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Do I need a TV Licence?

Tamires Criscio
Tamires Criscio
  | Edited by Tom Church
Updated 4th January 2021

If you are not sure if you need a TV Licence and how much it costs, Latest Deals is here to help. We have gathered all you need to know about TV licensing in the UK. Find out whether you need a TV Licence and easily apply to get one today. Or, if you discover that you don’t need a TV Licence, we will show you how to declare that you don’t require one. In both cases, we have you sorted.

In this guide

Do I need a TV Licence? 

By law, you need a TV Licence in the following cases:

  • to watch or record live programmes that are being shown on TV on any channel.
  • to stream live programmes online.
  • to watch any BBC programmes on iPlayer.

What is a TV Licence? 

A TV Licence allows you to watch or record live programmes on television sets and any other electronic devices (mobile phones, tablets etc.) Also, to be able to download and use BBC iPlayer. You must pay a fee to acquire a TV Licence.

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Why do I need a TV Licence? 

You need a TV Licence by law if you want to view live programmes and watch BBC iPlayer. This will avoid any future problems, which can include a £1000 penalty fee. In the UK, you only need one TV Licence per household. This includes all television sets or electronic devices you may have in your home. If you are planning to watch or record live TV in your home, business or organisation, you will need to get a TV Licence. 

What is live TV?

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Live TV is defined as any programme you watch or record as it’s being broadcasted on TV. It doesn't matter if it’s a live event, such as sports, news, music, or “pre-recorded” such as soaps, series, documentaries and movies.

When do I need a licence for watching live TV?

You will require a TV Licence for live TV in the following cases:

  • When watching live TV using a TV or any other device, like your computer, mobile or tablet.
  • When watching live TV on any channel, not just the BBC (+1, +2, +24 channels, ITV Hub, All 4 and others).
  • When you record a programme.
  • If you have cable, satellite or other TV services to watch live TV.
  • To watch or record live TV from outside the UK or the Channel Islands.

TV Licence: specials cases and exemptions 

People who are aged 75 and over and receiving Pension Credit are entitled to apply for a free TV Licence. We will talk more about this below. 

Who can buy a TV Licence?

Anybody living in the UK with a registered address can get a TV Licence with no age restrictions. TV Licences are available for homes, business and organisations. 

Latest Deals Quick Tip

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Still confused if you need or don't need a TV Licence? Our advice is simple. 

When you are going to watch something either on your TV or any device, the question you need to ask yourself is: Is this live on TV right now? Meaning: Is this being broadcasted to millions of people around the UK at this exact moment?

  • If this is correct: you need one. 
  • If this is not correct you don't need one.

Another way of thinking to help you understand if you need or don't need a TV Licence is: 

If you start streaming a TV programme just before it ends, you need a TV Licence. If you start streaming it just after it has ended, you don’t need a TV Licence.Source: The Guardian

What to do when you don't need a TV Licence 

If you don't need a TV Licence, you can go online and declare that you don't need it at your address. You can also do this by calling TV Licensing. 

When you first move to a new address you will likely receive a letter from TV Licensing reminding you that you need a licence for that address. 

The best way to avoid these reminders is to let them know you don't actually need one. 

How much does a TV Licence cost?

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A standard TV Licence costs £157.50. If you are using a black and white television set, then a TV Licence costs £53.

How much is a TV Licence for students?

Students can't watch live TV and use BBC iPlayer without a TV Licence, even if they live in university accommodation. According to TV Licensing: “a university hall's communal licence won’t cover your room”. Therefore, you need to get a TV Licence as a student. 

Unfortunately, there isn't any discount for students, and the cost of a TV Licence is the same as anyone else that is paying for a TV Licence. Students may be able to get a refund during the time they are not at their university’s accommodation, but only if they already have paid for these months. 

How much is a TV Licence for people aged 75 and over? 

In the past, people who are aged 75 and over could get a free TV Licence. This is not available anymore. The only people that can get free TV Licences in the UK at the moment are those receiving Pension Credit. People who are aged 75 and over that aren't receiving Pension Credit will need to pay either £157.50 (for colour) or £53 (for black and white), depending on their television set. 

