What is overcrowding?

Living accommodation is overcrowded when there is not enough room for the number of people living there.

There are different rules for a type of housing called 'Houses in Multiple Occupation'; this is where unrelated occupants share facilities, such as bedsits.

How do I know if it's overcrowded?

There is a legal definition of overcrowding, but it is quite old and the Government is looking to update it. To be completely sure you should contact Environmental Health and we will advise you.

What are the rules?

Adults and children are treated differently for overcrowding purposes:

AgeNumber of units
Under 1 yr0
1 yr - 9 yrs½
10 yrs and over1

If two people of the opposite sex have to sleep in the same room, it is overcrowded unless the two people are:

  • a married or cohabiting couple, or
  • at least one occupant is under 10 years old

The number and type of rooms must be considered. The overcrowding standard includes living rooms and large kitchens as well as bedrooms, and a rough guide is as follows:

Number of roomsMaximum occupants
Above 52 per room

but to be sure, the actual room sizes must also be considered (see below).

The following table shows how many people can occupy a room according to the room size:

Minimum room areaExample room sizeMaximum occupantsExamples of allowed occupancy
110 sq.ft. or 10.2 sq.m.10ft x 11 ft. or 3m x 3.5m2 people1 adult and a child 1yr or more, OR
2 adults and a child under 1 yr
90 sq.ft. or 8.4 sq.m.10ft. x 9ft. or 3m. x 2.8m.1½ people1 adult and a child 1-9 yrs old' OR
2 children 1-9 yrs old
70 sq.ft. or 6.5 sq.m.8ft. x 8ft.9in. or 2.5m. x 2.6m.1 person1 adult, OR
2 children 1-9 yrs old
50 sq. ft. or 4.6 sq.m.7ft. x 7ft. or 2m. x 2.3m.½ person1 child under 10 years old

Other controls on overcrowding

The current controls on general housing standards (called the 'Housing Health and Safety Rating System', or 'HHSRS') include an assessment of 'Crowding and Space' to see whether the accommodation is of a good standard. This must be used in addition to the old rules (see 4 above). It looks at hazards in the home that can cause the health effects mentioned in 2 above.