If you are thinking of buying or renting a home and wondering if the bedrooms that are advertised are legal, you are in the right place.
The same question becomes important if you are selling or renovating your home and want to know if you can convert some basement, attic, garage or other space into a bedroom that meets legal requirements.
Different states and jurisdictions have different requirements, but we will cover some of the biggest states and cities like New York, Chicago, California and Florida.
In many cases, having a window that allows for exit from the dwelling is going to determine whether a bedroom is legal, so that will be the focus of this article.
Let’s get into it!
The information contained in this post is for informational purposes only. It is not legal advice. You should seek the advice of a qualified legal professional before making any decisions relating to the topics covered by this article.
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Do You Need To Have A Window In A Bedroom Legally?
Sometimes rooms are classed as bedrooms, but technically they shouldn’t be classed as one.
To classify a room in a house listing as a bedroom, there are a couple of requirements your room needs to fulfill. There are usually square footage requirements (70 square feet being a common one), heating and cooling requirements, and perhaps most importantly multiple ways to exit the room in a fire (usually called a form of egress).
It’s this last one where window usually come in. Most bedrooms satisfy the multiple forms of egress requirements by having a window that is sufficiently large to have someone exit the dwelling.
As a general matter, if the room you want to list as a bedroom doesn’t have a window, or some other form of egress then it cannot be legally classed as a bedroom.
Ideally, there should either be an interior door and a window, or an exterior door instead of a window.
As mentioned earlier, the size of the window matters as well as its location. If it’s too small or too high, it may be impossible for someone to escape through it. In many cases, you will see a minimum size of 5.7 square feet and a height from the floor that would allow children and adults to reach it without issue.
If your room doesn’t have a second door or a window, then it generally cannot be listed as a bedroom legally.
Does a Room Need a Closet As Well as a Window to Be a Legal Bedroom?
Many people believe that a bedroom is a living space that has a closet as well as a window, but that is usually not the case. Most states do not require a closet in order to qualify as a legal bedroom.
Closets are admittedly an important convenience, but most jurisdictions seem to focus on safety and habitability when determining the legality of a bedroom.
Does a Bedroom Need a Window in New York?
In New York, their regulations ask that every bedroom (referred to as a habitable space) must have a window which leads to a courtyard or outdoors in some way. Alongside that, every window (referred to as a glazed area) has to be at least equal to 8% of the floor plan.
There is an exception to this rule.
If a room does not have a window, but natural light for the room is provided through an adjoining room, the entrance to that adjoining room must but be at least 8% of the floor area of the interior room, but not less than 25 square feet. The size of the window providing light to both rooms must be based on the total floor area being served.
Does a Bedroom Need a Window in Chicago?
With window requirements in Chicago, it’s a bit more complicated. Each bedroom needs to have some form of light source.
This can come from either a window that is in the room or for the loft bedroom, this light source can come from the room adjacent that shares its light with the loft.
When it comes to a bedroom that has a door and four walls, then in Chicago it needs to have a window.
The window needs to be large enough for a firefighter and all their gear to be able to get through. In a tall building, you need to be able to escape to reach the fire escape.
Does a Bedroom Need a Window in Florida?
The code, in Florida, states that a bedroom needs a means for the person to escape and get outside. This code is up to interpretation, so it can mean a window or a second door.
However, as long as there is a way for you to get outside, by the exterior wall, then that room is classed as a bedroom.
Also, you need to make sure that the opening is big enough for you to escape from.
Decorating A Windowless Bedroom
You may decide that any windowless room is a bedroom, albeit not a legal one.
You will still need to decorate it, and without a window you are limited to the light that you receive in the room.
There are a couple of things you can do to make the room a relaxing space. If you miss not having a window, you could add a stick on the wall decal window.
You can then choose the view you wish to see, and then install drapes to make it feel like a real window.
However, without a window, you need to create another focus such as your bed or a faux fireplace mantel.
When a room doesn’t have a window, it can make the room feel smaller. Therefore, we would suggest painting the room using lighter colors.
In addition, add lots of light to help brighten the room. Also, mirrors can help to reflect the light and brighten the room even more.
As you can see, there are lots of things you can do, to lift and brighten a windowless bedroom.
So there you have it – an answer to whether your bedroom needs to have a window in order to qualify as a legal bedroom and details around different state and city requirements.
You can convert a lot of different spaces into a bedroom so long as you follow the requirements. In fact, people often convert basements, attics, and even garages into legal bedrooms all of the time.
The key is understanding the legal requirements and following them.