Severe overcrowding | Central Bedfordshire Council

Severe overcrowding

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.

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 includes a bedroom, living room, dining room, study etc. 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 these three sections:

Room standard

Room standard
Number of rooms Number of persons allowed
1 2
2 3
3 5
4 7.5
5 or more 2 per extra room

This standard does not include children under 10

Space standard

Space standard
Square meters of floor area (square feet) Number of persons allowed
10.2 (110) or more 2
8.36 - 10.2 (90 to 110) 1.5
6.5 - 8.36 (70 to 90) 1
4.66 - 6.5 (50 to 70) 0.5
Less than 4.66 (50) 0

Floor area should be measured per room and the total of occupiers totalled for the whole dwelling

  • Persons counted as follows:
  • babies under 1 equal 0 persons,
  • children 1-10 years equal ½ person,
  • over 10 years = 1 person

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. We will arrange to inspect your property to advise if your home is statutorily overcrowded. Please contact us on 0300 300 8767 or email

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 some 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 bedsitters available for the sole use of the household.

Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS)

In addition to the Overcrowding Standards mentioned previously, we also have regard to the provisions of the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (link opens in new window) (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.