Help if your home is overcrowded

This page has been updated following the coronavirus outbreak

When you count as overcrowded

Government guidance recommends that councils use an overcrowding measure called the 'bedroom standard'. 

You count as overcrowded under the bedroom standard if you don't have a bedroom in your home for each:

  • couple
  • single person aged 21 or over
  • pair of children under 10 regardless of sex
  • pair of adolescents aged 10-20 of the same sex

Some councils use a different legal measure of overcrowding, called statutory overcrowding.

Apply for a council or housing association home

You can apply to the council for housing if your home is overcrowded. 

You will usually have to wait for a suitable size home. Waiting times can be longer in areas where there's not enough housing.   

You should get some priority on the waiting list if you're classed as overcrowded.

Check your local council's housing allocations policy for information about how the council housing register works in your area.

You should be able to find the full policy or a summary on the council website.

Transfers and mutual exchanges

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

There's usually a waiting list for transfers but you should get some priority if your home is overcrowded.

You can also use the mutual exchange process to swap homes with another council or housing association tenant.

You might not be allowed to swap if either property is too large or too small for those that want to swap.

Look for a private rented home

You could look for a larger private rented home.

It's not usually a good idea to give up a council or housing association home to rent privately as you may not get another one. 

Private renters usually have:

  • higher rents
  • shorter tenancies
  • less protection from eviction

Help with rent in a private tenancy

You can usually claim universal credit or housing benefit if you need help with rent.

Check how many bedrooms you can claim for to see what size of property you can afford to rent.

The amount you can get depends on local housing allowance (LHA) rates in your area. 

You have to pay any rent shortfall if your benefit doesn't cover your rent.  

You might get a discretionary housing payment if you need help with a rent shortfall.

Make a homelessness application

You can ask the council for homeless help if it's not reasonable for you to continue living in your home because of overcrowding. 

For example, if other associated problems such as damp are so bad that it's putting your health at severe risk.

You may need an environmental health officer from your council to inspect your home and a medical professional to confirm the health risks.

Don't leave an overcrowded home before the council makes a decision on your homeless application. The council won't always have to provide emergency housing and might decide you're intentionally homeless if you leave.

If you're shielding in an overcrowded home

It could be difficult to self isolate in a seriously overcrowded home if you're shielding or particularly vulnerable to infection.

Ask your council if they can support you with alternative housing if you can't shield effectively.


Last updated 12 June 2020 | © Shelter

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