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Help if your home is overcrowded

You could be classed as overcrowded if you do not have a separate bedroom for:

  • each couple

  • each single adult aged 21 or over

  • 2 young people aged 10 to 20 of the same sex

  • 2 children under 10 of any sex

This is called the bedroom standard.

It is the recommended overcrowding measure for council housing registers.

Some councils use a different legal measure of overcrowding.

Apply for a council or housing association home

You usually have to go on a waiting list if you apply for a larger home

You should get some priority if you're overcrowded.

Check your council's policy to see:

  • how the housing register works in your area

  • which measure of overcrowding they use

Council housing register postcode lookup

What is your location?

Transfers and home swaps

You can apply for a transfer if you're a council or housing association tenant.

You could also try to swap homes with another council or housing association tenant. This is sometimes called a mutual exchange.

You and the other tenant need permission from your landlords before you swap homes.

Example: Home swap

A couple with 2 young daughters live in a 1 bedroom council flat.

The parents sleep in the living room and the children share the only bedroom.

Another tenant has a 2 bedroom flat in the same block but they live alone since their child moved out. They pay the bedroom tax and want to downsize because of this.

These tenants could swap homes with the council's permission.

Your landlord can refuse a swap if you or the other tenant would have more space than you need or still be overcrowded after you move.

Ask for an environmental health inspection

An environmental health officer could do a safety inspection of your home.

They will assess the risk from things like:

  • overcrowding

  • damp and mould

  • other bad housing conditions

Find out how to complain to environmental health about private rented housing.

Look for a private rented home

You could look for a larger private rented home.

Check how many bedrooms you can claim for if you get universal credit or housing benefit.

Do not give up a council or housing association home to rent privately. It's usually better to ask for a transfer instead. 

Private renters usually have:

  • higher rents

  • shorter tenancies

  • less protection from eviction

Make a homelessness application

Ask the council for homeless help if it's not reasonable for you to live in your home. 

For example, if overcrowding causes damp or condensation that puts your health at risk. Ask your doctor to confirm the health risks if you have young children or a health condition.

If you're offered temporary housing it must be suitable but the standards can be lower. Temporary housing must not be illegally overcrowded but it might not meet the bedroom standard.

Do not leave an overcrowded home before the council offers you somewhere more suitable to live.

The council might decide you're intentionally homeless if you leave somewhere when it's reasonable to stay.

Last updated: 8 June 2023

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