IMPORTANT NOTE: Even if you are receiving Pension Credit, you need to be 75 or over to get a free TV licence. 

How can I pay for my TV Licence?

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Yearly | £157.50

Make only one payment a year via direct debit, debit or credit card, by cheque, postal order or BACS, or by debit card or cash to any PayPoint.

Monthly | from £13.13 to £26.25

Make monthly payments. Initially, you will need to pay for your TV Licence in six months (£26.25/per month). Then, in your next year, you will be able to pay in twelve months (£13.12/per month). This option is only via direct debit.

Quarterly | from £40.62

Make four payments. This payment includes a £1.25 extra charge. This option is only via direct debit. Many don't recommend this payment as it costs more due to the extra charge, adding £5 to the total price. 

Other options via Payment Card

If you use a TV Licensing Payment Card, you can pay a weekly, fortnightly or monthly payment option starting at only £6. This can be paid: 

IMPORTANT NOTE: 

  • When you pay via direct debit, you don't need to remember about the next payment, as it will be automatically deducted from your account. 
  • When you choose to pay via payment card, you need to remember to make your payment on the next due date. 

Paying for your TV Licence online

The only place to pay for a TV Licence online is on the TV Licensing official website. You will then find different options to pay for your licence.

Paying for your TV Licence at the Post Office

You can't pay for your TV Licence at the Post Office unless there is a PayPoint system in that store. If you don't want to pay online, you need to call TV Licensing for other payment options. The phone number you can use is 0300 555 0286. Another option is to pay by debit card or cash at any PayPoint. You will need to select these other options when you are getting your TV Licence. You also can find out where your nearest PayPoint is here.

How can I get a TV Licence for free? 

The only way of getting a free TV Licence is by being 75 and over and also receiving Pension Credit. To get a free licence, the person will need to give proof of the latest Pension Credit payment. You can do this online.

How can I get a TV Licence discount?

Blind or visually impaired people are eligible for a 50% reduction in their TV Licence fee. They will need to prove their status. Care home residents also can get a discounted TV Licence for only £7.50 per room. Usually, the care homes provide these licences within their charges. You will need to check with your care home to see whether they offer TV Licences within the cost.

BBC and TV Licence: what is a TV Licence for?

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The main purpose of TV licensing in the UK is to fund The BBC. This fee is secured by law until the end of 2027. The BBC provides public service broadcasting. The money raised with TV Licence fees cover all the expenses for BBC shows and services, such as TV, radio, websites, podcasts, iPlayer and apps. 

Step by Step: How to get a TV Licence online

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If you now realise that you indeed do need a TV Licence, you’ll be pleased to find that applying for one is really quick and easy. Simply follow the steps below: 

Step 1: Go to the TV Licensing website

Access the government website here. Then you will be redirected to the TV Licensing website. 

Step 2: Answer TV Licence application questions

On the TV Licensing website, you will need to answer some questions. They will ask the following: 

  • If you ever needed a TV Licence before. 
  • From what date you need a TV Licence. 
  • How you want to receive your TV Licence document - online or at home. 
  • If you are blind or visually impaired. 
  • If you are a student. 
  • If you are 75 and over and receive Pension Credit. 

Depending on your answers, the amount to be paid can change so make sure that you are truthful. 

Step 3: Give contact details

After answering the questions, you will need to give your full name, email address and telephone number.

Step 4: Fill in the address that requires a TV Licence

Then, you will need to give your address, which will be the one licenced. Make sure you put all the details, especially if you live in a flat or house share. 

Step 5: Pay for your TV Licence

Finally, you will be sent to the payment page. You will be able to choose from different methods of payment and also how often you want to pay. We have explained the different payment options above. 

Step 6: Receive your TV Licence Document

Once your payment is complete, you will receive an email with your confirmation. If you opted for an online TV Licence document, you will receive it also via email. If you opted for a paper TV Licence document, you will receive it at the given address. 

