House of Commons - Explanatory Note
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Session 2002 - 03
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Housing (Overcrowding) Bill


These notes refer to the Housing (Overcrowding) Bill as introduced in the House of Commons on 22nd January 2003 [Bill 46]




1.     These explanatory notes relate to the Housing (Overcrowding) Bill as introduced in the House of Commons on 22 January 2003. They have been prepared to assist the reader of the Bill and to help inform debate on it. They do not form part of the Bill and have not been endorsed by Parliament.

2.     The notes need to be read in conjunction with the Bill. They are not, and are not meant to be, a comprehensive description of the Bill. So where a clause or part of a clause does not seem to require any explanation or comment, none is given.


3.     This Bill extends only to England and Wales.

4.     The main effects of the Bill are

      - to reform the overcrowding provisions contained in the Housing Act 1985

      - to introduce a new "bedroom standard" against which overcrowding may be measured

      - to modernise the "space standard" in the 1985 Act

      - to require authorities to inspect their districts or part of them and to prepare a report on overcrowding (and to identify the number of dwellings required to abate the overcrowding)

      - to require the Secretary of State to take into account reports prepared by local authorities on overcrowding when disbursing funds to them for housing purposes.

[Bill 39-EN]     53/2


Clause 1:     Definition of overcrowding.

5.     The existing definition of overcrowding in section 324 of the Housing Act 1985 ("the 1985 Act") is replaced by a new one which includes "the bedroom standard" in addition to "the space standard". The existing "room standard" is abolished.

Clause 2:     The bedroom standard.

6.     This clause substitutes a new section 325 in the 1985 Act and replaces the room standard with the bedroom standard. A dwelling will be overcrowded where the number of bedrooms available to the occupiers is less than the number of bedrooms allocated to them in accordance with a simple formula. Very small rooms (less than 50 square feet in floor area) do not count at all. Rooms available as living rooms or kitchens do not count either. Under the current scheme they do.

7.     For the purposes of the bedroom standard a bedroom is allocated to persons in accordance with a formula. A person living with another as husband and wife (including same-sex couples) is allocated a bedroom, as is a person aged 21 years or more. For younger persons the formula recognises that sharing may be required. However, the sex of the person will be relevant in determining whether a bedroom is allocated to him or her, together with another person. For example, two young people aged between 10 years and 20 years are allocated a bedroom together, but only if they are of the same sex. A similar allocation is made where one person is aged between 10 years and 20 years and the other is aged less than 10 years, again only where they are of the same sex. Where two young persons are of different sexes they may be paired with another (of the same sex) but if no other person is available for this purpose amongst the occupiers, each is allocated their own bedroom.

Clause 3: The space standard.

8.     The existing space standard in section 326 of the 1985 Act is amended and modernised. Part of the standard is abolished and replaced by the bedroom standard. The remaining part (dealing with floor space) is amended so that children under five years count as half a unit and those aged five and over count as one unit (as adults do). The amendment ensures that children under one year are not ignored altogether (as they are currently) and that children attaining five years are recognised as having a similar impact in overcrowding terms as older children or adults. Under the current scheme a child under ten counts as half a unit

9.     Very small rooms - less than 50 square feet in area - are left out of account altogether (as is currently the case).

Clause 4: Powers and duties of local housing authority and Secretary of State

10.     This clause equips local housing authorities with a power to inspect their districts (or a part) and to report on overcrowding. The power must be exercised so as to cause a report to be published within 12 months of the coming into force of the Act, with another report required within five years of the last one.

11.     The Secretary of State is required to take into account reports on overcrowding when making decisions to disburse funds to authorities for housing and related purposes (which will include measures to abate overcrowding by the provision of new dwellings and the refurbishment of existing ones).

Clause 5: Exception to responsibility of occupier

12.     This clause amends the current scheme to take into account the changes to the space standard. An occupier of a dwelling will not be guilty of an offence where overcrowding occurs by reason of the birth of a child in the dwelling or by reason of a child attaining the age of five years. The current scheme provides an exception to the responsibility of an occupier where "natural overcrowding" occurs and the new Act continues the exception.

Clauses 6, 7 and 8

13.     These clauses make provision in the usual way for commencement, transitional provision, financial provision and the short title and extent of the Act

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Prepared: 10 February 2003