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The two articles below have kindly been reproduced with permission from Towpath Talk.
Click on the link above to read it today.

Heading for London? Do your homework or you
could have to turn again
By Janet Richardson

LIVING on a boat is being seen as a cheaper alternative to buying or renting a home on land, particularly in the honeypot areas of London and the Home Counties.

Each month our wanted ads include requests from people seeking to lease a boat either short or long term with a view to living aboard, but are they – and those making their boats available for hire – aware of the implications?

Sorwar Ahmed, boater liaison manager (London) for the Canal & River Trust told Towpath Talk that people are sometimes given the impression that they can acquire a boat and head to London but in reality they have very little prospect of finding somewhere to moor. And this is making it more difficult for boaters simply wishing to visit the capital.

And there are other legal implications: “If you rent a boat and something happens, you need to be sure you are covered by insurance,” he explained. Landlords have a duty of care and responsibility for ensuring the correct cover is in place as well as a valid boat safety certificate and that CO and smoke alarms are fitted. It must also be properly licensed for letting.

The Canal & River Trust has been tackling congestion in the London area and now has an enforcement team at full strength.

Sorwar explained that it is in the middle of a three-year project to tackle the problem and reminders are sent via a test messaging service to boaters using 14-day moorings when they are due to move on.

“People get a boat without actually thinking about where to keep it. If you do your homework and are properly prepared you can get a lot out of boating – that is the challenge,” he added.

Legal requirements

Guidelines for renting a boat to live on, or hiring out your own boat can be found on the CRT website at  which recognises that having a boat as a home is a popular choice for some people and some boat owners are keen to find ways to help offset the costs of owning and maintaining a boat.

However it warns prospective landlords: “If you cannot demonstrate that you’ve met all the legal requirements, including having a non-private boat safety certificate, commercial insurance and proof that you’ve gone through the handover procedure correctly, you may end up with a serious criminal conviction.

“You cannot get a licence to rent out your boat for residential use unless you have a home mooring with planning consent for residential use. These moorings are in very short supply, so you should not apply for a Residential Letting licence until you have secured an appropriate mooring.

“Renting out your boat without the correct licence is a breach of your terms and conditions and you risk having your licence revoked.”

And prospective tenants are advised: “If you’re thinking of renting a boat to live on (or for any other purpose) make sure you do your research thoroughly before you start.”

The boat’s licence should have ‘RL’ clearly marked in the centre if the boat is licensed for Residential Letting and the letters ‘SDHH’ if it is licensed for holiday hire. If you have any doubts, email the customer services team at  (03030 404040) with the boat’s name and index number, explain that you’re thinking of renting the boat and ask them to confirm that it has the right kind of licence.

Boat owners and would-be boaters are warned
of the perils of illegal renting

By Polly Player

FOLLOWING on from our article in November’s Towpath Talk highlighting the current high demand for privately rented narrow boats, both the Canal & River Trust, other boater’s organisations and individual boaters themselves have expressed concern over the safety and legality issues with private boat rentals.
Making the decision to live aboard is becoming increasingly popular across a range of demographics, both out of a desire to live on the water for its own sake, and in some areas, as an attempt to counteract the ever increasing price of land-based housing.

While many would-be boaters aspire to a life on the water, not everyone has the funds to finance the purchase of a boat outright, and understandably, the question of boat rental as a compromise comes up time and time again. For the uninitiated, renting a boat to live on can seem as straightforward as renting a flat or a house, and many non-boaters assume that the process is the same as that for a land-based property.

However, there is much more to renting a boat and staying above board than simply signing a tenancy agreement with the boat’s owner, and sailing off into the sunset. CRT’s regulations for boat rentals and also the legal and safety implications for boat rentals are rather more convoluted than many people expect.

Landlords of both land-based and water-based properties have a duty of care in law to their tenants, which encompasses a high level of responsibility to the occupants if something were to go wrong, and the tenants were to become sick or injured as a result of their tenancy. Failing to go through the correct legal process to rent out a boat leads to legal liability for the boat’s owner, as well as potential criminal culpability if something goes wrong.

Adding up the cost of all of the various requirements for private boat rentals soon becomes prohibitive, and for a privately owned boat to be offered for rental legally, the end rental cost required to cover all of the bases is likely to come to as much as, if not more than, a flat or house. For this reason, many people who might otherwise consider renting out their boat to private tenants soon discard the idea as uneconomical and not worth pursuing.

Into this void falls both the uniformed private boat owner who assumes that renting their boat out will be simple and profitable, as well as the unscrupulous would-be landlord seeking to make a quick buck, unconcerned about the legality of their rental or their responsibilities to their tenants. Many would-be boating tenants and even some landlords are either totally unaware that their rental agreement is illegal and possibly, placing them at risk, or simply make the conscious decision to forego their rights and responsibilities in law in order to enable a rental.

