Does a bedroom legally have to have a closet? Can a room really be considered a bedroom if it does not have a formal built in or cupboard to house your clothes?
In the United States, the answer to this question is no. Whether you like it or not, a bedroom does not, in almost all cases need to have a built-in closet. 90% of the states in the US follow what is known as the 90% of US states use what is called the International Residential Code for all real estate definitions and that does not require that bedrooms feature built in closets.
There are, however, several other things that define a legal bedroom, for sale, tax, or rental purposes under the International Residential Code that you may want to know about.
What Defines a Legal Bedroom?
Although some of the semantics vary a little from state to state, the following are usually requirements a room must meet in the US to be legally defined as a bedroom:
It must be of a certain size
Although this is one of the areas in which there are slight differences between states, usually a room must measure a minimum of 70 square feet (about twice the area of a queen-sized bed).
However, square footage is not the only measurement that matters. Rooms must also meet a minimum horizontal bar, usually at least seven feet. So even if a 3ft hallway was 20 feet long it could still not be defined as a legal bedroom!
There must be two methods of egress
To be defined as a bedroom a room must have two ways in which it can be exited in an emergency. As this is usually a door and a window, most rooms meet this basic standard. However, a basement room with no door to the outside world and no windows cannot legally be considered a bed, instead it is listed as part of a finished basement.
The ceiling must meet a minimum height requirement too
In order to be legally considered a bedroom any domestic space must have a ceiling that reaches a height of seven feet across at least half of the room, including its measured center.
Bedroom windows must be large enough
Finally, in order to be considered a bedroom any room in a home must contain at least on window measuring a minimum of 5.7 square feet (about half the area of a bathtub). This is, again, why many basement bedrooms are never listed on a rental or sales listing as such, but as a part of a finished basement instead.
Does a Bedroom Have to Have a Closet for Appraisal?
No, it must however meet the requirements we just outlined. If an appraiser discovers that room that has been defined as a bedroom on a real estate listing does not meet the minimum standards to be considered one it will almost always affect the value of the home, and therefore any home loan approvals.
Does FHA require a Bedroom to Have a Closet?
No, as a federal mortgage program the FHA standards are based on general law, and that general law, in the United States, does not call for a formal closet to be present in a bedroom.
Does Fannie Mae Require a Bedroom to Have a Closet?
No, Fannie Mae is another government sponsored housing project, and it too does not require that a room have a closet to be considered a bedroom.
Does a Bedroom Have to Have a Closet in Florida?
No, Florida real estate regulations follow the US national norm, so there is no provision that a room must have a closet to be considered a bedroom, jut that it meet the size and egress guidelines we talked about earlier.
Does a Bedroom Have to Have A Closet in California?
Even though Californians have a reputation for being fond of exceptionally large closets – as in walk in affairs that are often as large as a bedroom themselves – there is no legal or regulatory obligation for a room to have one in order to be considered a bedroom.
Does a Bedroom Have to have a Closet in Massachusetts?
Again, the answer here is no. Provided it meets the minimum standards for size and access any room in a Massachusetts home can be legally termed a bedroom, whether it features a closet or not.
Does a Bedroom Have to have a Closet in Oregon?
No, the State of Oregon does not require that a bedroom have a closet for legal purposes. The good news in this state however is that it produces some wonderful wooden freestanding closets and wardrobes crafted from the abundance of local trees!
Does a Bedroom Have to have a Closet in New York State?
While New York often likes to stand out as different from other states, the closet issue is not an area where state statutes differ. There are sometimes disputes that arise related to whether a New York bedroom is really a bedroom, especially in New York City, as homes there are often notoriously small. However, whether they have a closet or not is not a legal issue.
What Counts as a Closet in a Bedroom?
There is no one definition any more of just what counts as a closet in a bedroom. Years ago, one might have said that it would need to be a small enclosed space with at least a hanging rail and a door. In terms of interior design however that is now often considered to be an old-fashioned, dated idea and most new build homes that do feature a closet feature a built-in that has at least some open areas, usually shelving and at least one garment rail.
Does a Bedroom Need a Closet Door?
As we just mentioned, a closet with a door was, at one time, the standard design for a built-in closet in American homes. These days people usually prefer that their closets have a least some open areas, more like a walk-in closet does.
This does make finding what you want to wear easier and can allow you to display your best accessories as decor, but an open closet also calls for far more organization than a closet with a door!
What Are Your Closet Options If Your Bedroom Does Not Have One?
Everyone needs a closet of some kind in their bedroom, even if the law in the US does not really agree with that statement. Living out of suitcases and garment bags is fine if you are staying at a hotel, but hardly suited for day-to-day living.
Fortunately, you do have all kinds of options available to you when it comes to adding a closet to a bedroom to expand its functionality and usefulness.
Build Your Own Closet
If you are up for a little construction and have the space, you could add a built-in closet by ‘stealing’ space from an adjoining room. This is usually a job for a professional however, as there may be supporting walls and other essential structures involved that, if damaged, may compromise the safety of your home!
If you’re up for the challenge Philip Miller has a great tutorial on how to build a custom closet for $100!!
Opt for a Freestanding Closet System
There are also some excellent freestanding closet systems available, both at physical home stores and online. These come in lots of different shapes, sizes, and design options: everything from simple garment racks to complete closet systems that will offer you style and functionality to rival any built-in closet!
Whitmor Deluxe Utility Closet
Protect your clothes and accessories with this deluxe storage rack that has 5 extra strong wire shelves and 2 hanging bars.
Add a Wonderful Wardrobe
Long before built in closets became a ‘thing’, people made use of wardrobes (and children often still do.) These freestanding pieces of furniture are not as spacious in most cases as a closet system, but you can find them in all kinds of beautiful designs, some of which rival the finest furniture found anywhere else in the home.
Living Better Now Armoire Wardrobe
House your wardrobe in handsome style with this solid pine wood armoire, showcasing a Shaker-style design and 4 adjustable shelves, available in walnut and espresso which can be adapted to any room, whatever the décor.
Short on Space? Try Clothing Baskets
Some bedrooms are so small that the addition of a bulky closet system, or even a wardrobe, would overwhelm them and make the room almost impossible to use as a functional bedroom space.
In these cases, one practical, but stylish alternative is to make use of clothing baskets. These look and function like laundry hampers, but are a lot better looking and far more durable.
Although not the ideal solution – it can be harder to find your clothes when they are folded into a basket rather than hung on a rail – it is a far better solution than trying to stuff your bulky coats and long flowy dresses into a tiny chest of drawers!