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We investigate complaints of overcrowded houses using a standard contained within the Housing Act 1985. The Housing Act standard has changed very little since it was first set out in the 1957 Housing Act.

Many people who contact us find that they are not legally overcrowded even though their living conditions are very cramped.

Report an overcrowded property

The standard

This standard is used for measuring overcrowding and includes any habitable room but does not include non-habitable rooms such as the bathroom or a non-dining kitchen or hallway.

A habitable room for example could include a bedroom, living room, dining room, study. If you have a kitchen/diner do not include the kitchen area of the room in any measurements.

Rooms or parts of rooms with ceilings less than five foot (1.524m) for example in an attic, are not included in the measurements. When measuring rooms you must take into account bay windows, cupboard and chimney alcoves unless ceiling height is less than five foot (1.524m).

The standard is divided into the three sections below:

1. Room Standard

Number of roomsNumber of persons allowed
5 or more2 per extra room
Note: This standard does not include children under 10

2. Space standard

Square meters floor area (square feet)Number of persons allowed
10.2 (110) or more2
8.36 - 10.2 (90 to 110)1.5
6.50 - 8.36 (70 to 90)1
4.66 - 6.50 (50 to 70)0.5
less than 4.66 (50)0
Note: Floor area should be measured per room and the total of occupiers totaled for the whole dwelling
  • Persons counted as follows:
  • babies under one equal 0 persons,
  • children 1-10 years equal ½ person,
  • over 10 years = one person

3. Gender overcrowding

No two persons, over 10 years old, of opposite sex should have to sleep in the same room (unless living as a couple). This does not allow for couples to have a room to themselves - the standard would not be breached if the mother slept in the same room as the daughter and the father with the son.

Whichever standard allows the smallest number of occupiers should be used to determine the maximum number of occupants per dwelling.

What to do next

If you think you may be living in an overcrowded property then contact us using the contact details below.

Non Statutory Room Standard - The Bedroom Standard

The Government has proposed the introduction of a Bedroom Standard to replace the current statutory standard set out above.

This is not yet law but many housing authorities have adopted this standard when allocating social housing. 

The proposed Bedroom Standard:

A standard number requirement of bedrooms is calculated for each household in accordance with its age/sex/marital status composition and the relationship of the members to one another. 

A separate bedroom is required for:

  • Each married or co-habiting couple,
  • For any other person age 21or over,
  • For each pair of adolescents aged 10 to 20 years of age of the same sex
  • For each pair of children under 10
  • Any unpaired person 10-20 is paired if possible with a child under 10 of the same sex or if that is not possible he/she is counted as requiring a separate bedroom, as is any unpaired child under 10.

This is then compared to the actual number of bedrooms including bedsits available for the sole use of the household.

Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS)

In addition to the Overcrowding Standards we also have regard to the provisions of the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS). The HHSRS  is the Government's approach to the evaluation of the potential risks to health and safety of occupiers or visitors from any deficiencies identified in dwellings. The HHSRS considers hazards associated with the lack of space within the dwelling for living, sleeping and normal family/household life.

Contact us

Private Sector Housing Team
Housing, Environment and Healthy Communities

0191 433 2350