Having a home of your own is the goal for the large majority of us. But, for those looking for a bit more freedom, bricks and mortar can feel like a bit of a trap. So, what happens if you choose a life of no fixed abode? Whether you’re living on a canal boat, enjoying life as a traveller or sofa surfing among your friends, what are the pros and cons of not having a permanent address and how do you get by?
The advantages of being a Traveller
Freedom from onerous payments. Rent and mortgage payments cause a serious headache for those who have to think about them. Both are susceptible to go up and neither is cheap. According to the HomeLet Rental Index the average monthly rent in the UK is now £908 and mortgage payments upwards of £800 – not having to factor that into your monthly budget makes a pretty big difference.
Avoiding the cost of bills. Utility bills are another headache for renters and homeowners – this year UK households are facing gas and electricity bill rises of up to 28%. If you’re of no fixed abode then you don’t have any bills in your name to be concerned about.
No ties. Not all those who wander are lost, as they say, and if you’ve got no ties then you’re free to follow your instinct wherever the mood takes you. Moving on isn’t a big upheaval but means just packing up a bag and finding new and more exciting experiences.
The disadvantages of being a Traveller
Space. The main reason we all strive so hard for a home is that it gives is our own space. Whether that’s a single room or a whole property it’s somewhere we can call home – where what we say goes. If you’re sleeping on sofas, camping or depending on the kindness of friends you’re never going to have your own space or any control over it.
Being moved on. People who pay for their space are notoriously intolerant of people who don’t. Friends can get tired of you camping out in their home, a farmer might be fed up of his field being occupied, or you might have to move your boat or caravan on to find a different spot. If you don’t have any fixed abode then you can’t rely on being in one place for any particular length of time.
Being a ‘valid’ person. There are many parts of our society that rely on individuals having a fixed address. So, whether you’re looking to open a bank account, obtain a loan or other form of credit, get a mobile phone, buy a car or register to vote, if you don’t have somewhere to live it can be tough to get the infrastructure of our society to recognise you as a person.
Getting by with no permanent address
Healthcare – thanks to the NHS we have free healthcare for everyone, whether you were born in a caravan in Essex or an apartment in Belgrade. Should that ever change then obtaining health insurance to cover the cost of future medical treatment would require a fixed address of some sort.
Benefits – the criteria for claiming benefits, such as Jobseeker’s Allowance or Employment and Support Allowance, don’t include having a fixed and permanent address. The government specifically says that you can claim, regardless of whether you’re sleeping rough or staying in a hostel, as long as you meet the other criteria for the specific benefit.
Post – the smartest thing to do if you want to be able to get post without a permanent address is to open a PO Box where you can periodically drop in and collect letters etc. Just be aware that some organisations won’t accept this as a valid address – for example the DVLA requires a permanent address for drivers.
Running a business – thanks to the digital age in which we live you can run a business from just about anywhere. However, once your business becomes legally incorporated then you need to have a registered address for it where customers can contact you. Although it’s possible to use a PO Box, you must still provide Companies House with a physical address and postcode – this could be, for example, someone who does the company books and can receive your official post.
Voting – even if you don’t have a fixed address you still have a right to vote. It’s possible to register at an address where you spend a substantial part of your time or have some connection with a ‘Declaration of local connection.’
Education – fraudulently providing the wrong address information to get a school place for your children will result in that place being withdrawn. However, most local authorities have special rules for children with no fixed address and will handle each one on a case-by-case basis once you contact them for help.
Alex Hartley is a keen advocate of improving personal finance skills. She's worked at Solution Loans since 2014 and written hundreds of articles about how people can manage their money better. Her interest in personal finance goes way back to...Read more about Alex Hartley