Have you ever been at odds with a client about how many bedrooms there are in a house? How many bedrooms you include in a listing matters. More bedrooms can attract buyers and raise the price of the house. They could also get you into hot water for false representation if you over state them.
What exactly makes a bedroom? A CRES client contacted our legal team because a seller wanted to list their house as a 4 bedroom. The seller insists it is a 4 bedroom home, because there is a fourth room upstairs that the sellers have used as a bedroom. This fourth room doesn’t have a closet, however. The question is whether you can list a bedroom without a closet.
Is It a Bedroom Without a Closet?
Unfortunately for the seller, a room without a closet isn’t considered a bedroom in many locations. There are exceptions to the closet rule, but it’s important to be clear about zoning laws and how they relate to bedroom requirements in your city, county, and state.
If your clients ask if a room may be classified as a bedroom, don’t overstep your expertise. County records will show how many bedrooms the house has been assessed for, which may or may not relate to closets.
Whether or not you need a closet, a room often has to meet other requirements to be called a bedroom. These include:
Minimum size requirements (often at least 70–80 square feet or at least 7 feet per horizontal direction)
Having more than one way out, such as a door to the exterior or a window (window size and height matters, too)
Heating and/or cooling options
Minimum height requirements (often 7 feet or higher for most of the room)
If the house has a septic system, the number of bedrooms may not exceed the septic capacity.
Some of these regulations affect particular parts of the house. For example, converted storage space may lack windows or a second exit, attic rooms may have issues with sloping ceilings, basement rooms may not have properly sized or placed windows, 3-season porches may lack heat.
In other words, just because a seller has used a room as a bedroom, doesn’t mean you should advertise it as such.
Can You Make It a Bedroom?
So couldn’t the sellers just add a closet if they wanted to list a 4 bedroom house? They could, but County records show the home as a 3 bedroom. Adding a closet would likely require a permit and contacting the County to have their house reclassified as a 4 bedroom before they market it as such. Before deciding to go that route, the seller would also be wise to find out if the lack of a closet is the only reason the room isn’t considered a bedroom.
Often the safer and easier option is to advertise the property as a 3 bedroom with a den/office, nursery, or “bonus space.” This language lets potential buyers know that there is another room without getting you in trouble for listing a bedroom that isn’t really a bedroom.
If a room is legally considered a bedroom, but may not meet buyer expectations, consider how you want to market the house. For example, if you live in an area where closets are not required, but expected, you might choose to list a room without a closet, not as a bedroom, but as another type of room. Keep in mind that unmet expectations can lead to dissatisfaction and trigger lawsuits.
If you are a CRES client and have a question about classifying a bedroom or another legal issue related to a listing, call the CRES ClaimPrevent® Hotline. The hotline is available to our clients 7 days a week to help with any issues that put you at risk. (And we guarantee a response within 4 hours or next business day, with recommendations confirmed in writing.)
When has your professional opinion and a seller’s desires differed in how to list a property?
This blog/website is made available by CRES Insurance Services for educational purposes to give you general information and understanding of legal risks and insurance options, not to provide specific legal advice. This blog/website should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state. Claims examples are for illustrative purposes only. Read your policy for a complete description of what is covered and excluded.
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