No Heat, It's Not Habitable Space

Home Inspector with JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC HOI 394

Lately my inspection plate seems to contain a never ending helping of renovated properties or flips. The mere mention of the word "flip" has begun to produce a puckering reaction in parts of my body that shall go unnamed. I believe this is an ancient defense mechanism. So it was with usual trepidation I took on another inspection on an "updated" property.

The house was a Cape Cod style where the second floor had been made into a large master suite. Anyone familiar with this type of house knows that besides having numerous variations on the theme, the second floor is many times without heat. No heat is certainly expected when, which is again common in this style, the second floor is not finished, however bedrooms should have a heat source. In fact heat is required for all habitable spaces.

No heat, it's not technically a bedroomI have in the past been informed that bedrooms such as this one, without heat are considered habitable space.

Technically no, they are not.

In fact since the house was just renovated, there certainly should be a heat source on the second floor. Not to mention a few other missing items.

According to the International Residential Code (IRC), which Connecticut uses as the building standard;

R303.8 Required heating. When the winter design temperature in Table R301.2(1) is below 60°F (16°C), every dwelling unit shall be provided with heating facilities capable of maintaining a minimum room temperature of 68°F (20°C) at a point 3 feet (914 mm) above the floor and 2 feet (610 mm) from exterior walls in all habitable rooms at the design temperature. The installation of one or more portable space heaters shall not be used to achieve compliance with this section.

Simply put, heat is required.

Now whether this room actually meets the requirements for a habitable space is another story. The ceiling height and slope would almost certainly disqualify it as a habitable room.

This begs the question, was this work permitted and inspected by the local building department.


Posted by

James Quarello
Connecticut Home Inspector
Former SNEC-ASHI President
JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC

 ASHI Certified Inspector

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Serving the Connecticut Counties of Fairfield, Hartford, Middlesex, New Haven, Southern Litchfield and Western New London.


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  1. 1~Judi Barrett 10/03/2012 10:46 AM
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Spectrum Inspection Group
Spectrum Inspection Group - Las Vegas, NV

Good post James.  My upstairs is a lot like that at home now.. but with heat!

Oct 03, 2012 06:20 AM #24
Ginger Harper
Coldwell Banker Sea Coast Advantage - Southport, NC
Your Southport~Oak Island Agent~Brunswick County!

I know.  I just sold a small cottage with only a fireplace.  Gas is not even hooked up.  They do not call it heated space.  With the Gas hooked up counts with some lenders..

Oct 03, 2012 06:31 AM #25
Jeff Pearl
RE/MAX Distinctive / LIC in VA - Lovettsville, VA
Full Service Full Time Realtor

As Wallace mentions, either electric baseboard heaters would solve the problem ( assuming the electric wiring is sufficient). Above our gargae is a unfinished bonus room, but we had a " Motel Unit" with thermostat installed , which provides heat and AC when needed. I doubt they got a permit for those improvents in your photo, because they probably figured that they were just painting and fixing up an existing room.

Oct 03, 2012 06:42 AM #26
Harry F. D'Elia
RentVest - Phoenix, AZ
Investor , Mentor, GRI, Radio, CIPS, REOs, ABR

I bet you this work was not permitted and used by the honor in this area of America

Oct 03, 2012 08:18 AM #27
Cindy Jones
Integrity Real Estate Group - Woodbridge, VA
Pentagon, Fort Belvoir & Quantico Real Estate News

Just went through this on a home inspection where the lower level den did not have HVAC.  Our deal went south the agent changed the description to NTC for the den but don't think the owner understood it will also change the appraisal too.

Oct 03, 2012 09:54 AM #28
1~Judi Barrett
Integrity Real Estate Services 118 SE AVE N, Idabel, OK 74745 - Idabel, OK
BS Ed, Integrity Real Estate Services -IDABEL OK

Yep, that puckering......  somethting to think about.   We have many homes that have infrared wall heat in the living room and no heat in the bedrooms.. doors are left open at night, bedrooms are kept cool, or no thought about it in our mild climate.  

Oct 03, 2012 10:45 AM #29
Joan Whitebook
BHG The Masiello Group - Nashua, NH
Consumer Focused Real Estate Services

This is an important point.  Here in So. New Hampshire I think buyers would want all rooms to have sufficient heat efficiency to meet all the local codes.

Oct 03, 2012 11:21 AM #30
Ed Silva
RE/MAX Professionals, CT 203-206-0754 - Waterbury, CT
Central CT Real Estate Broker Serving all equally

Jim, that type of design is so common in our area and very few of those upper levels have heat, and you are right heat does make it habitable

Oct 03, 2012 11:56 AM #31
Sharon Alters
Coldwell Banker Vanguard Realty - 904-673-2308 - Fleming Island, FL
Realtor - Homes for Sale Fleming Island FL

Jim, that is not a problem here, but we do not have that type of construction. Our issue would be 'no cooling' not habitable.


