Living on a boat

Living on a boat can be cheaper than renting a flat or house, but there aren't many vacant permanent moorings.

Boat licences and fees

You usually need a boat licence.

This costs around £500 to £1,000 per year and gives you permission to use the waterways.

You must display the licence on both sides of your boat.

You also need to pay a mooring fee if you rent a mooring.

Moorings for boats

Very few permanent residential moorings for boats are available.

You can sometimes buy a boat with an all-year-round residential mooring.

You can rent a residential mooring in a private marina or from the navigation authority.

Some mooring operators won't rent out a mooring to a boat owner who lives permanently on their boat.

Some boat dwellers live on permanent moorings that are not for residential use.

If you use a non-residential mooring as your home, the local authority can take legal action to move you on.

Continuous cruising

Many dwellers do not have a permanent mooring.

This is sometimes called continuous cruising.

A continuous cruiser can usually moor in one spot for up to 14 days.

You may only be able to moor for 48 hours in some areas.

This can be difficult if you need to live in the same area because of work or school.

Boats are allowed to moor at most places on canal towpaths. There are more restrictions on rivers.

Moorings for winter (from November to March) are available in some locations.

Renting a houseboat

If you rent a boat, make sure it is rented to you with a residential mooring.

Most all-year-round residential moorings do not allow boats to be rented out.

Check that the site owner has given your landlord permission for you to stay there.

The Canal and River Trust has more about renting a boat to live on

Paying council tax for a houseboat

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

Housing benefit

If you live on a houseboat, you can claim housing benefit or universal credit to help pay your:

  • mooring fees
  • rent, if you rent rather than own it

You can't claim housing benefit for a continuous cruiser licence.

Useful information on houseboats

Get legal advice if you're told you can no longer stay where you're moored.

Use the Law Society Directory to find legal help in your area.

You can also contact the:


Last updated 11 Mar 2019 | © Shelter

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