Do university students need a TV licence?

Jan 23, 2020
Do university students need a TV licence?

As a student living away from home, you will still need a TV Licence. However, there are some loopholes that may mean you don’t need to pay or may be entitled to a refund.

Unfortunately, TV Licensing don’t offer discount or exemption to us students (tut tut). So, if you’re a student, you still need a TV licence to watch, stream or record live TV (‘live’ meaning as it’s being shown on telly). This applies to any device – TV, laptop or mobile. You also need a TV licence to watch any BBC programmes on BBC iPlayer. However, there are a few loopholes for students to avoid paying the yearly fee of £154.50. 
We’ve laid out the rules for if you live in student halls or a shared student house. 

As a student, you need a TV Licence if: 

  1. You watch or stream live TV as it is aired, on any device (TV, laptop, phone or tablet). e.g. you watch Love Island at 9pm on ITV Hub as its being broadcast. 
  2. You record live TV but you watch it later. eg. you use Sky to record Love Island at 9pm, but you watch it the next day. 
  3. You watch any BBC programme on BBC iPlayer. e.g You watch Line of Duty on BBC iPlayer after it’s been shown on TV

As a student, you don’t need a TV Licence if: 

  1. You only watch on-demand and catch up channels, such as Netflix or NowTV 
  2. You watch live TV from a device that is powered by its own batteries, and your parents’ have a TV licence at home e.g you watch TV on your phone or laptop that is not plugged into the wall to charge

Which channels need a TV licence and which channels don’t? 

We’ve popped the channels into a handy table for you.

TV Licence Channel Comparison Table

What do we mean by ‘live TV’? 

Live TV is any programme that you watch at the time it’s being aired on TV or online service. This is any programmed TV – sports, the news, series, soaps and documentaries. Even if you record something that was aired at a particular time, this is classed as watching Live TV. 

I only watch Netflix, do I need a TV Licence?

Nope. You don’t need a TV Licence to watch Netflix or NowTV or any other on-demand or catch up service.

You don’t need a TV licence to watch Netflix or other on-demand TV shows

I live in student halls, do I need a TV licence? 

Short answer is yes, you will need a TV licence for your room as you’re on a single tenancy. However, some student halls may have the communal areas covered. It’s best to check this with your accommodation provider.

I live in a shared student house, do I need a TV licence?

In a shared student house, it’s likely that you will be on a joint tenancy. This means you only need one TV licence. One licence will cover all your housemates, so it’s best to split this as part of your monthly bills. Some bill splitting platforms, such as Resooma Bills split this for you as standard. 
TV Licensing officers can detect if you watch TV and request to come into your student house to check. If you do let them in, the person watching TV at the time is likely to be the person liable for the £1000 fine. 
Top tip: you don’t legally have to let officers into your student house, so you can say no. 

Am I covered by my parents’ TV Licence?  

Maybe. Technically, your parents’ licence doesn’t extend to your student house whilst you’re at university, but there is a loophole. And loopholes are there to be jumped through, right?
TV Licensing said this in their official statement:
“If you use a device that is solely powered by its own internal batteries, you will be covered by your parent’s TV licence. However, you must not install the device (eg. plug it into the mains) when using it to receive TV”
This means you can watch live TV and BBC iPlayer without a TV licence if you’re watching it on a phone, tablet or laptop that is not plugged into the wall

You’re covered by your parents’ licence if:

  1. You’re watching TV on a device that is not plugged into the wall (phone, tablet, laptop) 
  2. Your parents’ have a TV licence 
  3. Your parents’ address is your main address when you’re not living in your student house
If all those are a ‘tick’ then you’re good to go. 
Top tip: charge your device before starting to watch TV. No-one wants to be pausing in the middle of Silent Witness to stay within the law. 

I only live in my student house for half the year, can I only pay for those months?

You don’t need to pay for the months that you’re not at your student house, such as when you go home for summer. If you’re on direct debit, you can apply for a refund for summer months. All you need to do is provide confirmation of your attendance at uni or college that shows your term dates.
If you pay monthly, then you can request to pause or stop your payments by contacting TV Licensing. 

TV licensing keep sending letters to my student house even though we don’t legally need one? 

If you keep receiving letters to your student house and you’re sure you don’t need one, you can let TV Licensing know. Once you’ve told them, they should stop sending you letters and you can live in peace.
You can let them know here

How should I deal with a TV licence officer who comes to my student house?

You don’t need to let them in as they do not have a legal right of entry. You can politely tell them that you’re busy that you don’t want them to come in and they should leave.
If you do invite them in because you have nothing to hide, then they usually check to see if you have a TV and ask you a few questions before leaving. Make sure you check their ID and that they are 100% who they say they are before letting them into the property. Our advice is just to say no thank you. 


How much is a TV licence and how do I pay for it? 

It’s currently £154.50 a year for a TV licence. This can be paid monthly (£12.54) or weekly (£6) and some bill splitting platforms pay this for you as standard. 
If you don’t pay, you could face £1000 fine and a court hearing. TV Licensing officers may come to your student house to confirm you do not need a licence. If they find out that you are in fact watching live TV, then you could face a £1000 fine and a court hearing if you do not pay it.
Remember, you don’t legally have to let the officer into your home and can tell them politely that they’re not allowed in.

What other bills do I need to pay for my student house?

TV Licence isn’t the only bill you need to cover when you live in a student house. The main bills you need to pay for are:
  1. Energy (gas and electric)
  2. Wifi
  3. Water
  4. TV Licence
On average, student bills cost around £60 each a month, but this depends on your house size, location and usage. We’ve got a full guide on how much student bills cost here.

Who are Resooma?

Resooma is a leading marketplace that connects students to thousands of property advertisers and letting agents across the UK, meaning students can search all available accommodations on one trusted website. As we as helping you find your student home, we also sort your student bills for you too.

Have a quick search for your student house or halls for next year. Or find out how we can help you set up and managing your household bills.