe side.

As with everything, it is important to get their agreement in writing in order to cover your bases. Failure to do so could possibly result in being asked to leave the premise due to loitering or other complaints.

Leaflet Dropping Rules: Leaflet Displays

This term could be applied to any form of distribution where you simply deposit leaflets or cards in the hopes that someone will pick them up.

Examples would be posting advertisements on job wanted boards, dropping leaflets through letterboxes or displaying them on counters at another place of business. 

Only do these if your service is unique and relevant to your target audience or if you have a high quality flyer as these are also the most risky ways to generate income. 


With regards to letterbox advertising, there is a line to toe between advertising too frequently and not enough.

A business that advertises itself more than once a week through the letterbox is more likely to be treated as junk mail, but not advertising enough means your business will fall out of the public eye.

This is one reason you should combine active distribution with more passive forms of leaflet distribution.

Ensure that your advertising campaign meets the local laws before you step onto the street and begin passing out your leaflets. A small one-off fine is something easier to hide, but multiple fines will give your reputation a bad business before it even starts to take off.

Show respect to your fellow business and ask permission to distribute flyers inside or outside their building in order to foster good relationships within the community and to avoid negative repercussions.

Get off to a good foot by presenting professionally from your first day handing out leaflets and conduct yourself assertively, but respectfully. Your business establishes itself based on the first few seconds of contact between yourself and the potential client, so do it right.

We hope these leaflet dropping rules help you stay on the right side of the law when planning your next leaflet distribution campaign. 

If you need help with planning a campaign or would like some advice about any leafleting queries, drop us a call and speak to our leaflet planning team.

Need Help? Contact Us Using The Form Below