TV but no UK TV licence

Hi I’m hoping for some advice as I am 3 weeks into a 3 month sit for a family in the UK and a TV Licence final investigation warning card has been delivered stating that an officer has been scheduled to visit the property as despite previous warnings there has been no reply and no tv licenece is held at the property. We were shown the TV to use in the lounge in the handover visit but no mention of what channels could be watched or not in that handover visit or in the 2 pages of notes on the pet and house. No mention in notes about the TV at all.

We have obviously switched the TV on and watched live tv a few times.

I messaged the HO with a picture of the card and asked what they wanted us to do. Their reply: “We don’t support the BBC and out of principle do not watch their channels and will not give them any money. This letter is likely to be just another threat. If by any chance someone does ever visit just explain you are not the legal occupier and don’t let them in the house. I do not expect them to visit though”

It is currently a criminal offence in the UK to watch or record any live tv or download anything on BBC iplayer without a tv licence.

I have replied that we would not let anyone into their home without their explicit agreement but am left feeling like I may have inadvertently committed a criminal offence.

Is this something usual and should we really be checking with HO whether they have specific views on this sort of subject and whether they have a tv licence to use the equipment they have in their home? Perhaps this should be a question alongside how do the heating and hot water controls work? Any constructive ideas on how to word this in future or what you would do now on the current sit?

I was always a little afraid of this happening while sitting in the UK and did consider asking HOs if they had a TV licence but it kind of felt like asking if they pay their taxes, so I never actually did. I do know that inspectors do visit but it would be terribly bad luck for that to happen while you are there. If they do visit they would turn the TV on, see that it gets any live channnels (not just the BBC) and take it from there. The HOs are misinformed if they think just not watching the BBC gets them off the hook. They could be watching live TV from Serbia and still require one but it’s not for you to educate them. The only suggestion I have for you would be that now that you know (and if you care) watch only netflix etc and move on. No one would hold you responsible for having watched live TV so far.

I’m British. We don’t have a TV licence for a property we use very infrequently and don’t watch any live TV there so don’t need one. However for the past 2-3 years we had had nasty threatening letters to our property on a monthly basis. The company that the BBC use as enforcers have absolutely no powers. Sorry you’ve had to deal with it but the homeowners probably didn’t even think about it.

I never feel like I am obligated to open my front door to anyone.

Including the police that once knocked on my door with the wrong address.

I have sat and watched TV and have been doing dishes at times when my bell has been rung, not once but twice.

If someone knocks on the door…just text the HO that a knock happened but you did not answer, as all is good.

I would text them in case they sent a family or friend over, which they should tell you prior so you could be informed of such a visit.

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Naughty of the owners to leave you in a situation like this. Regardless of their pseudo-political “we don’t support the BBC” they’ve left you embroiled in their nonsense.
Short answer - ignore the letter. It’s meaning garbage and there is no investigation, no officer, no scheduled visit.
Longer answer - the TV Licensing lot are a private company tasked with collecting fees for the BBC. They have all the powers of a private company which is to say none.
No-one will turn up as they just send these threatening letters. They follow a cycle, stop for a bit then start a cycle again of ever-increasing useless threats.
I’m honestly not even sure if you are liable for anything. You’re not the owner, a lodger or a tenant. You are essentially a friend looking after the house for a bit.
There is an infinitesimally small chance that some person will turn up and try and intimidate his way into the house or ask questions about your TV watching. I had the pleasure of this happening once in over 20 years. I say pleasure as it’s a lot of fun watching them try and do their act while you stand there in the knowledge that they have all the authority of a drunk badger trying to demand access to your bin.
You can ignore knocks on the door if you wish but since you’re there for a couple months just go about your business. If someone does turn up (they won’t) just do your best Ray Shoesmith “I don’t answer questions”. That’s it. Nothing else.
They’ll claim they have a warrant - they don’t
They’ll claim you have to have a license if you have a TV - you don’t
They’ll say they just need to check - they don’t.
Everything they say is a lie but it doesn’t matter. Why? Because all you say is “I don’t answer questions”. No name, no excuse, no Hello can I help you.
Once you’re bored of having fun close the door and go back to watching TV.
They are not law enforcement, they are not government, they are not civil servants. They are employees of a terrible company who have no right to actually even be on your doorstep.

Tough spot for a sitter, but definitely not the norm, so I don’t think adding it to your list of questions would help. It might make you sound a bit over-zealous.

As others have said, you are not obliged to open the door to anyone, unless you are expecting a friend/family member of the HO by prior arrangement.

This matter is really not your concern. You are a guest in their house.

Yea, you don’t need to add this to your list of questions other than maybe checking to generally see what you’re allowed to use on the TV, which I ask anyway because I like to make sure if I’m using an HO’s streaming accounts, etc. I’m using the right ones. Personally, I do not watch live TV at ppl’s homes, but it may also be bc after living in the UK, I also did not watch BBC out of habit.

As @cawosey outlined, that letter is an empty threat and what the HO was trying to say in so many words is just ignore it and if anyone asks, you can just tell them you’re the HS and so not authorised to provide further detail/comment on the matter. I’d be shocked if anyone even stopped by and even if they did, they have no authority.

