The TV licensing inspectors, whose job it is to catch fee evaders, are now visiting homes again – following the suspension of their visits during the last lockdown.
The TV Licensing body normally employs visiting officers who are tasked with finding people who are legally required to pay the fee.
These visiting officers, upon agreement from the person living in the house, “take a brief view of the main living areas to verify whether or not television receiving equipment is installed or in use” (though safety restrictions have now been made – see ahead).
Earlier this year, we reported that those visits were suspended due to lockdown and covid restrictions – but we have confirmed with the TV Licensing body that their officers are making house visits again, in line with Covid restrictions and safety measures.
The TV Licence fee is used to fund the BBC, and currently stands at £159/year. Anyone who watches the BBC live, or streams it via BBC iPlayer, has to pay the fee.
Furthermore, if you watch any live TV from any broadcaster (even an international one) – you also need to pay the fee (See our full guide on whether you need to pay the TV Licence fee or not).
Failure to pay the TV licence fee is currently a criminal offence (though there have been ongoing talks about possible decriminalisation), and evaders can end up paying a fine of up to £1,000 or even go to jail, in rare cases.
What Are TV Licence Inspectors?
The TV Licensing body, along with Capita (a private contractor responsible for the enforcement of the TV licence fee), employ inspectors who are tasked with finding people who are trying to evade the fee.
In the past, they have also claimed to have sophisticated “detection” equipment, such as vans and handheld devices that, when in proximity to your house, can supposedly detect that you’re watching live TV (or the BBC via other means).
When an inspector visits your home, it’s up to the owner/tenant to allow the officer to enter the house, at which point the officer will take a look inside (searching for a TV), and will possibly interview the person who opened the door (depending on current pandemic restrictions).
The only case where an officer can enter your home without your permission, is when he is authorised to do so under a search warrant granted by a magistrate (or sheriff in Scotland). He will then also be accompanied by the police.
TV Licence Visit Safety Restrictions
As mentioned, these home visits were suspended during the UK lockdowns. Recently, however, they have returned – with some restrictions still in place.
A BBC spokesperson told Cord Busters that Visiting Officers have received comprehensive safety training, and are equipped with masks, gloves, sanitisers and wipes.
Additional new measures have been introduced to protect both staff and the customers, such as maintaining a 2-meter distance at all times and not entering people’s homes.
The BBC say they “will continue to follow government guidance to ensure that all visits are safe and Covid-secure”, which may also suggest in-home inspections will return at some point.
What About Home Visits For The Over-75s?
As we reported yesterday, there have also been enforcement changes with the Over-75s population, who are no longer exempt from paying the licence fee (unless they receive Pension Credit).
The BBC announced that the extended transition period is now over, and “reminder” letters will be sent to homes of those who haven’t settled their licence yet.
It remains unclear whether home visits for the over-75s will take place, and in what form exactly.
The BBC tells us that no visits have been authorised so far. However, in the autumn, the BBC will start implementing “customer care visits”, which are meant to “support older customers who require further assistance.
“Customer care visits differ from enforcement visits, as they have been carefully designed for those who may require further assistance in making arrangements for their TV Licence, and they will be carried out by a specially trained customer care team.”
It remains to be seen how these visits will differ, in practice, from regular home enforcement visits.
You can find out more information about home visits on the official TV Licensing website.