What is overcrowding?
If your accommodation is much too small for your household you may be legally overcrowded.
There are two ways to calculate if you are legally overcrowded :
- The ‘room standard’ : look at the number and sex of people who have to sleep in the same room
- The ‘space standard’ : measure the amount of space in your home and the number of people living in it.
The room standard
Your home is overcrowded by law if:
- 2 people of a different sex have to sleep in the same room
- they are aged 10 or over.
The exceptions to this rule are:
- cohabiting or married couples, who can live in the same room without causing overcrowding
- children under the age of ten, who are completely ignored in the calculation.
Any room you can sleep in counts, not just bedrooms. Living room, dining rooms and studies count as rooms you can sleep in, even if you don’t actually do so.
A couple with a boy and a girl aged under the age of 10 in a one bedroom flat are not overcrowded (because the children are ignored).
The space standard
There are two ways to work out if you’re overcrowded using the space standard.
First count the number of people in your home:
- don’t include children under 1 year old
- children aged 1 to 9 years count as a half
- anyone aged 10 or over counts as one person.
Next, count the number of rooms or measure the floor space of each room.
Don’t count any room that is:
- under 50 square feet or 4.6 square metres
- not a bedroom or living room
As a general rule, the number of rooms considered enough for your family is:
- 1 room = 2 people
- 2 rooms = 3 people
- 3 rooms = 5 people
- 4 rooms = 7.5 people
- 5 or more rooms = 2 people per room.
The minimum floor area considered enough for your family is:
- 110 sq feet (10.2 sq metres approx) = 2 people
- 90 – 109 sq ft (8.4 – 10.2 sq m approx) = 1.5 people
- 70 – 89 sq ft (6.5 – 8.4 sq m approx) = 1 person
- 50 – 69 sq ft (4.6 – 6.5 sq m approx) = 0.5 people.
If the numbers are different, the lower number is used. Your home is legally overcrowded if the number of people living there is more than this.
What can I do if I am living in overcrowded accommodation?
As a private tenant it is unlikely that you can make your home larger. You will probably have to consider other housing. This might mean:
- finding a larger private rented place
- applying for a council or housing association place
- asking the council to help you because you are homeless (making a ‘homeless application‘).
If you are legally overcrowded and you make a homeless application the council will probably have to give you some advice and help. If the council decide that it is no longer reasonable for you to continue to live in the property they will have to help you find a home, or in some situations, help you work out a way to stay in your current home. In severe cases, the council might have to provide you with alternative emergency accommodation.
You may get priority on the waiting list for a council or housing association tenancy. How quickly you would get a place depends on the number of people on the waiting list and the amount of housing available. Many councils have very long waiting lists and a shortage of properties suitable for large families.
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 have a waiting list – ask for information about the rules. You may have to wait a long time for somewhere suitable, especially if you need a large property.
Alternatively, you may be able to swap homes by mutual exchange with another tenant, possibly in another part of the country. You must both have permission from your landlords and the exchange must be arranged properly. Otherwise, you could both lose your homes.
Don’t give up an overcrowded home without getting advice first. You could risk not being able to get another council or housing association home.