TV Licence Problem! Watch
I've just started university, and I have moved in with someone I know who is in the second year at the same university - along with 5 other people (there were a total of seven of us, but one moved out within a few days of us all moving in). The house is privately rented, but is a student house. We have locks on each of the doors, and shared washing facilities (important factors when paying TV licences, I believe).
Being honest, I totally forgot about paying for my TV licence. I don't watch live TV (I only tend to watch Netflix), and my TV is used as a monitor for my computer - not once whilst I've been here have I watched live TV over the internet (iPlayer, etc.) or had the TV plugged into any of the aerial points in the house.
The 'head tenant' of the house got a letter some time ago reminding him that we need to have a TV licence. However, he didn't share this information with the rest of us, so I just carried on forgetting about paying for the licence. When I got back from a trip to my home town last night, he said to me that we've received a letter stating that we will be due in court for not paying the licence fee - which, as you can imagine, was pretty surprising for me. It's one of those letters where it explains what we will expect from our court hearing; not actually a court summons, as such.
He, along with the other tenants in the house (minus one tenant who claims to have gotten a TV licence herself), are either being very flippant about the letter - passing it off as 'one of those things' - or saying that they'll be happy to argue the case in court. However, I don't want any of that. I want it all to be sorted, and - even though I don't watch TV - if it comes down to paying £145 for services that I don't use versus paying up to £1,000 in legal fees plus the licence fee (as stated by the letter), I'd rather just pay the £145.
I'm not exactly sure how it works, though. I've sent a request to the licensing people saying that we don't watch TV, and that we use all of our TVs to power computers or games consoles, but my dad told me that they'll find a way of accusing us that we could potentially watch TV on them (aerial points in the house, built-in Freeview, etc.). To be honest, like I said, I'd rather pay it and not go to court and have to pay a lot more, but my house mates just aren't playing ball. Is it wise to let them search the house and potentially let it go to court, or pay £145 for a service I don't use? Preferably, I'd like the second one to be the wise choice!
After that, however, there's the argument about whether we pay one single licence fee, or whether we pay individual ones. Like I said, we have shared washing facilities and shared entrances to the house, so - as far as the TV licensing website's information goes, we would only have to pay one licence between us; however, numerous people at university have told me that we would need to pay individual licence fees, as there are locks on each of our doors. It seems strange that one of my house mates has a TV licence and they're threatening us with court still, which is why I ask this question.
I know I should have paid the licence fee when I moved in, but I completely forgot, and I'd like to pay it whilst I have the chance to before it goes to court. However, would this be wise, and would I only be paying for a licence covering myself? Sorry about the lengthy post, and thanks in advance for any advice!
Student life, in partnership with UEA
As far as I know, the licensing authority have to prove that you're using your TVs to watch live TV. The letter you have at the moment sounds like a scare tactic. Stop ignoring the letters - this will be interpreted as a tacit admission of guilt.
I don't think the TV License people are going to care that you only use your tv monitors for your laptop; the adage used to be that if you owned a TV, regardless of whether or not it was used for actual live broadcast watching, you paid a TV license. Your best bet is to call the TV license people and ask if you can pay for it now without requiring to go to the courts. It's also likely you'll only need to pay for one license too to cover the entire house.
To the OP: as long as you don't watch live TV you are not liable for a TV license. If you're being taken to court (and it's not just a letter saying you might be if you're watching live TV and don't have a licence) all I can imagine is that one of your housemates has been caught watching live TV or has admitted they watch it to the licensing company. All you can do is call them and ask what's happening-only they will know on what grounds you're being taken to court.
Do others in the house watch TV?
One of the TSR mods has a TV Licence FAQ that you might want to take a peek at. Will direct them to this thread too.
Locks and seperate washrooms make absoloutly no difference to tv licence requirements. What matters is your tenancy agreement: Do you have a shared contract (all names on a single contract, common for groups for groups of friends at uni) or do you each have a seperate tenancy agreement (only 1 name per contract, in a Multiple Occupancy house)?
Next: If it were an actual court summons you would know about it. It would have a date and ask for your submissions of evidance/pleas etc. 99.99% confident what you've recieved is a letter from the TV Licencing team which gives a warning about court summons and is intended to intimidate you. You can safely ignore this.
It is never wise to let a stranger into your house. Do not allow them to do any searches or inspections without a search warrant. Once they are in, its far easier for them to claim that they saw a television plugged into an ariel and then its just your word against theirs in court.
If you do not need a licence you can safely ignore all their letters and threats. You do not need to inform them of anything and certainly don't need to consent to any searches/inspections.