Overcrowding? Law doesn’t set number of people who can live in a house

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If a law on overcrowding is created, it would then be necessary to assign the supervision of the houses to a body.

Nothing in the law sets a limit on the number of people who can live in a house, although landlords generally limit use to the household and prohibit lodging.

Overcrowded is defined as a living space with an insufficient number of habitable rooms – four square meters or more – for the size and demographic profile of the household.

According to the definition given by the Survey of Living Conditions and Income, a dwelling is overcrowded if it does not have a minimum number of spaces to allow for: one common room; one room for each couple; one room for each adult; one room for each two people of the same sex between the ages of 12 and 17; one room for each person of a different sex between the ages of 12 and 17; one room for each two people under the age of 12.

However, as far as the law is concerned, overcrowding only has implications for the consequences it may cause, i.e. situations that merit the intervention of public bodies (e.g. safety risks or unhealthy conditions).

“The question is whether the social problem should merit the creation of public legal normswith the aim of regulating renting for housing purposes,” lawyer João Gaspar Simões, a specialist in public administrative law, told Lusa.

If a law on overcrowding were to be created, she explains, it would then be necessary to identify who would be responsible for enforcing it.

More people are living in overcrowded houses in Portugal

According to the 2021 Census, which did not distinguish between rented and owned homes, 12.7% of dwellings were in overcrowded conditions.

Meanwhile, on March 15, the National Statistics Institute (INE) revealed the results of the most recent Living Conditions and Income Survey, according to which the proportion of people living in overcrowded conditions in 2023 rose to 12.9%, 3.5 percentage points more than the previous year (9.4%).

According to INE, in 2023, the rate of overcrowding in housing was higher for the younger population (21.8% for the age group up to 17), decreasing with age (13.9% for adults and 4.4% for the elderly).

As in previous years, the risk of living in an inadequate housing situation was more significant for the population at risk of poverty (27.7% last year, compared to 9.8% for the rest of the population).

At the time of the public consultation, the version of the Mais Habitação (More Housing) program, approved by the Socialist government in October last year (which became Law 56/2023), even stated that landlords who promoted rentals in overcrowded conditions would be responsible for finding a “housing alternative” for their tenants, if this situation was detected by the local councils.

Hervé Hubert
Hervé Hubert
Hervé Hubert is a 55-year-old writer and journalist based in Porto, Portugal. Born in France, he brings a unique blend of French and Portuguese perspectives to his work. Education Hervé studied Journalism and Literature at the University of Lyon in France. After completing his studies, he gained valuable experience working with various French media outlets (Portugal France also). Career He worked for several years as a journalist in France before making the move to Portugal. In Porto, he joined the Portugal Pulse team as a staff writer. Skills Hervé specializes in storytelling, investigative journalism, and cultural commentary. He has a flair for capturing complex issues in a relatable way. Personal Life He currently resides in Porto and enjoys the city's rich culture, from Fado music to Francesinha cuisine. Hervé continues to maintain strong ties to his French heritage, often traveling back to France for family visits and cultural exploration. With his unique background and diverse skill set, Hervé Hubert adds a layered, multicultural lens to every story he covers.

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