Home > Rules & Regulations > Do I Need a Licence To Live on a Boat?

Do I Need a Licence To Live on a Boat?

By: Jeff Durham - Updated: 23 Aug 2014 | comments*Discuss
Boat Licence Uk Different Boat Licences

You will almost certainly need some kind of licence if you intend to live on a boat although the type of licence will vary depending on different circumstances. These licences will allow you remain static on the water or to cruise around and to keep your boat on the waterways.

Depending upon where you intend to live on your boat and the places you may (or may not) intend to cruise, there are different authorities which you’ll usually need to approach to obtain the correct licence.

The Licensing Authorities

In general, virtually all of the waterways in the UK are run by three organisations:

  • British Waterways - which runs almost all of the UK’s canals as well as the River Severn, Trent and Ouse
  • The Environment Agency - which runs the River Thames, Medway and all of the East Anglian rivers
  • The Broads Authority - which runs both the Norfolk and Suffolk Broads

Therefore, depending on where you are intending to moor your boat, you’ll need to contact the relevant authority as they each have their own registration and licensing arrangements. It’s not always that straightforward either. For example, some reservoirs have their own licensing arrangements and there has recently been a new ‘Gold Licence’ issued which covers the waters belonging to both British Waterways and the Environment Agency.


The cost of licensing your boat will also differ between each operating authority and is also dependent upon how long your craft is going to be on the water each year. For example, shorter term licences are available for pleasure boaters only intending to use their boats for a specified number of weeks or months per year. Once again, you’d need to contact the relevant licensing authority to find out more.

General Licence Checklist

  • Business Licence - this will most certainly be the licence you’ll need if you intend to use your boat for any commercial purpose in any way - e.g. running pleasure cruises, carrying freight or the boat is used for any kind of trading or work purpose whether it’s moving or static
  • Houseboat Licence - if your boat is going to remain static
  • Private Licence (canals and rivers) - if you’re going to be using your boat on British Waterways operated waters only or keeping the boat on (or next to) BW waters when you’re not actually using it. You can also get a discount on this if you’re only going to be using BW operated waters in England and Wales only
  • Gold Licence - if you’re going to be cruising both BW operated waters and those operated by the Environment Agency
  • Short-term Licence - if it’s a small trailed boat and is not going to be kept on a BW waterway or one which connects to a BW waterway. However, there are different short-term licences which apply to England & Wales collectively and a separate one where Scotland is concerned

Although the rules and regulations surrounding boat licensing might seem a bit confusing and you may feel that one specific licence might not be adequate for how you intend to use your boat, the best thing to do would be to contact each of the licensing authorities mentioned above and discuss your intended plans with them so that they can direct you into buying the correct licence.

You might also like...
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice..
I am or hope to be completing a life long ambition to buy and travel from Northampton to Ely by a river/canal boatcould any body tell me the best route and what licenses i would need ie waterways ect
spook - 23-Aug-14 @ 9:09 PM
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice...
(never shown)
(never shown)
(never shown)
(never shown)
Enter word:
Latest Comments
  • Timmy
    Re: Renting a Houseboat
    Hi there I am a 25 year old man and work all over the country but spend most of my time in hotels and would just like to have some home…
    11 February 2018
  • Mas
    Re: Renting a Houseboat
    I would like to rent a houseboat so that I can be on my own always want to live on the River and there are lovely views around here
    10 February 2018
  • Helen
    Re: Renting a Houseboat
    Professional person looking to rent a boat long term in Bristol must have at least 2 bedrooms.
    14 January 2018
  • Jo jo
    Re: Renting a Houseboat
    Looking to rent a boat long term in Norfolk hilgay, downham and surrounding areas Currently renting a mobile home near kings…
    26 November 2017
  • resi500
    Re: Renting a Houseboat
    I'm and my wife are in Pension, 67 and 64 years old and would like to rent a 50 to 60 foot Narrowboat from May to September in England. Any…
    21 November 2017
  • Smithy
    Re: Renting a Houseboat
    Hi looking for a boat to rent long term moving out of London in work in Faversham
    11 November 2017
  • Phil
    Re: Renting a Houseboat
    Hi am working in Leeds and looking for boat to rent Monday to Friday for long rental
    3 November 2017
  • non-live-aboard
    Re: What Are 'Bridge Hoppers'?
    Interesting, but I find it hard to understand the anger towards 'bridge hoppers'. I use my boat according to the continuous cruiser…
    20 September 2017
  • sailor0500
    Re: Mail & Banking Considerations
    I live on my narrow-boat on a British Waterways Marina mooring. I receive housing benefit which pays just over half of my…
    2 September 2017
  • Incorrect Facts
    Re: Paying Taxes If You Live on a Boat
    You said: "Depending on the value of the mooring, there is also the possibility of paying either value added tax (VAT)…
    18 August 2017
Further Reading...
Our Most Popular...
Add to my Yahoo!
Add to Google
Stumble this
Add to Twitter
Add To Facebook
RSS feed
You should seek independent professional advice before acting upon any information on the LivingOnABoat website. Please read our Disclaimer.