Living on a houseboat

Some people see living on a houseboat as a more affordable option than living in a traditional house, others see it as a way of life. This page considers some of the issues to consider, and provides useful links if you need further information.

Buying a houseboat

If you are 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. If you can’t buy outright, you will have to approach a marine finance specialist 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 on a sea-faring houseboat unless the loan can be secured on a home that you already own. Lenders worry that you will buy a boat, leave the country, and not pay them 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 boat and has a legal right to sell it. If you don’t, you could lose all your money and your houseboat.

Survey
You should get a survey done by someone who is an expert in houseboats, unless you know a lot about the subject. 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. You should consider how you will 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?
If you plan to live on your houseboat, you will need to find a residential mooring. You can rent a residential mooring from British Waterways, 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.

Cruising moorings are only intended for people who are cruising the waterways. They are not intended for people to moor houseboats on a permanent basis.

If you cannot find a residential mooring for your houseboat, you can apply to the council as homeless.

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

I have to pay council tax?
If you live on a houseboat with a residential mooring, you will have 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 or The Canal River Trust websites.

We are sorry that we cannot provide this information in Welsh, however if you would like to speak to an adviser in Welsh please contact 0345 075 5005.

Phone an adviser

If you have a housing problem, call our expert housing advice helpline
0345 075 5005

Email an adviser

If you have a non-urgent problem and would like to speak to an advisor
email us

This page was last updated on: May 29, 2017

Shelter Cymru acknowledges the support of Shelter in allowing us to adapt their content. The information contained on this site is updated and maintained by Shelter Cymru and only gives general guidance on the law in Wales. It should not be regarded or relied upon as a complete or authoritative statement of the law.