No, neither you nor THS shouldn’t be asking if an HO has a TV licence and please don’t feel the need to raise it with future HO’s. It would be like asking an HO if they are they breaking the law in any sort of way, and who wants to be asked that? Who wants to trust you in their house, when you have discussed whether or not they are breaking the law? It would be really off-putting that you even asked, and you would never get accepted for sits.

I live in the UK, we have a TV licence, and we are sitters. But don’t worry about it, it is them that hold the license, and it is them that commit the offence, it doesn’t involve you personally at all.

Most people in the UK DO have a TV licence, so the question doesn’t need to be asked, you can just presume they have got one, and if they haven’t that is their choice.

It is very VERY silly the way that all of us that own/rent are expected to have a TV licence if we simply own a TV, when it only involves BBC channels. It’s a totally archaic system.

People can and have been prosecuted for not having a TV licence, but it won’t be you, so don’t worry about it. You have informed the owners, that’s the end of your responsibility.

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Thank you so much to all of you for taking the time to reply! I wasn’t sure whether to post and ask so I do appreciate all of your replies. Thanks again


The closest description to what you are doing in the home in terms of “who needs a license” is that you are a visitor. Visitors do not need a license. This is not your issue except for the remotest, miniscule chance someone may turn up and then you get faced with someone wanting entrance to the property (which they are not entitled to) and you having to deal with it as you are looking after it. For that alone the owners should have given some thought to this.
But ignore, relax and watch some TV.

It’s not a matter of if you watch bbc or not watch bbc. It’s a matter that your tv can receive bbc. Probably nothing will happen. But just be polite and explain the situation if someone comes to the door. If they get aggressive give them the pet parents contact details and let them deal with it. Not your problem

This is not correct at all. At the risk of taking this off-topic into a primer on UK TV License requirements, but I’ll risk it since the OP seems to have had their original questions answered:
Owning a TV does not require a license
Using a TV does not require a license
Connecting a TV to an aerial, cable box or satellite does not require a license.
You require a license if you watch live TV (or record it to watch later) as it is being broadcast live on any channel BBC, ITV, Channel5 etc through any service including ‘streaming’ services such as Amazon Prime (this would usually only be things like football matches shown live on streaming services)
Anything watched not live on the catchup services for ITV, Channel5 etc are fair game no license required. Streamed Amazon prime, Netflix etc is all good.
BBC iPlayer is it’s own special case as they changed the law a few years back. iPlayer in any form requires a license - catchup, live, semi-live etc - it’s now all captured by the license requirement.
It’s also not really TV based now as they had to update to keep up with modern technology - anything that can show tv or stream it is covered - laptop, table, phone, game console.
It’s all getting ridiculous as they try and keep up with modern tech. As examples:
Your license for your house covers all devices in the house and your tablet, laptop etc if you take them away with you. However if you them plug those devices into power to charge while watching away from the house the place you plug them into now requires a license. Just ridiculous.
It really should just go away now as it’s a joke ‘tax’ that they use to punish the most vulnerable in society - vulnerable women and people with disabilities especially learning disabilities are the most affected by convictions. 75% of those convicted of not paying are women. 30% of ALL women in prison are there for failure to pay the tv license (2019 stats)

Sorry for getting ranty. I’ll take a little breather now.


@ElsieDownie I was also going to say that this is absolutely incorrect but @cawosey has explained it perfectly.

Most people tend to have a vast misunderstanding of what the tv liscence is actually for. It’s not a big secret either you can just ring them up and ask.

The main thing is that if you don’t require one then you should submit the appropriate forms to say this and they will stop sending letters - it’s really that simple.

In terms of the original question - it’s not really your problem so I wouldn’t worry too much about it.

It hits the poor in the same way as the poll tax that Thatcher proposed.

Sweden used to have a system with license fees, but because of the proliferation of all kinds of digital screens and all the subtile legal distinctions that that would be required nowadays the national public broadcaster is funded by taxes.

You don’t need a TV license unless you are watching live tv or iplayer. They prosecute people that let them into a property (they have no authority to enter without your permission) or you talk to the sales man (sorry licensing officer).
The letter is standard by the way. I’ve been investigated for the last 12 years at my present address and get letters all the time. I don’t watch live tv so don’t require such.
Btw there’s a lawyer taking capita to court over these harassing letters.

@richten1 why can’t you just click on the link and declare that you don’t need a tv liscence? That covers you for 2 years and then you won’t receive threatening letters?

Because they then use the info to send another letter trying to get you to buy a license. They also then have your name.

@richten1 personally I’ve never purchased a tv licence maybe about 12 years now and I dont watch live tv or bbc I player only Netflix and other streaming.

I just go online fill the form to say I don’t need one and do that every 2 years. I’m not doing anything wrong so why would it matter they have my name. I’ve never received threatening letters or had any further communication. Seems like you just prefer to be antagonistic

Just saying my experience. I’m not alone as I’ve seen youtube channels discussing this.
Great they’ve left you alone though.