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Crowding and space

Although crowding and space is 1 of the 29 hazards that can be assessed under part 1 of the Housing Act 2004, Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS), the previous legislation, Part X of the Housing Act 1985 – Statutory Overcrowding, has not yet been appealed and assessments in accordance with this legislation are still carried out and valid.

Statutory overcrowding

This standard was first written/introduced in the 1930s and is based on the number and ages of people living in the property and the number and size of all habitable rooms.

How statutory overcrowding is calculated

Firstly the number of people occupying the property needs to be calculated and this is dependant on their ages.

  • children under the age of 1 count as 0 persons
  • children aged between 1 and 10 count as ½ person 
  • children over the age of 10 and adults count as 1 person 

So, for example, a family of four comprising of mum and dad, son aged 8 and a daughter aged 13 would be counted as 3 ½ persons:

  • mum and dad 2 persons
  • son ½ person
  • daughter 1 person  

Secondly the number of habitable rooms is calculated by counting all rooms except kitchens and bathrooms. Lounges/living rooms and dining rooms are all counted as well as the bedrooms.  

Table below states the maximum occupancy of a property based on the total number of rooms. 

 Number of habitable rooms

 Maximum number of persons

 1

 2

 2

 3

 3

 5

 4

 7½

 5 or more

 2 for each room


Thirdly the floor area of each these rooms needs to be worked out. Table  below shows how many persons can occupy each room depending on how big it is. 

 Floor area of rooms

 Number of persons

 110sq.ft (10.22m2) or more    

  2 persons

 90 sq.ft (8.36m2) or more but less than 110 sq.ft (10.22m2)   

 1 ½ persons

 70 sq.ft (6.50m2) or more but less than 90 sq.ft (8.36m2)  

 1 person

 50 sq.ft (4.64m2) or more but less than 70 sq.ft (6.50m2)

  ½ person

Rooms with a floor area of less than 50 sq.ft (4.64m2) are not taken into consideration for the assessment.

So, for example, a room that is big enough for 1 ½ persons could be occupied by either 3 children under the age of 10 (each counting as ½ person) of either/both sexes or 2 children, 1 over 10 (counting as 1 person) and the other under 10 (counting as ½ person) of the same sex.

Children of the opposite sex over the age of ten, should not be expected to share a room with each other.

The members of the family can then be placed in rooms that are suitable to them.

It is likely that you will get different numbers of persons from the calculations of each table. The maximum number of persons permitted in the property is the lower of the two numbers. If the actual number of persons in the property is greater than this number the property could be statutorily overcrowded.

Housing health and safety rating system (HHSRS) assessment

Crowding and space is unlike the other 28 hazards, in as much as it does not consider defects and deficiencies of the property itself, but looks at deficiencies in the way the property is occupied.

The HHSRS Crowding and Space hazard is a far higher standard than Part X of the Housing Act 1985 and is not solely based on the floor area or room sizes of the dwelling.

The following are taken into consideration during the risk assessment:

  • living area, lack of living area of an adequate size for the potential family 
  • kitchen area, lack of separate kitchen area of adequate size
  • personal washing area, lack of separate adequately sized personal washing facilities/area or lack of privacy of this area 
  • number of bedrooms the size of these bedrooms and whether they are located in a suitable location 
  • recreational space, lack of safely fenced recreational space readily visible from the property 

The HHSRS Operating Guidance for this hazard acknowledges that children need as much space as adults.

It also states the generally a two bedroom property is suitable for up to four persons, a three bedroom property is suitable for up to six persons and that a four bedroom property is suitable for up to seven persons.

Overcrowding and the homechoice bandings

The housing register rules are different and simpler. 

Pregnancy will not be considered for overcrowding assessments. The bedroom entitlement as set out in the Housing Allocations Policy is used to assess overcrowding in the majority of cases when the baby is born.  

Bedroom sharing is covered by the following rules: 

  • household members living together as a couple will be assessed as requiring 1 bedroom, unless there are exceptional circumstances
  • additional adults (defined as being 18 years old or over) living permanently in a household, will require an extra bedroom
  • children that are of different sexes that are both under 7 years will be expected to share
  • children of the same sex that are both under 18 will be expected to share 

If you are 1 bedroom short, you will be placed into silver band.

If you are 2 bedrooms short, you will be placed into gold band.

Please refer to the Dorset home choice housing allocations policy review 2013 or seek advice if you are unsure.

Page last updated: 01 May 2019
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