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England

Check if your home is overcrowded by law

This page is about the legal rules, sometimes called 'statutory overcrowding'.

Check all 3 rules to see if you're overcrowded. Only 1 needs to apply.

Which rooms count as bedrooms?

Under the legal rules, these all count as rooms you can sleep in:

  • bedrooms

  • living rooms and dining rooms

  • box rooms, studies or home offices

A large kitchen might count as a room you can sleep in. But it could still be unsafe and not reasonable. For example, if young children have to sleep in a kitchen.

These do not count as rooms you can sleep in:

  • bathrooms and toilets

  • small kitchens and utility rooms

  • any room that is less than 4.65 square metres (50 square feet)

You might not be classed as overcrowded even if you do not have enough bedrooms.

Some councils use a better overcrowding measure. This looks at the number of bedrooms your family needs. Living rooms do not count.

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Rule 1: Sharing a room

Your home is overcrowded if 2 people have to sleep in the same room and they are:

  • not a couple

  • of a different sex

Children under the age of 10 do not count. They can share a room with anyone.

Example: sharing a room

A couple have a girl aged 12 and a boy aged 9.

The family live in a 2 bedroom flat with a living room.

The children can share a room at the moment.

When the boy turns 10 he could share with his dad and the girl could share with her mum.

Or the parents could sleep in the living room while the children each have their own room.

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Rule 2: Number of rooms

You are overcrowded if you have less rooms than you need for your family or household.

First count your bedrooms, living rooms and other rooms you can sleep in.

Do not include any rooms that are less than 4.65 square metres (50 square feet).

Next work out how many people count as living there.

Do not include family members who are only staying temporarily.

Under this rule:

  • anyone aged 10 or over counts as 1 person

  • children aged 1 to 9 only count as half a person

  • babies under 1 year old do not count at all

This is different to the rule about sharing rooms where children under 10 do not count.

Table: Number of rooms for sleeping in

Number of roomsHighest number of people
12
23
35
47.5
510

Example: number of rooms

A couple have 2 children under 10. They live in a 1 bedroom flat with a living room.

The family are not overcrowded. They only count as 3 people. They can use the living room to sleep in.

When one child turns 10, they would become overcrowded. They now count as 3.5 people but still only have 2 rooms to sleep in.

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Rule 3: Size of the rooms

You are overcrowded if the rooms are too small even if you have enough rooms.

Only measure bedrooms, living rooms and other rooms you could sleep in.

Do not count any room that is less than 4.65 square metres (50 square feet).

How to measure the rooms

To work out the size of your rooms you need a:

  • tape measure

  • calculator

Use metres because it's easier on a calculator.

Measure the length and width of each room's floor space.

Multiply the length and width together to get the floor space in square metres.

Table: Floor space of each room

Floor space in square metres (square feet in brackets)Highest number of people allowed in each room
10.22 square metres (110 square feet) or more 2
8.36-10.21 square metres (90-109 square feet)1.5
6.5-8.35 square metres (70-89 square feet)1
4.65-6.5 square metres (50-69 square feet)0.5
Less than 4.65 square metres (50 square feet) 0

Count how many people live in your home

Under this rule:

  • anyone aged 10 or over counts as 1 person

  • children aged 1 to 9 only count as half a person

  • babies under 1 year old do not count at all

Check the highest number of people allowed for each room.

You're overcrowded if the number of people living in your home is more than this total.

Example: size of rooms

A couple have two teenage boys and a girl aged 9.

They live in a 2 bedroom flat with a living room.

The living room and one of the bedrooms are both 11 square metres. The smaller bedroom is only 5 square metres.

This family are not overcrowded. The girl can sleep in the smaller bedroom. She only counts as half a person.

When she turns 10 they would become overcrowded. They now count as 5 people. But the size of the smaller bedroom means only 4.5 people should live there.

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What you can do if you're overcrowded

If your home is overcrowded under any of these rules you could:

  • get priority on the council housing register

  • ask for a transfer if you already have a housing association or council home

You could count as homeless if you are overcrowded and there are other serious problems with your home. For example, damp or dangerous conditions.

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Is overcrowding against the law?

Landlords and agents break the law if they allow tenancies to become overcrowded.

This is why they can ask about the number, age and sex of people who will live there.

If your home becomes overcrowded because your child reaches the age of 1 or 10 you should apply to the council for a larger home.

As long as you do this, you are not breaking the law.

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Last updated: 9 June 2023

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