What are the Requirements to Call a Room a Bedroom?

by Michelle J. Lane, Realtor

When listing properties, the question often comes up – can they call this room a bedroom?  The questions typically comes up for rooms without a closet or room in basements.  The legal requirements for a bedroom are listed below.   The surprising answer is that a closet is not required.  However, particularly with basement and attic rooms, the ceiling height and second form of egress become the issues.   Most basement and attic bedrooms do not meet the ceiling height requirement.  Basements also typically do not meet the requirements for window size.  As your agent, I need to follow these requirements when listing your home.   Beyond that, Buyers get annoyed when Sellers stretch the description, measurements or room count of their house.  

If you are a buyer, you can use this outline to determine if a listing is property advertising the number of bedrooms.  

  

Seven features that define a bedroom

  1. Minimum square footage:  In Massachusetts, 70 square feet is the acceptable minimum.
  2. Minimum horizontal footage:  A bedroom must also measure at least 7 feet in any horizontal direction.  So a 7×10 or 8×9 would work as a minimum size.
  3. Two means of egress: There must be two ways out of a bedroom. Traditionally, these would be a door and a window.
  4. Minimum ceiling height: At least half of the bedroom ceiling must be at least 7.5 feet tall.
  5. Minimum window size: The window opening must be a minimum size, usually 5.7 square feet. The bottom of the egress window opening cannot be any higher than 44” from the finished floor.  The minimum egress window opening height is 24” high. The minimum egress window opening is 20” wide.
  6. A heating and cooling element: We’re talking a heater (a space heater won’t qualify) as well as a way to cool it down, whether that’s by opening a window or good old AC.
  7. Electricity – Two separate wall-type convenience outlets, or one outlet and one electric light fixture. The outlets shall be placed in practical locations and shall insofar as practicable, be on different walls and at least ten feet apart.

Does a bedroom need a closet?

Legally, a bedroom does NOT need a closet to be considered official.  Closets are expected in newer homes.  But back in the day, people did not have nearly as much clothing as they do today so clothes were stored in chests or dressers, with maybe a couple of things being hung on a hook.  The hanger was not invented until 1869.  That’s why, if an older house does have closets, they are shallow and many still have the original hooks in them.  

If you have a room that does not meet these requirements, you could get away with calling it an office, nursery, playroom or bonus room.  Buyers will appreciate your honesty in not calling it a bedroom. 

Michelle J. Lane
MICHELLE J. LANE, Realtor
Century 21 Commonwealth
CELL: 617 584-3904
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