If you live in a shared house or share with your landlord as a lodger, do you need a TV licence for your own TV in your room? The rules are complex and daunting for the faint-hearted, but we think we’ve managed to get to the nub of them. Do bear with us whilst we try to explain.
Sharing with flatmates
So here’s the scenario. You’ve just moved in, say with friends or a bunch of people you don’t know. There’s a telly in the living room but you can’t all agree on watching the same programme together. So you put a small TV in your own room and watch what you like. The house has a TV licence which you pay jointly towards. You’re covered aren’t you?
No. Not exactly. It depends on the tenancy arrangement. If you’ve moved in with friends and rented the whole house jointly (on a joint and several tenancy agreement where you’re all equally liable for the rent), one TV licence should cover the whole house. But on its website, TV licensing notes an exception, “such as whether or not you have exclusive access to a toilet or washing facilities”. What difference having your own en-suite should make to your legal status regarding television watching is anyone’s guess, but if you’re not sure how this might apply to you, it’s best to give them a call.
If you’re renting just a room and you have your own separate contract or rental agreement, then it’s quite clear that you’ll need your own licence for watching a separate telly in your room.
Sharing a house with your landlord
Scenario B – you’ve found a nice place to live, sharing with a lovely family. They’ve got a spare room and you’re happy to share their cosy home with them. You’ve signed a licence agreement, which is quite different in law from a tenancy agreement, and doesn’t give you exclusive rights over any part of the house. So you should be fine to watch TV in your room, assuming your landlord has a licence already, right? Wrong.
The TV licensing website is a little hazy on the subject of living as a lodger, stating that “You’re covered by the homeowner’s TV Licence if they have one, provided you live in the same building. If you live in self contained accommodation such as a separate flat or annex you need your own separate licence.” So far, so good – you’re not living in self-contained accommodation, you just have a room, and it’s not even got a lock on the door! But wait, there’s more. “You don’t need a licence if you’re a lodger and have a relationship with the homeowner – for example, a family member, common law partner, a nanny, au pair or housekeeper.” Hang on a second, you just said it was ok if it’s not self-contained. Do I also need to be related to the homeowner or working for them? It’s not entirely clear from the wording on the site, so we asked TV Licensing for clarification. They came back and said “If you are a tenant or a lodger with an individual tenancy agreement for your room it would mean your room is classified as a separately occupied place and you must be covered by a valid TV Licence to watch or record television programmes as they’re being shown on TV. This includes the use of devices such as a TV, computer, mobile phone, games console, digital box and DVD/VHS recorder.” So even though a lodger is not a “tenant” in law, they do seem to require a licence to watch TV separately from the rest of the household.
What’s more a licence isn’t shareable between properties you’re living at. So if you’re a Monday to Friday lodger, and have a licence for the TV in your own home, you’d still need an additional licence to watch another TV in your weekday room, separately from the TV in the communal sitting room. Wait. There’s a single exception to even this rule. If the TV is battery powered, you don’t need a licence, but as soon as it’s plugged into the mains, thereby installing the device, you do need a licence. Have you ever heard of such lunacy?
TV licensing tell us, “Anyone caught watching or recording live TV without a valid licence can risk prosecution and a fine of up to £1,000.” For more information on licensing and to ask questions, visit http://www.tvlicensing.co.uk/. Please don’t ask us – we’re as bemused as you are!