Step 7: TV Licence Login

Your TV Licence login will be your last name, TV Licence number and postcode. Your TV Licence Number can be found in your TV Licence document. You can access your account to cancel your licence or change the address of your licence. 

IMPORTANT NOTE: TV Licence renewal will occur automatically. So you don't need to worry. Also, there is a TV Licence contact number if you have any problems or questions: 0300 555 0286. This phone number is specifically for new applications.

Step by Step: How to get a TV Licence offline

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If for any reason you don't feel comfortable about getting your TV licence online, you can get one offline using TV Licensing telephone number. Follow our guide below to find out how: 

Step 1: Phone TV Licensing

Call the TV Licensing phone number on 0300 555 0286. You can call from 08:30 to 18:30, Monday to Friday. 

Step 2: Share your details

A TV licensing team member will ask about your personal information and the address you want to get licenced. Also, you will need to inform how frequently you want to pay for your TV licence (weekly, fortnightly and monthly). 

Step 3: Receive your TV Licence Payment Plan

TV licensing will send you a Payment Plan, where you will be able to see all the dates you are due a payment.

Step 4: TV Licensing Payment Card

You will also receive your TV Licensing Payment Card at home. This Payment Card is all you need to make your payments. 

Step 5: Receive your TV Licence Document

After the first payment is received, you will also receive your TV Licence Document in the form of a letter at the address registered. This is the proof your address is licenced. In this letter, you can find your licence number or customer number.

Step 6: Sign-up for text reminders

Lastly, you can sign up for TV Licensing free text reminder service, which is handy to keep you alert of due payments. 

Step by Step: How to get a TV Licence refund

If you have paid for your TV Licence in full for a year, you could be entitled to a refund. To be eligible for a refund on your TV Licence, you will need a good reason to cancel it, such as:

  • You don’t watch or record live TV.
  • You don’t use BBC iPlayer.
  • You are moving to an address which already has a TV licence.
  • You are moving into a care home.
  • You are leaving the country.

If you feel like you are entitled to receive a refund as you have already paid for your TV Licence and no longer require it, there is an easy way to do it: 

Step 1: Request a TV Licence refund

You will need to apply for a refund online or call TV Licensing to ask for one (0300 790 6165). 

Step 2: Provide your personal details

In this refund form, you will include your name, your licence number and your licenced address. You also need to include the date from when you no longer require your TV Licence. 

Step 3: Provide evidence you no longer require a TV Licence

You might be asked to provide evidence. This could be the new address you are moving to and its TV Licence document. Or, your travelling ticket and your new foreign address if you are leaving the UK, for example. If you are not asked to provide evidence, TV Licensing will proceed with the refund online and you won’t need to send any paperwork via mail. 

Step 4: Send the evidence (if requested)

You will need to send all this paperwork to The Refund Centre, TV Licensing, Darlington DL98 1TL.

Step 5: Receive your TV Licence refund

TV Licensing will work out how much is your refund and send it back to you. 

IMPORTANT NOTE: You will need to have at least one month left on your TV licence to receive your money back. 

Changing the address of your TV Licence

If you need to change the address of your TV Licence, you can access the official website and update your details. You will need to access your account with your personal information and do the change.

How do I cancel my TV Licence?

You can cancel your TV Licence anytime, as long as you don't need it anymore and give an explanation. You can access the official website and contact them via an online form, explaining why you would like to cancel your TV Licence. You can reach TV Licensing to cancel your TV Licence using this phone number: 0300 555 0286.

TV Licensing officers do catch people watching TV without a licence. If TV Licensing believes you're watching 'live TV' or using BBC iPlayer without a licence, you can receive an official visit. This could result in a £1000 fine. TV Licensing doesn’t fully reveal how they catch people watching TV without a TV Licence to avoid leaking information for “illegal TV watchers”. So watch out! 

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Do I have to pay for a TV Licence by law?

