This briefing paper explains the statutory overcrowding standard in England, efforts to update the standard, and Government approaches to tackling the problem.
This information should not be relied upon as legal or professional advice. Read the disclaimer.
No. There is no age at which it’s unlawful for siblings to share a bedroom, including siblings of opposite sexes.
Statutory overcrowding and children sharing bedrooms
Age and room sharing is taken into account in assessing whether a household is statutorily overcrowded. The statutory overcrowding standard hasn’t been updated since 1935 and isn’t generous. Very few households are statutorily overcrowded.
Section 325 of the Housing Act 1985 (the ‘room standard’) provides a household may be statutorily overcrowded where children of the opposite sex over the age of 10 have to share a room.
When applying the room standard a local authority looks at how sleeping arrangements within the dwelling could be organised, rather than how they are organised. Children under 10 are disregarded. All rooms are taken into account if large enough to accommodate a bed, eg living rooms and kitchens. So, a household in a two-bed property with a large living room and a boy of 11 and girl of 12 may not be statutorily overcrowded as one child could sleep in the living room.
Local authority social housing allocation policies
Part 6 of the Housing Act 1996 (as amended) requires local authorities to produce housing allocation schemes which give ‘reasonable preference’ to certain categories of applicant, eg those occupying insanitary or overcrowded housing. Otherwise, they have a discretion over how they allocate their housing stock.
When setting the rules governing the number of bedrooms households will qualify for, authorities use their own criteria. They must ensure the rules don’t result in households being statutorily overcrowded. Most authorities’ allocation schemes are more generous than the statutory room standard set out above.
Overall, local authority allocation policies will seek to maximise occupancy and make best use of their stock. The size of the property allocated will take account of the household size and make-up. Any rules on siblings sharing rooms will apply only when an authority lets a property for the first time. The rules on bedroom entitlement will be set out in the authority’s housing allocation policy – these can usually be found on authorities’ websites.
When letting properties authorities will also take account of provisions which reduce help with housing costs for working-age social tenants on benefits who under-occupy their homes (ie they’re judged to be living in housing that’s too large for their needs). Authorities will want to avoid cases of under-occupation.
What happens as children get older?
There’ll be occasions where families grow and need more bedrooms. In these cases, tenants in social housing can apply for a transfer to a larger home. Whether or not they qualify for a larger home will depend on their level of housing need as measured by the landlord’s allocation / transfer policy. Households who are statutorily overcrowded attract a higher priority for rehousing.
- Library paper (CBP01013) Overcrowded housing (England)
- Library paper (CBP06397) Allocating social housing (England)
The Commons Library does not intend the information in this article to address the specific circumstances of any particular individual. We have published it to support the work of MPs. You should not rely upon it as legal or professional advice, or as a substitute for it. We do not accept any liability whatsoever for any errors, omissions or misstatements contained herein. You should consult a suitably qualified professional if you require specific advice or information. Read our briefing for information about sources of legal advice and help.
The legal framework within which local authorities in England allocate their housing stock is contained in Part 6 of the Housing Act 1996 (as amended). Nominations by local authorities to stock owned by housing associations (also known as private registered providers) are allocated within the same legal framework. This paper explains the statutory framework and the areas of discretion open to authorities when devising their housing allocation policies.
Find out the rules on children sharing bedrooms