What Defines a Legal Bedroom?

Every Friday we give fast answers to quick questions about home selling, buying, anything about real estate!

Today’s Question: What defines a legal bedroom?

Today, we’re answering a question that has been a hotly debated by real estate agents and homeowners for decades. This question is: What defines a legal bedroom? Fist of all, understand that there are building codes for bedrooms, and then there is market acceptability for bedrooms. Today, we’re talking about legal requirements for bedrooms. 90% of US states use what’s called the International Residential Code as their baseline building code, and yes, there are going to be some state and local overlays to that code. Massachusetts does use the IRC, and that’s what we’re talking about today.

1. Size Matters

First of all, the size of the room matters. For a single person inhabiting the room, it must be at least 70 square feet. For two people, it’s going to have to be at least 120 square feet. It also has to have a ceiling height of 7 feet or higher for 50% of the room.

2. Access and Egress

Not only that, but the home must have access and egress. You cannot go through a room to get to a bedroom- it must be accessible off a main hallway or common area. For egress, there must be a second way to get out of the room, and this is usually solved by a window that is of large enough dimensions to fit a person through it. So, bedrooms in the basement with those tiny rectangular windows that you can’t even reach- those don’t qualify as legal bedrooms.

3. Light and Ventilation

Additionally, the room must have light and ventilation, and again, having a window is going to fulfill that criteria.

4. Electric and Heat

There also must be electric and heat. There must be two electrical outlets in a bedroom, and heat must be able to reach 68° or higher during the winter months.
Nowhere in the IRC is there a requirement for a closet in a bedroom. A closet is considered a matter of practicality and convenience, and it’s not required for inhabiting a room.

Also, in Massachusetts, septic systems do come up in Title 5, and that further puts a requirement on bedrooms. Your septic system must be sized large enough to handle the amount of bedrooms in your home. So, if you are on a septic system, you cannot add more bedrooms to your house than your septic system is able to handle.

We hope that helps and clears up all the debate- if we can help you, give us a call at 978-494-0346!

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Ron's Real Estate Minute

Episode 1: How Much Will it Cost To Sell My Home?
Episode 2: How Do I Get My Home Ready To Sell?
Episode 3: 4 Questions Everyone Asks About Home Inspections
Episode 4: What are Sellers Looking for in the Offers They Receive This Spring?
Episode 5: What are Some Tips for Buyers Going to Open Houses?
Episode 6: What is a Psychologically Impacted Property?
Episode 7: What is the Difference Between a Deposit and a Down Payment?
Episode 8: How Do I Deal With a Subject to Suitable Housing Condition?
Episode 9: What Defines a Legal Bedroom?
Episode 10: What Does it Mean to Launch a Listing?
Episode 11: What is an As-Is Home Sale?
Episode 12: What is a Betterment and What Does it Mean in a Home Sale?


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