Legally, What’s Considered a Bedroom in NYC?

As I am considering to move closer to my office, I am irritated by other real estate agent’s labeling of an apartment that has two bedrooms but clearly has only one. Unfortunately, real estate agents in NYC are notorious for that!

But what qualifies as a bedroom? Is it having closets and windows? Well, let me help you with this little guide on what makes a bedroom, a bedroom, here in New York City.

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So, what qualifies as a legal bedroom here in NYC?

For a bedroom to be considered a bedroom it must:

  • Be a minimum of width of 8 feet, it doesn’t matter the direction
  • Be a minimum of 80 square feet
  • Be a minimum of 8 feet high
  • Have at least one window which much be a minimum of 12 square feet
  • Has at least one heating source
  • Not be a pass through room
  • Have at least two means of egress (one window and one door)

There are some exceptions to this rule:

  • If the apartment has three or more bedrooms, 1/2 of the bedrooms can be 7 feet wide.
  • If the bedroom is in a basement or on the top floor of a converted dwelling (such as a single family townhouse converted to a multifamily dwelling) it must have a minimum ceiling height of 7 feet.
  • If the bedroom has a sloped ceiling, at least 1/3 of the ceiling must have a ceiling height of 7 feet.
  • The window cannot be a lot-line window which is a window that resides on the lot line. If a building does eventually get constructed next door, these windows can (and must) get bricked over. The window must open onto a street, yard or court on the same lot.
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Myth Buster: You do NOT need a closet in a room to be considered a bedroom. Sorry folks! That argument is null!

Yeah it sucks, especially since there aren’t any apartments with tons of closets these days. If you do find an apartment with a closet, it’s like a cubby! So, if the space fits the requirements above (regarding the size of the room and if it has the appropriately sized window) it is considered a legal bedroom even though there isn’t a closet in the room.

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What about a windowless bedroom?

There is no such thing as a bedroom without a window. It is not considered a legal bedroom here in New York City. If you are purchasing a property and see a property with a windowless room listed as a bedroom or you have a property and want to create another bedroom without a window, it won’t legally be considered a bedroom.

So what? I can use that room without a window as a bedroom, I’m good!

That’s great! Really, that is! It’s awesome that you can still use that space as a bedroom however, if you are thinking of buying it, I hope that you have the cash to cough up for the purchase.

“Cash? But I can get a mortgage.”

Well, maybe not… You see, if you are considering to sell your home or buy a home with a listed bedroom which isn’t a legal bedroom, it may not appraise.

What is an appraisal?

Taken from Investopia per vadum: “An appraisal is an unbiased professional opinion of a home’s value. Appraisals are almost always used in purchase and sale transactions and commonly used in refinance transactions. In a purchase and sale transaction, an appraisal is used to determine whether the home’s contract price is appropriate given the home’s condition, location, and features. In a refinance, it assures the lender that it isn’t handing the borrower more money than the home is worth.”

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So for instance, if you have listed your place or you’re interested in a home that has a listed bedroom count of 3 but it’s actually a legal 2 bedroom home, banks will appraise it as a 2 bedroom property. This would mean that it will be valued for less than what it is actually listed for and the loan would NOT get approved. To banks, they won’t risk paying more for something that’s worth less. So, unless you’re an investor and have a whole bunch of cash on hand, you may not be able to get a mortgage on the property, unless the seller is willing to drop the price. And sellers, this would greatly decrease the amount of potential buyers from purchasing your property, you may not be able to get a quick sale done because of this. Also, investors are smart, they may low ball you due to the fact that it isn’t the appropriate bedroom to market value pricing.

What about railroad apartments? Can a bedroom be a room that you have to walk through to get to the other bedroom?

No. To be considered a legal bedroom in NYC, you shouldn’t have to walkthrough another bedroom to get there.

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What about with renting?

With renting, it’s really up to you but, there could be some safety concerns however. When you rent, it doesn’t really matter as much due to the fact that you’re not worrying about an appraisal or thinking about the future when you want to sell your property because you’re just renting. So, if you can use the space as a bedroom and it’s safe enough for you, well then that’s great! In fact, there are many times when you will find a place with an extra “bedroom” being a bit less than market value because it’s not really a bedroom. Plus if it is listed higher, seeing that you have now become all real estate savvy as to what makes a bedroom, a bedroom, you may be able to negotiate a deal with the agent.

I hope that this clarified some things for you! I hope that this will help you with your future purchase, sale or rental search. Please feel free to check out the resources below which is filled with a bunch of law jargon!

NYC Administrative Code: § 27-2058 

NYC Administrative Code: § 27-751

New York Multiple Dwelling Law§82 & §179

Also, please feel free to share with others so that everyone knows the truth about what’s a bedroom anyway, here in New York City!

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