According to an article that appeared in The Independent, there are around 100,000 families currently living in overcrowded social housing properties in London. This is approximately 6.8 per cent of the total social renters’ population. 

On the other hand, there is a large number of social housing renters who are currently living in council houses that are too big for their needs. The reasons for this usually include the fact that the council house was occupied when the family was larger in size and as young members of the family started to move out, the residents were unable to find an appropriate house to swap within their council district.

Can One Person Live In a 3 Bedroom Council House?

No, legally speaking, one person cannot live in a three-bedroom council house as it does not fulfil the Bedroom Standard criteria. In addition to this, having spare bedrooms in the house which are unoccupied reduces the Housing Benefit that the resident is claiming from local council authorities. 

As per council guidelines, below is the bedroom allocation of the council house as per the number of residents occupying the property:

Number of roomsThe maximum number of people allowed
12
23
35
47.5
510

Councils assign spaces or bedrooms as per the below criteria:

  • Residents who are aged 10 or over count as 1 person
  • Children who are  aged 1 to 9 count as 0.5 (thus expected to share a room)
  • Children who are under 1-year-olds don’t count

It may be worth noting that while assigning bedroom space, councils will also count living rooms, studies or any extra liveable space as a bedroom. However, they will not take into account a space if it is either under 50 square feet in size. 

Councils consider the following conditions while assigning a council house that meets their tenants’ space requirements:

  • The number of bedrooms 
  • The number of people (their age and gender)
  • If the residents can share a bedroom

If you are found to be having spare bedrooms in your council house, the council will reduce your Housing Benefit by up to 14 per cent for one room and up to 25 per cent for two or more spare bedrooms. Check if a room counts as an extra bedroom for Housing Benefit – Citizens Advice

In such cases, councils will try to relocate their tenants into smaller housing facilities through mutual exchange. However, there are certain exceptions that can be made in case of any of the following situations:

  • A family member who had moved out or is staying at their university halls during the term is expected to return
  • A family member is serving the Armed Forces and is away from home most of the time during a year
  • A carer spend the night at your council house 
  • The resident is a foster carer and is on the waiting list for a child placement

To learn more about occupancy status and rights in council houses, we will try to answer the following questions through this article:

  • Can Council Inspect My House?
  • Can Council Visit To Check Occupany Status?
  • Can You Swap Council Houses?
  • Can Someone Live With Me In My Council House?

Can Council Inspect My House?

Yes, council authorities have a duty to visit houses; both privately rented ones and especially council housing premises. Such visits are scheduled in advance and residents are informed ahead of the visit to expect a visit by the council authorities at a specified date and time.

The reasons for a council visit may include any other following:

  • Inspection or assessment prior to home improvement/restructuring/modification/extension tasks is planned.
  • Inspection or follow up on complaints of pest control.
  • Inspection or assessment in response to complaints by the tenant(s).
  • Inspection or assessment in response to complaints by the neighbours against the tenant(s). 
  • Inspection to check multiple occupancy status (if the resident claims to be a single occupant for the property).

Details of the reasons for council visits and their consequences can be found here Shelter Legal England – Local authority duties to inspect homes and assess hazards

Can Council Visit To Check Occupany Status?

Yes, council authorities can come to check the occupancy status of your home especially when you claim single-occupant benefits. Someone can live with you in your council house as they are generally intended for eligible candidates and their families; whether they are dependants or non-dependants. However, if you intend to ask someone to live with you as a carer or a joint tenant, or you intend to sublet your council house, you must consult your tenancy agreement and discuss with your landlord/local council office prior to making any commitments.

If you are on Housing Benefit or Universal Credit, any changes to the number of people in your home might have an impact on the amount of benefit you were receiving prior to them moving in especially if they are expected to contribute towards the rent. 

If you are not on benefits, you only have to inform your landlord and council authorities of the addition of occupants to your household especially if they are expected to share the rent with you. There is a possibility that your tenancy agreement will need to be changed to adjust for joint tenancy. 

If you are under a Secure Tenancy or Fixed Tenancy agreement with the housing authorities, you may sub-let rooms in your council house; however, subletting of the entire council house is not allowed. You will find a clause in your tenancy agreement that confirms the same. Therefore, it is advisable not to add someone to your council house with the intention of subletting the premises.

Can You Swap Council Houses?

Yes, you can swap your council house; however, the amount of time it takes will depend upon finding another property and the terms on which you are leaving the previous council house.

When a tenant is looking for another council housing tenant who is also intending to move, it is called “mutual exchange” as the decision to swap council houses depends upon a mutual agreement between both parties involved. You can either look for a swapping partner through your local council or through a mutual exchange website.