This is a particular problem in areas where land-based accommodation is at a premium, such as on the waterways of London, where a significant proportion of boats of all types are offered and sought for rent on a private basis.

Classified adverts here in Towpath Talk, the London Boaters’ Facebook group, Canal World Discussion Forum, and virtually every other marketplace for boating-related adverts verify the sheer demand for private boat rentals, both in London and across the UK. Canal World Discussion Forum in particular receives enquiries from new would-be boaters and boat owners considering renting their boat out on such a regular basis that the moderation team has in fact pinned and highlighted an advice thread outlining the potential problems and risks for both parties.

The appeal of boat rentals in London in particular has made national headlines several times this year already. A recent article in The Guardian newspaper told the tale of a London couple who decided to buy a small boat in order to provide extra office space, justifying the additional cost with the statement that they could always hire it out privately when they were not using it via the Airbnb holiday rentals website.

Journalist Sam Forbes, writing in The Guardian in February of this year told the story of her experiences of renting a room in a houseboat slum on the Thames in West London, where, for around £400 per month, rooms were rented on two decrepit barges in the Richmond area.

No toilet or shower facilities, no electric and one small solid fuel stove that constantly triggered the CO alarm was the accepted status quo in this illegal rental, and while this particular ‘landlord’ has been prevented from luring any further clients into his abode, small, illegally privately rented boats are still very common on London’s waterways.

Aisha Mirza privately rented a small GRP-topped narrowboat in London for several months during the summer of 2013. Aisha literally woke up one morning and decided she’d like to give boat life a whirl, and within four days, had found a boat offered for rent and moved in, demonstrating just how easy it is to find an illegal private boat rental in London.

The boat that Aisha rented was 20ft long, had no engine or shower facilities, and most of the facilities that she did have can fairly be described as sub-par. This is neatly demonstrated by Aisha’s account of attempting to turn on the kitchen tap, to find a shower of dead bugs and other detritus raining out of it in place of the wished-for water.

While Aisha was both thrilled to be living on the water and very much enjoyed the experience for the majority of the time that she resided on the boat, for the privilege of this illegal rental, she paid the landlord several hundred pounds per month


As an aside the comic Joel Sanders lives on a boat, and does a one man show about it from time to time, normally in and around London. See his web site here

What is required to rent a private boat out legally?

In order for a boat to be rented out legally, a wide range of permits and permissions are required, which many private boat owners overlook when they begin to think of their unused boat as a potential stream of income.

First of all, the CRT licence required for a rented boat is not the same as that required for a private boat; this licence is identified by the letters ‘RL’ on the licence paperwork. In order to attain this licence for rental to liveaboard tenants, the boat must also have a designated residential home mooring, which are often in short supply.

The Boat Safety Scheme certificate for a rented boat is also different and covers a wider remit of potential risks than a privately used boat too, and due to added regulations on the number of exits and various other factors, many private boats would be unable to meet the necessary criteria to attain the correct certification.
Standard private boat insurance too does not cover rental to third parties, and commercial insurance must be attained in order to offer a boat for rent.
Finally, all residences, including boats of all kinds, fall within the scope of the residential Gas Safety and Use regulations (1998), which adds another layer of difficulty when achieving full legal compliance.

boatrent here suggests a loophole.............

Say you are taking the boat on for six months. The owner of the boat draws up a contact selling you 4/64ths of the boat, for the sum of (say the total rental cost for six months, or 4/64ths of the insurance valuation of the boat) and you make the down-payment of one month (say) upfront. The contact is dated and signed by both parties to the agreement, in it a date to return the boat is stipulated.

This agreement is signed by both parties and dated

(You can draft something up between you, for legal reasons wording cannot be suggested)

A second contact is drawn up and on it it states that the boat will be returned to the location agreed within 7 days of the date of signing, and the boat then handed back to the owner of the remaining 60/64ths, within the contact it states the the owner of the 4/64ths share of the boat agrees to sell his share back to the owner of the other 60/64ths for the sum of £1.00.

This agreement is signed by both parties AND LEFT UNDATED.

Both forms are sent to the insurance company and the owner confirms he has been paid for the 4/64th share (or one down payment) and the insurance company will note the name of the new 4/64th part owner on the policy and hey presto, the boat is covered. Once this owner has his name on the policy he could, if he wished, ask for additional cover for, say, his own contents....

The normal BWB licence covers this arrangement and the name of the part owner need not be advised to them.

We are only aware of ONE insurance company that covers this arrangement.

The company offering this service is Michael Stimpson and Associates,
 or 01923 770425 (afternoons).

To protect yourself you should run ANY such contact past a marine solicitor or legal advisor and the owner of this web site whilst offering this information in good faith can not, under any circumstances, be held responsible for any errors and omissions in any of the above. 

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