Check the legal definition of overcrowding. Find out what your options are if you need to move because your home is overcrowded.

What is the legal definition of overcrowding? 

The number of people who should live in a home depends on the number of rooms, the size of the rooms and the ages of the people who live there. Rooms that are counted include living rooms and bedrooms (but not the kitchen or bathroom). There are also 3 situations where overcrowding is allowed - natural growth, temporary overcrowding and licensed overcrowding, see below.As a general rule:

  • 1 room = 2 people can live there

  • 2 rooms = 3 people can live there

  • 3 rooms = 5 people can live there

  • 4 rooms = 7.5 people can live there

  • 5 rooms or more = 2 people per room can live there.

There are rules about which people can share a bedroom and how much bedroom space is required per person. For the room and space calculations:

  • children under one year old are ignored

  • children over one and under ten years old count as a half

  • rooms under 50 square feet are ignored.

Sharing a bedroom

If two people of the opposite sex have to sleep in the same room, the accommodation will be overcrowded unless they are:

  • married, in a civil partnership or living together, or

  • one or both of them is under ten years old.


The size of a room determines how many people can sleep there:

  • floor area 50-69 square feet = 0.5 people can sleep there

  • floor area 70-89 square feet = 1 person can sleep there

  • floor area 90-109 square feet = 1.5 people can sleep there

  • floor area 110 square feet = 2 people can sleep there.

When is overcrowding allowed?

Overcrowding is allowed if it is:

Natural growth

If the reason that your home becomes overcrowded is because one of your children has reached either the age of one year or ten years, and your household has not changed in any other way, then there will be no overcrowding.

Temporary overcrowding

The reason for overcrowding is that one of the people sleeping in your home is there on a temporary basis (less than 16 days) and is a guest.

Licensed overcrowding

If the council has given permission for the overcrowding.

Finding other accommodation

Private tenants

As a private tenant, you will probably have to consider other housing. This might mean:

If you are legally overcrowded, the council may have to help you find somewhere else to live. You may get priority on the waiting list for a council or housing association tenancy. How quickly you would get a place depends on the number of people on the waiting list and the amount of housing available to let.

If you are very overcrowded the council might consider it unreasonable for you to live in your home. In this case the council may have to help you because you are homeless.

Council and housing association tenants

If you rent your home from the council or a housing association, you can apply to transfer to a larger home if your home becomes overcrowded. How easily you will be able to do this will depend on the size of your household and the availability of housing in your area.

If you need to talk to someone, we’ll do our best to help. Get Help

Last updated: 16 February 2018

Housing laws differ between Scotland and England.

This content applies to Scotland only.

Get advice if you're in England