Oct 03, 2012 12:42 PM #32
Charlie Dresen
Steamboat Sotheby's International Realty - Steamboat Springs, CO
Steamboat Springs, CO e-Pro

It's interesting what some people consider habitable...

Oct 03, 2012 01:21 PM #33
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

Turn on the oven, open the oven door, open the door to the bedroom and viola (pronounced veeeooola) the room will be heated.

And you can't fool me - I bet that space is REALLY warm in the summer.  So, I guess you're half right.

Oct 03, 2012 07:53 PM #34
James Quarello
JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC - Wallingford, CT
Connecticut Home Inspector

Barbara, Permits seem to thought of as optional around here.

Lenn, I've seen that in new construction. No heat in a bathroom, really!?

Lisa, Funnier still, the buyer is quite tall. 

Michael, Yes they will.

Myrl, You've seen good rehabs? Wow! I'm still waiting.

Clint, Yep, I've heard that one. 

Tom, A shame and all too common. 

Bruce, Heat is way over rated anyhow :)

Than, Ceiling height must be a minimum of 7' sloping to 5'.  

Oct 03, 2012 09:03 PM #35
James Quarello
JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC - Wallingford, CT
Connecticut Home Inspector

Richard & Jean, Most often local jurisdictions can not be less restrictive than the minimum. 

Wallace, That is exactly what these buyers do not want, electric heaters. The contractor could and still can install a second zone from the boiler. 

Charlie, Nope. I doubt it meets the minimum.

Jack, Yes it is an interesting business, one which I enjoy. Thanks.

Darin, That would have been wise :)

Nan, The room feels cramped empty. Can you imagine with a bed and furniture. Forget about it!

Tammie that is the same here, but not everyone plays by those rules.

Fred, It's hard to say, which is why the buyers need to check on permits and more importantly final inspections.

Oct 03, 2012 09:38 PM #36
James Quarello
JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC - Wallingford, CT
Connecticut Home Inspector

Robert, I guess that would one way to heat it up ;)

Vic, Thanks.

Alan, Yes you do :)

Richie, Thanks.

Kathryn, LOL. Nope, not many people would.

Kevin, I believe a deliberate over sight. 

Spectrum, Heat is good :)

Ginger, A cottage or a full time residence? There is a big difference. 

Jeff, That is probably the case, but there was a lot of newer framing, so I think they're trying to sneak it by. 

Oct 03, 2012 09:50 PM #37
James Quarello
JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC - Wallingford, CT
Connecticut Home Inspector

Harry, Quite possible.

Cindy, I believe the same will or could occur with this house unless heat is installed.

Judi, Not so mild in CT. It can get down right frigid in January. 

Joan, Yep, I hear it gets a bit cool in the winter up your way :)

Ed, Yep, no heat, not a room.

Sharon, Interesting. I wonder what the IRC says about cooling.

Charlie, Yes it is.

Jay, Great idea! This house has three. Yes that's right three ovens. Hmmmmm...perhaps you could have solved the problem. 

Oct 03, 2012 09:57 PM #38
Donald Hester
NCW Home Inspections, LLC - Wenatchee, WA
NCW Home Inspections, LLC

Jim, This happens over this side of the world also. People forget the old "grandfather clause" is out once you start to renovate.

Oct 04, 2012 03:00 AM #39
Steven Cook
No Longer Processing Mortgages. - Tacoma, WA

James -- does it have adequate window space - alternate exit provision in case of fire?  As others noted, it LOOKS really nice.

Oct 04, 2012 07:37 AM #40
James Quarello
JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC - Wallingford, CT
Connecticut Home Inspector

Don, I don't think its forgetting as much as ignoring. 

Steven, Yes, the egress was fine.

Oct 04, 2012 09:22 PM #41
Alisa McKeel Willson
Appraisal Pros in Texas - Huntsville, TX
Certified Res. Appraiser

Won't fly on the appraisal either!  The permit issue can have a big affect on things...if it's an area where permits are required and they didn't pull on then the space is not counter in gross living area of the home for appraisal purposes.


Oct 07, 2012 02:07 PM #42
James Quarello
JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC - Wallingford, CT
Connecticut Home Inspector

Alisa, Makes complete sense to me. If the room isn't defined as habitable, it can not count for living space. 

Oct 07, 2012 09:26 PM #43
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