Guidance on overcrowding
Everybody needs space to live in, whether to sleep or as a lounge or living room, to prepare and eat food, for bathing and toileting, room for belongings and for children to do homework and play etc. Lack of space and overcrowding can make these things difficult and stressful, increasing the risks of physical injury as well as the spread of infections and poor mental health with anxiety and depression.
Legislation details the minimum space which people need to live in. The Council can measure the size of certain rooms – particularly bedrooms - and calculate whether they are overcrowded or not, or might become so. Depending on the circumstances, the Council can set a limit on the number of occupants, including reference to their age and gender (sex, male or female), as people aged 11 or more and of the opposite sex who are not partners must have separate rooms and cannot be forced or required to share. Rooms of specific sizes can be classed as either unsuitable for occupation, or else suitable only for a specific number of people – sections 324 to 326 of the Housing Act 1985 provide more detail on this complex subject. Children, for example, may only count as half a person (aged 1-10 years) or else not be counted at all. Living rooms can be counted as available for sleeping. Rooms under 50 square feet are unsuitable as bedrooms, and between 50-70 square feet only suitable for a child up to 10 years of age.
The Council can, if unusual circumstances prevail, give temporary permission to allow some slight overcrowding. Otherwise, the Council can require a reduction in numbers of occupants, or that no further people reside in that property, and can prosecute for non compliance.
Also, in Houses in Multiple Occupation, properties may be limited to their number and age/gender mix by virtue of the presence of amenities as well. This may be under license conditions or more general rules. For example, more people will need a bigger kitchen or separate kitchens no more than 1 floor distant if in tall houses, or larger worktops, more cupboards, more cookers etc. and may need additional toilets and bathing facilities.
Finally, under the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (via Housing Act 2004), properties or even rooms within a property may be unsafe to occupy by virtue of ‘crowding and space’.
Some people who are expecting long term visitors from abroad may require Immigration approval which includes a letter from the Council confirming that their intended home is suitable in condition and size for the proposed visitors and existing residents.
If you believe a property may be overcrowded or require an Immigration report, please refer the matter to the Private Sector Housing Team on 02476 376406 for investigation.
Last updated Wednesday, 15th June 2016