What is over crowding?
If your accommodation is too small for your household you may be considered to be living in overcrowded conditions under the law. Your home may be legally overcrowded if there are not enough rooms or space for the number of people who live there. There are currently estimated to be 20,000  overcrowded households in the UK. The legislation which defines overcrowding has not changed since 1935 and is based on a room standard and a space standard. Why do we need Overcrowding Standards? People require adequate space in which to live and sleep. It has been known for many years that overcrowded conditions have a detrimental effect on both physical and mental health.
How many people can occupy a room?
The Space Standard
As a general rule:
5 or more rooms
2 people per room (size dependent)
110 sq ft (10.2 sq m approx)
2 people units
90 to 109 sq ft (8.4 to 10.2 sq m approx)
1.5 people units
70 to 89 sq ft (6.5 to 8.4 sq m approx)
1 people units
50 to 69 sq ft (4.6 to 6.5 sq m approx)
0.5 people units
Note: children under one year old are not taken into account and children between the ages of one and nine years count as half a “person unit”: Over 10 yrs old = 1 person unit.
The Room Standard
Section 325 of the Housing Act 1985 provides that there is overcrowding wherever there are so many people in a house that any two or more of those persons, being ten or more years old, and of opposite sexes, not being persons living together as husband and wife, have to sleep in the same room. For these purposes, children under ten may be disregarded and a room means any room normally used as either a bedroom or a living room.
A kitchen (usually incorporating a diner) can be considered to be a living room provided it is big enough to accommodate a bed.
When interpreting this definition, a local authority looks at how the sleeping arrangements within the premises could be organised, rather than how they are actually organised. Thus, a couple, with two children of opposite sexes and aged ten years or more, with two living rooms (e.g. bedrooms), may not be statutorily overcrowded because the couple could occupy separate rooms, with one each of the children (of the appropriate sex). There is no limit on the number of people of the same sex who can live in the same room under section 325 although there may be a contravention of the space standard.
Can anyone share a room?
No. If two people of ten years of age or older, of the opposite sex have to sleep in the same room, then the accommodation may be overcrowded, unless the two people are a married or a co-habiting couple.
Do you count just bedrooms?
No. Rooms that are counted include living rooms, bedrooms, dining rooms and large kitchens. Rooms under 50 square feet are also discounted.
Is overcrowding permitted?
Overcrowding is only allowed if the following applies:
- Natural growth such as a child reaching one of the specified ages,
- Temporary situation (e.g. if someone comes to live in your home for a short time)
- Licensed overcrowding, where the Council has given permission.
- If the Overcrowding is not permitted the Council can prosecute your landlord and your landlord may be able to evict you.
What if my housing conditions are affecting my health?
More than 100,000 people see their health suffer every year because they live in overcrowded conditions. The Housing Health and Safety Rating System under the Housing Act 2004 assesses the potential risks to occupants in residential properties. One of the 29 hazards which are taken into consideration when assessing a property is crowding and space. This looks at the hazards associated with lack of space within the dwelling for living, sleeping and normal family household life. Should a local authority consider that the conditions within a property constitute a Category 1 hazard they shall take action which may include serving a notice.
Where can I find other accommodation?
Private tenants: As a private tenant it is unlikely that you can make your home larger. You will probably have to consider other housing options. This might mean finding larger private rented accommodation, applying for a Council or housing association house or asking the Council to help you because you are homeless.
Council and housing association tenants: It may be possible to get a transfer to another property owned by the Council or housing association. Most Councils & housing associations have a waiting list for tenants who want a transfer and can give you information about the rules. But bear in mind that you may have to wait a long time for somewhere suitable, especially if you need a large property. You can contact the Housing Team on 0300 1234 105 email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org