With the increasing popularity for alternative methods of living and the desire to live off the grid, increasing numbers of people are looking to become live aboards to reduce the burden of modern-day living. But, are you aware there are still several liabilities associated with domestic moorings?

Planning Permission

Planning permission from the local planning authority is needed to establish a permanent domestic mooring. It is also likely to be required if any development is to occur either on dry land or the foreshore (land situated between mean high water springs and mean low water springs).

There are over 5000 moorings in Cornwall, with many of these having planning for permanent residential use. However, if you live at a mooring which has not been granted residential status, but is used as a permanent domestic mooring, the owner of the boat and/or the marina operator will be liable to enforcement action from the local planning authority.

Landowner consent

You need to ensure that you have the requisite consent of the owner of the foreshore. A large part of the foreshore around Cornwall is owned by the Duchy of Cornwall, but there are areas that are in private as well as public hands, and some areas that remain unregistered.

Statutory consent 

Most, if not all, moorings will require statutory consents. In England and Wales these are issued by the Marine Management Organisation (MMO).

Harbour legislation and byelaws

Most harbour authorities will have powers to regulate moorings and the precise extent of these powers will depend on the specific local statutes and byelaws. It is advisable to check with your local harbour authority if any consent is required.


If your boat is your main residence, the question of liability for council tax can be a confusing and complicated area.

If permanent residential use has been secured on a mooring then it can be levied for council tax. But, who actually pays that tax depends on whether there is exclusive occupancy of the mooring or not.

If the mooring has been granted planning permission for domestic use and is occupied exclusively by one boat during the year, even if the boat moves away at weekends and holidays leaving the mooring vacant, the council tax liability will remain with the owner of the boat.

The council tax will be calculated on the value of the mooring and commonly falls within the lowest tax band, unless the boat is designated as a purpose built houseboat or it is clearly not designed to be regularly movable. In those circumstances, the council tax will be calculated on the value of the boat together with the value of the mooring.

However, if the mooring has been granted planning permission for domestic use, but is not occupied exclusively by one boat, or the marina reserves the right to allocate an alternative mooring, then the occupancy of the mooring is deemed non-exclusive. As such the mooring will not be deemed permanent enough for council tax and the liability will remain with the operator or marina owner. It will depend on the licence agreement between the mooring owner and boat owner as to whether that can be recovered from them.

It is important to check the type of mooring agreement you have to ensure that you are fully aware of any liabilities that remain your responsibility.

For advice on your domestic mooring or any issues raised in this article, please contact Toby Claridge, a partner in our dispute resolution team and member of the marine team. He can be contacted on 01872 265100 or drt@stephens-scown.co.uk