I have been working with buyers looking at older houses that do not always have closets in rooms used for sleeping. The question came up whether these are legal bedrooms. If you are wondering the same thing, you may find the info below which inspector Reuben originally posted here July 9, 2009 interesting.

Closet1

Everyone knows that you need a closet in a bedroom to call it a bedroom, right?  While this is a universally accepted standard, good luck finding any type of authority to back this up.

The funny thing about the ''requirement' to have a closet in a bedroom is that there isn't anything in the International Residential Code (IRC) that requires a closet in the bedroom. There's also nothing in the Minnesota State Building Code that requires a closet, and there's nothing in the Minneapolis Maintenance Code. So where does this thought come from?  I'm guessing HUD, FHA or VA require closets… but they're not authorities on the matter.
 
Minneapolis defines a bedroom as "A habitable room within a dwelling unit which is used, or intended to be used, primarily for the purpose of sleeping, but shall not include any kitchen or dining room." Minneapolis also requires the following for any sleeping room:
  • Seven foot ceiling height
  • Seventy square feet of floor area, not including any closet area
  • A source of natural light (8% of the floor area)
  • A source of  natural ventilation (4% of the floor area)
  • Can not be arranged such that access to a sleeping room can be had only be going through another sleeping room or a bathroom or toilet room.
  • Proper Egress - the requirements for this are long and complicated, and depend on when the building was built and when the last windows were installed. 

There are a few other requirements, but there's nothing about a closet.  

 

ArmoireWhat exactly is a closet anyways?  The IRC defines a closet as "A small room or chamber used for storage."  A chamber is "a natural or artificial enclosed space or cavity".  This means that a 6" box with a door that's installed on the wall could be called a closet.  Ok, maybe that's silly.  How about an armoire or a wardrobe?  I've seen plenty of houses with only wardrobes in the bedrooms, and nobody had a problem calling them bedrooms.

 
The bottom line is that bedrooms do not need closets to be called bedrooms.  The next time you hear someone tell you that a bedroom needs a closet, ask for proof.

Oh, and don't let common sense get in the way (everyone still needs a place to store their stuff!).

Reuben Saltzman, Structure Tech Home Inspections

ps – Almost everything I blog about deals with topics that I have knowledge about, and I can almost always prove whatever I write.  For this topic, I'm writing about something that I don't have proof of. If anyone reading this blog can find evidence that I'm wrong, please post a comment.
 

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About Sharlene Hensrud

I love what I do! Highly insightful, analytical and creative, there is nothing I love more than helping you find the right solution for your real estate transition. My mission is to serve my clients with honesty and integrity, exceeding their expectations in service and support… and to help others by donating a portion of every transaction to Habitat for Humanity.

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