Do You Pay Council Tax If You Live On A Narrowboat?

Do you pay council tax if you live on a narrowboat? This is not as simple as it sounds. Research conducted by someone who has been in the business of building narrowboats for many years concludes that you do not have to pay council tax if you live on a narrowboat. However, you may still receive a council tax bill.

Council tax on a live-aboard narrowboat

We have tried to simplify the information, but be warned that not all councils agree at first, and they may need to be persuaded. Information from the government is readily available on the internet. We have given our explanation of this information as well as linking to the sources. Please be aware that this is not legal advice, but it is our understanding of the current situation from the information available.

You do not pay council tax if you live on a narrowboat when:

  1. You live aboard your narrowboat and constantly cruise, or
  2. You do not moor your narrowboat in a marina and you do not own or rent your own personal plot of land where you live most of the time.

Just living on a narrowboat does not make you responsible to pay council tax. There must also be a link from the narrowboat to a mooring where the owner or tenant resides and has a permanent right to return.

Living in a marina, where the marina has in its Terms of Business, (contract) a clause saying that they can move your narrow-boat, to a different mooring at any time, at their convenience is in English law, a situation where the owner of the mooring is responsible for paying business rates and the narrowboat owner is exempt.

The following information is taken directly from Government websites:

“8.1 If there are a number of adjacent moorings, some of which are used by boats which are sole or main residences and some of which are used by pleasure boats, but no boat owners have exclusive possession of any particular mooring, this would indicate a composite hereditament occupied by the owner of the moorings.”

(A hereditament is any kind of property that can be inherited. There are two types of hereditament – a corporeal hereditament, which is a tangible object such as land or building, and a incorporeal hereditament, which is an intangible right, such as rent.)

“In marinas the berth holder will not have exclusive possession and hence not have paramount control or rateable occupation, as a general rule. However in some instances exclusive possession sufficient to create separate rateable occupation, may have been granted to individuals, (British Waterways grant on occasions such agreements). Where this occurs, each berth will be a separate single hereditament within a marina.

The following links to Government websites and Citizens Advice guidance provide further detail on the question: “Do you pay council tax if you live on a narrowboats?”

Council Tax: practice notes – Council Tax Manual – Guidance – GOV.UK (

Council Tax – Home (

If you do receive a council tax bill when you live on a narrowboat and are willing to stand your ground, many people have found that the council will stop demanding the tax, or not make a demand in the first place. In other words they try to make you pay, even if they have no legal grounds to do so.

If you find yourself in the situation of being asked to pay council tax if you live on a narrowboat, then consult the Citizen’s Advice Bureau or a seek legal advice.

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