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Landlords and television licences

I was recently contacted by a landlord concerned that she could be liable for a £1000 fine from the TV licensing authority because her tenant had failed to obtain a TV licence.

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I’ve therefore decided to clarify for landlords exactly who is responsible for paying the TV licence in respect of their rental property.

The law is clear in respect to responsibility over the payment of the TV licence. If you the landlord do not provide the TV then it’s the tenant’s responsibility to purchase the TV licence.

The landlord provides the TV

Where the responsibility becomes less clear is if the landlord provides the tenant with a TV. Many landlords as a gesture of good will have thrown an old TV into a rental property at some time on the basis it:

1. Makes the property more attractive to let
2. Kills two birds with one stone because the landlord had an old TV knocking around anyway so it saves you having to dispose of it or store it in the loft.

However, this act of unbridled generosity could potentially back fire on the landlord. This is because, if a landlord provides the tenant with a TV it is then the landlord’s responsibility to ensure that the buy-to-let property has a valid TV Licence.

The only exception to this is if the tenancy clearly states that the tenant is responsible for buying the TV Licence. Property Hawk’s FREE Assured Shorthold Tenancy (AST) refers to the responsibility of tenants in respect of utilities but is not specific about the TV Licence. It states in Para 3.2 in reference to the tenants responsibilities that they will guarantee:

“To pay the Council Tax and water rates in respect of the property and all gas and electricity, light and power which shall be consumed or supplied on or to the property during the Tenancy and the amount of all charges made for the use of the telephone (if any) on the property during the Tenancy or a proper proportion of the amount of the rental or other recurring charges to be assessed according to the duration of the Tenancy.”

Therefore the Property Hawk tenancy agreement would not guarantee that a landlord who provides their tenant with a TV would not be responsible for paying the TV licence.

The tenant still has a responsibility

However, according to the TV licensing authority, the fact that the landlord provides a TV for a tenant does not obviate them from all responsibility. It states on it’s website that:

“Tenants including student tenants should ensure that a TV used in a rental property is properly licensed, even if it is supplied by the landlord.”

Landlords with multiple tenants

The good news for a landlord who perhaps has a number of tenants in a single rental property and where the tenant has signed a joint tenancy agreement is that; in this situation only one TV licence is required for the entire rental property.

If each of the tenants has a separate tenancy agreement, as would be the case for a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) the landlord would be required to purchase a separate licence for each tenant.

Charging the tenant for the TV licence

One way around the financial liability of the TV licence would be for the landlord who provides a TV is for them to pay for the licence, but then pass on the cost to the tenant. They could do this in the form of a higher rent or as a separate service charge along with any allowance made for the administration costs of paying the TV licence.

TV licence and lodgers

Finally, where a landlord has just a lodger, say under the government rent a room scheme, then each lodger will need a separate TV license if they have their own TV in a bedroom, the exceptions being:

  • If the lodger is a family member.
  • If the lodger lives in the same household due to a relationship (e.g. common law relationships).
  • If the lodger is employed by the household (e.g. au pair, housekeeper, cook).


For more information on TV licences:

Landlords Bible – TV licences
TV Licensing – landlords and tenants

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