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Overcrowding advice for tenants

Introduction

We use the Housing Health and Safety Rating System to make an assessment of the risks posed to people living in a property where there are issues surrounding crowding and space.

We also use figures set in law to determine the maximum number of people who can occupy a property based on the size and number of rooms, and the age, sex and relationship of the people living there. The number of people, room sizes and the facilities provided are also considered in determining the numbers of people who can live in houses in multiple occupation.

Statutory overcrowding

There are two legal definitions of overcrowding, these are:

  • the room standard
  • the space standard

A dwelling is statutorily overcrowded if either or both standards apply.

The room and space standards apply to any premises let as a separate dwelling. This can include a house, a flat or a room let separately from the rest of the building. The standards apply to tenancies, licences, and owner-occupied premises.

Definition of a bedroom

A room is available as sleeping accommodation if it is of a type normally used in the locality either as a living room or as a bedroom. This could include box rooms, dining rooms, and rooms used as home offices. Bathrooms, toilets, and corridors are not treated as bedrooms.

Overcrowding offences

Statutory overcrowding is a criminal offence unless an exception applies.

An occupier commits an offence if they cause or allow accommodation to become overcrowded.

A landlord commits an offence if they cause or permit the premises to be overcrowded or fail to include details of the overcrowding provisions on any rent book.

Statutory overcrowding is not a criminal offence if it is:

  • due to natural family growth
  • temporary
  • licenced by a Local Authority

Local authorities have a general duty to enforce the overcrowding provisions.

The room standard

The room standard is based on the number and sex of people who must sleep in one room.

The room standard is contravened if two people of the opposite sex must sleep in the same room. There is an exception for cohabiting, married or civil partnered couples, who can live in the same room without causing overcrowding.

Children under the age of ten are completely ignored in the calculation. All living rooms and bedrooms are included in the calculation.

The room standard does not limit the number of people of the same sex who can live in the same room. A household might also be overcrowded under the space standard if too many people must sleep in the same room.

The space standard

The space standard is based on the maximum number of people who can sleep in a dwelling of a particular size.

The permitted number of people depends on the size of the room, the number of living rooms and bedrooms in the dwelling, and the age of the occupants.

The permitted number is whichever is the less of:

  • the number of people specified in Table 1 according to the total number of rooms in the dwelling.
  • the total number of people in the dwelling calculated according to the floor area of each room as set out in Table 2

Table 1

Number of rooms 1 2 3 4 5+
Number of people 2 3 5 7.5 2 per room

Table 2

Floor space in square feet (square meters in brackets) Number of people allowed in each room
110 (10.22 square meters) 2
90 to 109 (8.36 to 10.21 square meters) 1.5
70 to 89 (6.5 to 8.35 square meters) 1
50 to 69 (4.65 to 6.5 square meters) 0.5

For both methods:

  • children under one year old are ignored
  • children under ten years old but not under one count as a half
  • rooms under 50 square feet are ignored
  • a room is counted if it is either a living room or a bedroom

There is no guidance about how a room should be measured. Local authorities have the power to enter premises to take measurements on giving 24 hours' notice.

Example of how the space standard applies

A household consists of an adult couple, two teenage boys and a girl aged nine. They live in a two-bedroom flat with a living room. The living room and one of the bedrooms are both 115 square feet. The smaller bedroom is only 60 square feet.

The household is not statutorily overcrowded. The girl can sleep in the smaller bedroom. She only counts as half a person.

When the girl turns 10, they would become overcrowded. They now count as five people. The size of the smaller bedroom means only 4.5 people should live in the flat.

When statutory overcrowding is not an offence

Overcrowding is allowed in some situations, even if more people live in the house than is acceptable under the room or space standards. No criminal offence is committed.

Overcrowding is permitted due to natural growth.

There is no offence if the standards are breached because a child of the household has turned either one or ten years old. The household must not have changed in any other way.

The birth of a child also does not count, as children under one are disregarded.

Overcrowding assessment

If you think you may be living in overcrowded conditions, you should contact the Housing Standards team or complete the form below. You may wish to do this to support an application for the housing register.

We will then assess your case based on what you tell us. In some cases, it may be necessary to make a visit to your house. If a visit is made, we will make a full assessment of the property under the Housing Health and Safety Rating System and take the appropriate enforcement action to resolve any defects we find, whether or not they relate directly to overcrowding.