It must be kept in mind that you are required to first inform your local council or social housing landlord about your decision to move and then register yourself through council/housing association/private websites such as HomeSwapper or Home & Property Markets | House Buying & Improvements | Property Market & Estate Agents to search for your future property

Once you and your landlord/council are in agreement, you can register yourself on the council’s website and list your council house as available for mutual exchange. You can easily find a swapping partner through the same website (if you haven’t already found one before making the decision to swap).

Your tenancy type and your eligibility for priority housing will play a very important role in the amount of time that it will take to find another council house to swap with.

Can Someone Live With Me In My Council House?

Yes, someone can live with you in your council house as they are generally intended for eligible candidates and their families; whether they are dependants or non-dependants. However, if you intend to ask someone to live with you as a carer or a joint tenant, or you intend to sublet your council house, you must consult your tenancy agreement and discuss with your landlord/local council office prior to making any commitments.

If you are on Housing Benefit or Universal Credit, any changes to the number of people in your home might have an impact on the amount of benefit you were receiving prior to them moving in especially if they are expected to contribute towards the rent. Even if the additional occupants are not expected to contribute towards the rent, the council expects them to share your rent and taxes if they are non-dependants. This means that you will face a reduction in your benefits if someone who is classified as a non-dependant comes to live with you.

If you are not on benefits, you only have to inform your landlord of the addition of occupants to your household especially if they are expected to share the rent with you. There is a possibility that your tenancy agreement will need to be changed to adjust for joint tenancy. 

If you are under a Secure Tenancy or Fixed Tenancy agreement with the housing authorities, you may sub-let rooms in your council house; however, subletting of the entire council house is not allowed. You will find a clause in your tenancy agreement that confirms the same. Therefore, it is advisable not to add someone to your council house with the intention of subletting the premises.

Conclusion:

Council houses continue to be high in demand while the supply does not increase at the same pace despite increased funding by the government. While the obvious reason for this may be the fact that the construction of council houses is time-consuming; however, one of the reasons can also be cited as a disbalance between council housing space and occupants. Due to this, a large number of individuals who are eligible for council housing remain on the waiting list for long periods of time. This disbalance may be due to under-occupancy or over-crowding of the space allotted by council authorities. In either case, it is the tenant’s responsibility to inform the authorities of a change in their circumstances so that they may be relocated by them as per changing requirements.

FAQs: Can One Person Live In a 3 Bedroom Council House?

Can the council force you to downsize?

No, the council does not force their tenants to downsize. However, they will advise them on moving to a council house which is appropriate for the number of family members in their households.

How many bedrooms do you need?

Generally, tenants appear to need 3 bedrooms for a family. However, when applying for council housing, they would have to follow standards set by the authorities which include one bedroom for a couple and may go up to 5 bedrooms for a 10-member household./

Can I let someone stay in my council house?

Yes, you can let someone stay in your council house whether it is through the addition of family members or by taking in a lodger. However, if your tenancy agreement places certain restrictions, you may not be able to do so.

What is classed as overcrowded in a council house?

A council house may be classed as overcrowded if:

  • There are more than 2 people above the age of 10 years sharing a room
  • There are 2 people above the age of 10 years and of opposite genders sharing a room
  • The floor area does not match the number of occupants 

Can my partner live with me in my council house?

Yes, your partner can live with you in your council house as they are generally intended for eligible candidates and their families; whether they are dependants or non-dependants. 

References:

Under occupation rules: how many bedrooms are you allowed? – Entitledto

I live in a five-bedroom council house which I don’t need, yet I’m not allowed to swap with an overcrowded family

Check if a room counts as an extra bedroom for Housing Benefit – Citizens Advice

Check if your home is overcrowded by law – Shelter England

Your council or housing association home is unsuitable

How to go about a council house exchange – OurProperty.co.uk

Occupancy rights

Can someone live with me in my council house?

Council want to inspect my property – Property118

Shelter Legal England – Local authority duties to inspect homes and assess hazards

John has 22 years of experience in financial services. This spans across financial research, financial services (As a qualified mortgage broker and underwriter), financial trading and sales at global investment banks. While working as a publishing research analyst, he covered European bank credit and advised institutional clients on investment strategies at both JP Morgan and Societe Generale. John has passed all three levels of the CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst) programme.

John has 22 years of experience in financial services. This spans across financial research, financial services (As a qualified mortgage broker and underwriter), financial trading and sales at global investment banks. While working as a publishing research analyst, he covered European bank credit and advised institutional clients on investment strategies at both JP Morgan and Societe Generale. John has passed all three levels of the CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst) programme.