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Helpful information for residents living in overcrowded accommodation

Your home may be considered as overcrowded if there are not enough rooms or space in your accommodation for the number of people who permanently reside with you.

At the start of 2022 Southwark had approximately 4820 households with overcrowding as their leading priority on our housing register. Many of these households are lacking 1 bedroom or more. There are also a small number of households living in statutory overcrowded accommodation. This means, that according to the legislation that covers overcrowding, being statutorily overcrowded in their property is in breach of the legal guidelines.

Many people who contact us find that they are not statutory overcrowded even though their living conditions are very cramped. Below is a guide to assessing statutory overcrowding in a home.  

How many people can occupy a room?

The Housing Act 1985 is the relevant legislation (housing law) used to assess if a dwelling is considered to be statutory overcrowded. Within the framework of the legislation there are two ways to calculate if your home is statutorily overcrowded.

Section 325 - The Room Standard. The room standard considers the number of rooms available for people to sleep in the property.  The law refers to your home or property as a ‘dwelling’.

Section 326 – The Space Standard considers the amount of space in dwelling and the number of people living in it.

A home is considered to be Statutory overcrowded when there are too many people living in the dwelling using either of the calculations.

Room standard Section 325 (Housing Act 1985 part X)

(1)The room standard is contravened when the number of persons sleeping in a dwelling and the number of rooms available as sleeping accommodation is such that two persons of opposite sexes who are not living together as a married couple or civil partners must sleep in the same room.

(2) For this purpose—

(a) Children under the age of ten shall be left out of account, and

(b) A room is available as sleeping accommodation if it is of a type normally used in the locality either as a bedroom or as a living room.

Can anyone share a room?

Put in clear terms, the room standard means that no two people, over 10 years old, of opposite sex should have to sleep in the same room (unless living as a couple). This does not mean that a couples must have a room to themselves. For example, the standard would not be breached if a mother slept in the same room as a female child and a father slept in the same room with a male child. 325 (b) also means that we must consider the living room/lounge (if you have one) as a space that can be used for sleeping, even if you do not use it as a traditional bedroom.

Space standard Section 326 (Housing Act 1985 Part X)

(1)The space standard is contravened when the number of persons sleeping in a dwelling is in excess of the permitted number, having regard to the number and floor area of the rooms of the dwelling available as sleeping accommodation.

(2) For this purpose—

(a) no account shall be taken of a child under the age of one and a child aged one or over but under ten shall be reckoned as one-half of a unit, and

(b) A room is available as sleeping accommodation if it is of a type normally used in the locality either as a living room or as a bedroom.

(3) The permitted number of persons in relation to a dwelling is whichever is the less of—

(a) The number specified in Table I in relation to the number of rooms in the dwelling available as sleeping accommodation, and

(b) The aggregate for all such rooms in the dwelling of the numbers specified in column 2 of Table II in relation to each room of the floor area specified in column 1

No account shall be taken for the purposes of either Table of a room having a floor area of less than 50 square feet.


Table 1                                                                

Number of Rooms

Number of Persons allowed









5 or more

2 per extra room










                            Table 2 

Square meters floor area (square feet)

Number of Persons permitted

10.2 square metres (110 square ft. or more)


8.4 - 10.1 square metres

(90 square ft. or more but less than 110 square ft)


6.5 - 8.3 square metres

(70 square ft. or more but less than 90 square ft)


4.6 - 6.4 square metres

(50 square ft. or more but less than 70 square ft)














The calculations should consider the floor area for each room and the total number of occupants in the whole property/dwelling. 

A breakdown of how household members (also described as persons) are calculated is as follows;

  • Adults and children over 10 years old equal 1 unit/persons
  • Children under the age of 10 years old equal ½ a unit/persons
  • Babies under 1 year old are not included in the count and equal to 0 persons for the purpose of the calculations.

The regulations on Statutory overcrowding can be found here;


Why not try calculating the persons in your home?

Remember the rules above, and remember that unless you are a tenant, or in a licenced Home of Multiple Occupation where you rent a room as an Assured Shorthold Tenant, you must consider the number of rooms in the property/dwelling as a whole – even if you don’t use them, or they are occupied by someone who is not considered as part of your household.

If you believe that you may be statutory Overcrowded and you are a council tenant, you can contact your resident services officer and ask them to measure the rooms in your property. This would only be necessary if you have calculated that you haven’t reached the maximum number of persons as outlined in table 1 above.

If you are a Housing Association tenant, you should contact your housing officer to carry out the measurements, and request they send the information through to They will need to use the referral form on the link here

If you are private tenant you can request a visit to measure your property by emailing we may be able to arrange for an officer to visit you in your home where appropriate.

You can find information on how the council assesses overcrowding below

When assessing bedroom need the council assesses that children under the age of 10 years of the same or mixed sex can share a room, children over the age of 10 years of different sexes are eligible for a separate bedrooms, and a child over the age of 16 is eligible for a room of their own. Looked after children are assessed as needing their own room. It is important to note that needing a separate bedroom because of a medical condition or disability does not count as being overcrowded. 

Under section 6.2 of the allocations scheme overcrowding priority is assessed as follows;


Band 1

Applicants who are statutorily overcrowded as defined by Part X of the Housing Act 1985, and have not caused this statutory overcrowding by a deliberate act.


Band 3

Overcrowded but not statutorily overcrowded as defined by Part X of the 1985 Housing Act


What are my options if I am living in overcrowded accommodation?  

If you are a council or housing association tenant you can apply to swap your home with another person via a mutual exchange scheme . Housing associations will have their own transfer waiting lists so this is something to consider.

You can seek advice on your options of renting a larger home in the private sector, including receiving assistance in assessing the affordability of a private sector home. For more information you can visit the Southwark council webpages where you will find further information on the private rented sector, here Advice about homelessness - Southwark Council even if you are not homeless.

You can apply to join the housing register for a social home. You must be aware that due to the huge level of demand for social homes, and their short supply, the wait for a council or housing association home could be anything between 3 – 15 years, this could be much longer if you need a larger property. It is therefore advisable to consider if you want to wait for that long whilst living in overcrowded accommodation and consider all available options open to your household.