If you live on your boat, and your income and savings are low, you are eligible for Housing Benefit. You can claim Housing Benefit to cover the cost of the boat licence, boat safety certificate and third-party insurance. If you have a mooring and/or if you rent your boat, Housing Benefit will cover the cost of the mooring fee and rent up to certain limits.
Statutory Instrument 2007 no 2870 Housing Benefit (Local Housing Allowance, Miscellaneous and Consequential) Amendment Regulations states at Regulation 12 that rent includes
(d) payments in respect of, or in consequence of, use and occupation of the dwelling ….
(f) mooring charges payable for a houseboat….”
In the cases below in which appeals were decided by the Social Security and Child Support Commissioners (SSCSA), the Commissioners decided that Housing Benefit was payable for the boat licence fee under (d) above, in some cases together with the mooring fee.
In CH 0318 2005, the boater did not have a mooring and was continuously cruising. He stated that he was in breach of his licence conditions but the Commissioners found that irrelevant. The important point is that for the majority of the time his home was within the local authority’s area.
In CH 4250 2006, the boater was awarded Housing Benefit even though he did not have planning permission to live on the mooring and this included benefit for a period when his mooring agreement had been terminated but he was still occupying the mooring as a trespasser and BW charged him for that period. If he had been a trespasser and BW had not demanded mooring fees for the time he was trespassing, obviously Housing Benefit would not have been payable for that period. This establishes the principle that Planning Permission is not required in order to obtain Housing Benefit.
CH 0844 2002 established the principle that the boat licence fee qualified under (d) but the boater also claimed for the mooring fee in that particular case as he had a mooring.
At least two liveaboard boaters who are continuous cruisers have obtained Housing Benefit for their boat licence fee alone, on appeal, on the basis that for the majority of the time the boat is within the local authority’s area. It is entirely possible to adhere to Section 17 (3) (c) ii of the 1995 British Waterways Act and move the boat to a different place every 14 days and remain mostly within a local authority’s area unless the stretch of canal within the local authority is very small. The question of whether you are complying with the boat licence terms and conditions which now include the Guidance for Boaters Without a Home Mooring is a different question and it is not relevant to a decision to award Housing Benefit. In the same way that Housing Benefit does not look at whether a tenant is in breach of their tenancy agreement (for example by not cleaning the windows, a condition of many tenancies), non-compliance with the boat licence Terms and Conditions or other conditions is not relevant to an award of Housing Benefit.
“Rent” in the 2007 Regulations is defined as periodic payments. Therefore a local authority may be able to avoid paying Housing Benefit for a licence fee or mooring fee that it defines as not being a periodic payment, for example a one-off transit licence to cross another navigation authority’s waterways. However, at least one boater has successfully claimed Housing Benefit for the cost of the boat safety examination and the third party insurance. Like the boat licence, these are compulsory requirements and therefore fall under 12 (1) (d) of the above regulations, because they are “payments in respect of, or in consequence of, use and occupation of the dwelling” and they are periodic, that is, paid every year, not just once. The benefit payments for the boat safety certificate and insurance will usually be paid as a small sum each month. The benefit for the boat safety certificate will cover the cost of the examination and certificate only, and not the cost of any remedial work.
If you apply for Housing Benefit and your application is refused, you should appeal quoting the above information including the SSCSA Tribunal cases. There is a 28-day limit for appealing against a refusal of Housing Benefit.
You can read and download the three SSCSA cases and a copy of this information here