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Houseboats

Some people see living on a houseboat as a more affordable option than living in a 'bricks and mortar' house, others see it as a way of life. This page provides useful links if you have any queries about living on a houseboat.

Buying a houseboat

If you are considering buying a houseboat, there are a few things you should consider.

Finance

You will not be able to get a mortgage to buy a houseboat from a high street bank or building society. You will have to approach a specialist in marine finance who will charge higher rates of interest and will be unlikely to lend you more than 80 per cent of the purchase price.

It is unlikely that you will be able to borrow any money for a sea-faring mobile home unless the loan can be secured on a home that you already own. Lenders worry that you will buy a sea-faring houseboat, skip the country and not pay them the money back.

Buyer beware

Houseboats do not come with title deeds in the same way that houses do. If you are planning to buy a houseboat, make sure that the seller actually owns the houseboat and has the legal right to sell it. If you don't, you could lose all your money and your houseboat.

Survey

Unless you know a lot about houseboats, you should get a survey done by someone who is an expert in this area. You don't want to buy a houseboat only to discover later that you are sinking!

Essentials

Houseboats don't always come with running water, electricity, gas, central heating, telephone points, an address or rubbish collection. How will you access services that are essential to you? Heating will be particularly important, as life on the water can be very cold.

Where will I put my houseboat?

Residential moorings

If you plan to live on your houseboat, you will need to find a residential mooring. You can rent a residential mooring from the Living on Water initiative, the local council or a private landlord. You'll probably need to sign a rental agreement with your landlord, giving you both certain rights and responsibilities. Make sure you read the agreement carefully first.

Can I moor a houseboat on my own land?

  • If a mooring is being changed from a cruising mooring to a residential mooring, planning permission is required.
  • If a mooring is being established on the coast, permission is required from the Crown Estate.
  • If a mooring is being established on a canal or waterway, you will need permission from the Living on Water initiative.

If you cannot find somewhere to live on your houseboat, you can apply to the council as homeless.

Cruising moorings

Cruising moorings are intended for people who will be cruising the waterways in their houseboat. They are not intended for people to moor houseboats on a permanent basis.

If you intend to move your houseboat you will need to have:

  • a boat safety scheme certificate
  • a cruising licence.

Renting a houseboat

If you rent a houseboat, make sure that it is being rented to you with a residential mooring. Many residential moorings do not allow houseboats to be rented out, so make sure that your landlord has got permission for you to stay there.

If you rent a houseboat, it is most likely that you will have a common law tenancy.

Will I have to pay council tax?

If you live on a houseboat on a residential mooring, you will be liable to pay council tax.

Can I claim Housing Benefit?

Yes, you can claim Housing Benefit to help pay:

  • rent for your houseboat
  • rent for your mooring
  • your boat licence.

Useful links

Find out more about living aboard a houseboat at the Canal Junction website.

Find out more about living on a canal or waterway in Scotland:

Scotland map Housing laws differ between Scotland and England.
This content applies to Scotland only.
Get advice if you're in England

The important points

  • If you need a mortgage to buy a houseboat you'll need to speak to a specialist in marine finance.
  • Mortgages on houseboats are usually secured on a property you already own.
  • Houseboats don't have title deeds in the way that houses do - check the seller definitely owns the houseboat and has the legal right to sell it.
  • You will need to get a residential mooring if you plan on living in your houseboat and will need to pay council tax.

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