What to do if TV licence “officers” visit

It’s beginning of the new academic year and many student are living on their own for the first whether it be in halls or private accommodation. This means that people all over the country will undoubtedly be receiving letters in the mail from the TV licencing authority reminding you that you need to purchase a TV licence if you watch or record live TV.

When I moved in a couple weeks ago there were plenty of letters of that kind already here and we just received another one today saying that home visits have been authorised in my post code area. I was curious, because the letter strongly implied that they were going to enter my property and check to see if there was evidence of someone in my apartment watching or recording live TV (there isn’t, but that’s besides the point).

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I doubt it is just me who read the “What to expect when you are visited” section and thought they had some kind of right to enter my home and search it and I suppose that that specific part of the letter is designed for that exact purpose.

TV licencing enquiry officers are NOT ALLOWED TO ENTER YOUR HOME WITHOUT THE FOLLOWING:

Either:

  • Your permission

or

  • A search warrant signed by a magistrate (or sheriff in Scotland) AND an accompanying police officer

So do not be bullied into thinking they can come into your home and look around and understand that a warrant to enter your home will only be signed by a magistrate (or sheriff) if they have been shown evidence that gives strong reason to believe that your are breaching the Communications Act.

Here is a snippet from the TV licence Freedom of Informations page.

What law authorises enquiry officers to request access to my home? Can I refuse to let them in?

The Communications Act 2003 imposes an obligation on the BBC to issue TV Licences and collect the licence fee. The BBC must ensure that it fulfils its responsibility to the vast majority of households who pay their licence fee, by enforcing the law in respect of those who intentionally evade paying it. TV Licensing uses a range of activities to raise awareness about the requirement for a TV Licence, remind people to pay, inform them of ways to pay, and to deter people from evading the licence fee.
Enquiry officers do not have any legal powers to enter your home without a search warrant granted by a magistrate (or sheriff in Scotland). They (like other members of the public) rely on an implied right in common law to call at a property as far as the door, while going about their lawful business and making their presence known. Enquiry officers must explain to the occupier of the premises why they are visiting, be polite, courteous and fair, and abide by a strict code of conduct.
You have no obligation to grant entry to an enquiry officer if you don’t wish to do so. If refused entry by the occupier, the enquiry officer will leave the property. If enquiry officers are refused access, then TV Licensing reserve the right to use other methods of detection.
Enquiry officers may apply for authorisation to use detection equipment if they are refused entry on to premises. TV Licensing may also apply to a magistrate (or sheriff in Scotland) for a search warrant. However, this is only done as a last resort and when a senior manager and a legal adviser considers that there is good reason to believe that an offence has been committed.

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