Yes, by law and according to TVLicensing.co.uk, you must pay for a TV Licence. The TV Licensing law is very common within European countries, but the EU regulations have no bearing upon this matter. Also, the TV Licensing law is not covered by consumer law, because it doesn't class as goods or services. Even with the digital switchover, in the UK, the TV Licensing law hasn't changed.  

How does TV Licensing catch you?

TV licensing has lots of ways to find out that you are illegally watching live TV or watching BBC iPlayer. They don't actually reveal all their methods, but the most common way is with crossed information from other services that require a home address. TV Licensing can also visit your address to check whether you are watching BBC or live TV. However, they cannot come in without permission but can apply for a search warrant if you turn them away.

How to avoid the TV Licence inspector?

To avoid the TV Licence inspector, you either pay for a TV Licence in case you need one or let TV Licensing know that you don't need one. We explained how to do this above in the section What to do when you don't need a TV Licence? If you are receiving letters from TV licensing, you need to take one of the actions above to avoid any visits.

How to watch TV for free in the UK legally without a TV Licence?

To watch TV for free in the UK legally without a TV Licence you can: 

  • Watch on-demand TV and catch-up TV .
  • On-demand TV series or movies.
  • Recorded films and programmes.
  • YouTube. 

IMPORTANT NOTE: If you are watching a video that is being broadcasted on TV and YouTube, you need to have a TV Licence.

How can I legally not pay for a TV Licence fee?

The only legal way to not pay for  a TV Licence fee is to not watch or record any content that needs to be licenced (Live TV) and to not download or use BBC iPlayer. 

If you are going licence free, we advise to disconnect your aerial, to delete BBC iPlayer from all devices and to clear BBC cookies and caches from all devices. 

Understanding TV Licence Scams 

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Unfortunately, TV Licensing customers are a targeted group for scam TV Licensing emails. A scam TV Licence email will often tell you to make an urgent payment, or that you can get a cheaper licence. 

Don't make any payments if you are not using the official TV Licensing website that you can access via the government’s website here. This TV Licence phishing scam is an ongoing strategy to take illegal payments from people, so be careful!

Here are some of the main things to look out for in a TV Licence scam email:

If you are still unsure whether you’ve received a scam TV Licence email, take a look at some examples of legitimate emails on the TV Licensing website.

7 Golden rules about TV Licences that you need to know 

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Rule #1: TV Licences paid annually DON'T usually last a full year

Be aware that when you set up an annual TV Licence, you are actually getting covered for 11 months if you don't pay at the start of a month. If you are getting an annual licence, make sure you do it in the first few days of a new month to get it covered for 12 months.

Rule #2: You need two TV Licences if you have more than one property

A TV Licence is only valid for one household, so if you have a second home in the UK, you will need to get a separate TV Licence. 

Rule #3: Watching live TV from other countries in the UK does require a TV licence

Even if you are not watching British channels, you will need a TV Licence to watch live foreign TV on channels from other countries. 

Rule #4: Reading BBC’s website and watching BBC’s Youtube Channel don’t require a TV licence

You don't need a TV Licence to read anything on the BBC’s website. You also don't need a TV Licence to watch BBC’s Youtube Channel. As long as you are not watching a live BBC stream. 

Rule #5: You can't use BBC iPlayer outside the UK

Your TV Licence is only valid within the British territory, so if you are not in the UK, you can't stream BBC iPlayer. We would even recommend deleting the app from your devices during your trip to avoid any problems or temptations. 

Rule #6: You need a TV licence for pay-per-view content too

If you pay to watch pay-per-view content, you will need to pay for a TV Licence as it will be broadcast live at a specific time. A common example is a sports event like football or boxing matches.

Rule #7: Renters need a TV licence, lodgers don't 

If you are renting a property or a room in a shared home, you must be covered by a TV Licence. If you are responsible for your household, you will need to get one in your name. If you rent a room in a shared home, you and the other tenants need to get organised together to split the cost of a TV Licence. If this proves difficult, you can even reach out to the landlord. But if you are a lodger, meaning you rent a room in someone else's house which is covered by a TV Licence, you don't need to get your own.

FAQs about TV Licence

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