TV Licensing and the Canal & River Trust urge would-be houseboat owners to count the costs when leaving land behind

With an increasing number of people choosing a life afloat, TV Licensing is urging boat dwellers to ensure they are correctly licensed to watch TV.

By law, residential boat owners who are watching or recording TV programmes at the same time as they are shown on TV need to be licensed. This is true no matter what device is used, how the programmes are received, or whether the boat is cruising or moored.

Jason Hill, spokesperson for TV Licensing, said:

We know an increasing number of people are choosing an alternative lifestyle afloat with an estimated 15,000 houseboat owners in the UK. It is important they understand the law when it comes to watching or recording TV programmes.

We don’t want anyone to experience that ‘sinking feeling’ if they are found watching live TV on board without a valid licence. If caught, boat owners face prosecution and a fine of up to £1,000.

It’s easy to pay for a TV Licence or update details online, using a forwarding address if necessary. There are many ways to spread the cost, including weekly, fortnightly or monthly cash payment plans and direct debit options, which can be set up quickly. You do not need a fixed address to receive your TV Licence, as a licence can be arranged for your boat and sent to you by email.

Sorwar Ahmed, from the Canal & River Trust, said:

There are all sorts of things boat owners need to take into account if they’re planning on living a life on the water. These include surveying costs, safety certificates, insurance and a boat licence, not to mention fuel and electricity, and regular maintenance work. It’s important to remember other responsibilities, like a TV Licence, when considering costs – we don’t want anyone to get caught out.

Boat living is a completely different way of life, and one that doesn’t suit everybody. We encourage people not to see canals and boats as a cheap housing alternative. As well as the hidden costs, maintaining your boat is almost like a part-time job, so you also have to factor in the value you put on your time too. Our advice is that you should only live on a boat if you love the lifestyle!

The costs of living afloat, however, are not putting off some from buying into the houseboat dream.

Nigel Day, Director of houseboat estate agents, RiverHomes, said:

We have seen steady growth in the houseboat market in the last year. There has been an increase in buyers who are not giving up any on creature comforts and are buying boats that are well-insulated with excellent heating systems. Gone are the days of shivering in winter, with sub-zero interior temperatures. In particular we are seeing recently-divorced men choosing to buy houseboats in a down-sizing move, with buyers spending up to £1 million on floating properties.

Whether you are a new houseboat owner or a longstanding ‘landlocked sailor’ it’s important to ensure you are correctly licenced to watch TV, to avoid a knock on your porthole from an enquiry officer.

TV Licensing’s comprehensive database of over 30 million addresses is the primary tool used to catch evaders. This includes residential houseboat addresses.

For further information and advice, simply go to, or call TV Licensing on 0300 790 6071.

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