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Living on a boat

You need a long term boat licence to live on a boat as a:

  • boater with a home mooring or long term mooring

  • continuous cruiser

A licence costs around £500 to £1,500 a year. The cost depends on the size of your boat and if you are licensed to use canals and rivers.

You can buy or renew a boat licence on the Canal and River Trust website.

You count as homeless if you have nowhere to moor your boat and live in it.

Ask for council homeless help if you need it.

Home moorings and long term moorings

Long term moorings are often called home moorings.

You need a home mooring to live on a boat unless you're a continuous cruiser.

Most home moorings are provided by private companies either in a marina or along the canal or river towpath. Contracts can be for up to 3 years.

The Canal and River Trust have more on long term boat moorings.

Continuous cruising and short stay moorings

Some people who live on boats do not have a permanent mooring.

Boaters without a home mooring are called 'continuous cruisers'.

This means that you:

  • need a long term boat licence

  • must be travelling on the canals or rivers

  • must not usually moor in the same neighbourhood for more than 14 days

Some parts of canals and rivers only allow short stay moorings of between 2 and 7 days.

Winter moorings for continuous cruisers

The Canal and River Trust have temporary winter moorings for continuous cruisers who:

  • keep to the licence conditions

  • do not want to move between November and February

The Canal and River Trust advertise winter moorings from September each year.

Keeping to the rules of a continuous cruising licence

The Canal and River Trust check that you are:

  • moving far enough

  • not staying in one place for too long

They might ask you for proof of this. Keep a cruising log to show them if needed.

Disabled boaters can ask for 'reasonable adjustments' to the continuous cruiser rules.

For example, reducing your cruising range, permission to moor up for longer, or help at locks or getting on or off your boat.

You can ask a boat licence support officer for advice if you are finding it hard to meet the rules for continuous cruisers. For example, if:

  • you become ill and cannot move your boat

  • you are expecting a baby or have recently given birth

  • your boat breaks down or cannot move because of a closed lock

  • you need to stay in an area because of work or schools

The Canal and River Trust have more advice on continuous cruising.

Legal advice for liveaboard boaters

You might need specialist advice if you're told that:

  • you cannot stay on your mooring

  • you have broken continuous cruising rules

These organisations could help:

Community Law Partnership Travellers Advice Team
0121 685 8595
Legal advice for liveaboard boaters including continuous cruisers

National Bargee Travellers Association
Free membership for liveaboard boaters
Advice, casework and campaigning for members' rights

Renting a houseboat to live on

Before renting a houseboat to live on, you should check that the boat owner has the right licence to rent the boat out.

To rent out their boat, a boat owner will usually need:

  • a static letting licence

  • proof of insurance

  • a boat safety scheme certificate

  • a gas safety certificate

  • a permanent residential mooring

  • permission from the mooring provider to rent out the boat

Check the boat owner has the right type of licence

Call the Canal and River Trust customer services team on 0303 040 4040

Give them the boat's name and index number and say you are thinking of renting it.

Benefits to help with boating costs

If you're working age and have a low income, you can usually get universal credit (UC).

Universal credit has a housing element that can help with:

  • mooring fees

  • a long term boat licence

  • rent if you do not own your boat

You cannot get more than the local housing allowance (LHA) for private renters.

You can apply for housing benefit if you're pension age.

Council tax on houseboats

You might have to pay council tax if you live on a houseboat with a residential mooring.

You could get help with council tax if you have a low income.

You do not have to pay council tax if:

  • you're a continuous cruiser

  • you do not own or rent a personal mooring for your boat

Last updated: 4 April 2024

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