If it's a Bedroom, it MUST have a Closet

Real Estate Agent with Prudential California Realty

No, not so.  When looking at homes, I have clients tell me, matter-of-factly that a bedroom must have a closet if it is to be considered a bedroom. Without a closet, they say, it is just an office or den.  I hear the same thing from my fellow local Realtors.1916 3rd Ave

I'm not sure when or how this became the accepted definition, but I did my own research to find out if there is a legal definition of what a bedroom must include.  First, I checked our local MLS rules to see if there was any authority. The rules are silent on the definition of a bedroom and how bedrooms are listed in the MLS.  So, I went to have a look at the San Diego Municipal Code.  Under the section containing definitions (section 113.0103), a "Bedroom" means:

             an enclosed space within a dwelling unit
             that is designed or could be used for sleeping and has a 
             permanent door permitting complete closure and 
             separation from all kitchen, living room and hallway areas.
             A room or other enclosed space is not considered a bedroom
             if it is the sole access to another bedroom.

No closet is needed in order for a room to be a bedroom.  Now this definition is only applicable within the City of San Diego (section 11.0104).  In other areas, a closet may be necessary. 

158 W. 8th AveIt actually makes sense that a closet is not required in order to be considered a bedroom.  Older homes didn't always include a built-in closet. Instead, the occupants used an armoire or other type of free-standing closet.  Ikea carries a bunch of different stand-alone closets/wardrobes just for this purpose.



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Aventura | Bal Harbour | Sunny Isles Beach | REALTOR® 786-229-7999
SIB REALTY, Llc // WaterWayRealty.com - Sunny Isles, FL

Here in South Florida that subject comes up very often. I've heard it argued that "the room must have a window" or "the room must have a closet" in order to be considered a bedroom. I've seen some closets that have been mistaken for a bedroom. So, It comes down to what the occupant determines as being a bedroom. The key is to advertise and market accurately.

Aug 18, 2008 06:43 AM #1
Erica Ramus
Erica Ramus - Ramus Realty Group - Pottsville, PA - Pottsville, PA
MRE, Schuylkill County PA Real Estate

Sometimes I get questioned on that, too. They  think it's the "law" somewhere....not so.

Aug 18, 2008 07:15 AM #2
Mary Strang
Viroqua, WI

Interesting, well they need a window more than a closet, according to many building codes for escape if there is a fire.

Aug 18, 2008 07:25 AM #3
Scott Owens
Scott Owens Limited - Halifax, NS

Interesting blog - something that we never really think about.   I think I will go to work tomorrow and astound my fellow REALTORS with my newly found knowledge.


Aug 21, 2008 10:34 AM #4
Access San Diego
San Diego Real Estate - San Diego, CA

Nice job on the research there Deborah.

Sep 01, 2008 12:35 PM #5
Gene Allen
Fathom Realty - Cary, NC
Realty Consultant for Cary Real Estate

Pretty much our appraisers won't count a room as a bedroom without a closet so we can call it what we want but it won't count.

Sep 01, 2008 12:58 PM #6
Deborah Engel
Prudential California Realty - San Diego, CA
San Diego Homes & Property

Mott-I agree that everyone ends up having their own preferences whether a room has a closet built in it or not.

Erica-Yes, people seem to have these definitive ideas about it.

Mary-The window idea makes more sense to me than a closet.  I've heard other cities where a window is required.

Scott-How many fellow Realtors did you manage to astound?


Gene-That's interesting that the appraisers won't count it as a bedroom unless it has a closet.  Do you know what that is based on?

Sep 01, 2008 04:45 PM #7
Robert Machado
HomePointe Property Management, CRMC - Sacramento, CA
CPM MPM - Property Manager and Property Management

I work with rentals and we always used the closet as the definer.  But your research makes sense.  This does not come up often, but it does come up.  Thanks.

Sep 01, 2008 04:51 PM #8
Gene Allen
Fathom Realty - Cary, NC
Realty Consultant for Cary Real Estate

I can't tell you off the top of my head but that is the way most look at it otherwise you could call any room a bedroom.

Sep 04, 2008 11:54 AM #9
Steve Hall
RE/MAX United - San Marcos, CA
Make the Call to Hankins and Hall

I believe a bedroom must have a window (light and secondary egress-in case of an emergency), a heat source and it must be at least 70 square feet.  I don't have any code numbers to reference but I am sure that many older homes may not comply. 

Sep 04, 2008 04:41 PM #10
Mark Organek
And the United States of America - Mesa, AZ
On a journey to accomplish one huge goal.

Thanks for sharing this as I just mentioned at an open house on Friday that since a room didn't have a bedroom, it was considered a den.  The fact that it lacked a permanent door would be the only thing making it a den.  I appreciated the gem of wisdom!

Jan 04, 2009 02:26 PM #11
Deborah Engel
Prudential California Realty - San Diego, CA
San Diego Homes & Property

Hi Mark,

Thanks for your comment.  Make sure to check your local building regs to see if they have a different definition of "bedroom."  Sometimes different areas have different definitions.

Jan 11, 2009 05:31 PM #12

I am looking to purchase a home in La Mesa.  It is a 3 bedroom with central heating.  THe original portion of the house was built in 1947.  It has updated heating.  The Master bedroom, including a master bath and office space, were added on in 2005.  There are permits for the addition.  However, there is no heat source in that newer addition.  Is it required to have a heat source?  There are no vents or other means of having the heat reach that addition.  This was clarified by the seller who said it was too hard to get heat to the area.  Is this new area then technically a 'bedroom'?  Can it be considered a 2 bedroom with a bonus room.  The sellers said just to use a space heater and all will be good.  They are asking top dollar, in this market for this 1100 sq. ft home.  Hmmmm.....your thoughts?

Apr 09, 2010 06:51 PM #13
Lily Gee

Realtors should talk to an architect about the legal definition of a bedroom. There is a minimum dimension both in depth and height. Bedrooms must also have an operable window for escape with a minimum dimension both in square feet and in height/width. This window must lead to the outside. Bedrooms can never be in a cellar (although they can be in a basement if the basement has an operable window.) The FHA (Fair Housing Act) standards for quality housing does list a closet as part of the requirements of a bedroom with a linear dimension of 4 feet and depth of 2 feet with a door.

Aug 30, 2011 09:31 AM #14


CRC 2010 adopted Jan 2011 in City of San Diego

I am a licensed architect. Please let me know if you need anything additional.

R304.2 Other rooms. Other habitable rooms shall have a floor area of not less than 70 square feet (6.5 m2).

R304.3 Minimum dimensions. Habitable rooms shall not be less than 7 feet (2134 mm) in any horizontal dimension. 

R305.1 Minimum height. Habitable space, hallways, bathrooms, toilet rooms, laundry rooms and portions of basements containing these spaces shall have a ceiling height of not less than 7 feet (2134 mm).


1. For rooms with sloped ceilings, at least 50 percent of the required floor area of the room must have a ceiling height of at least 7 feet (2134 mm) and no portion of the required floor area may have a ceiling height of less than 5 feet (1524 mm).

R310.1 Emergency escape and rescue required. Basements, habitable attics and every sleeping room shall have at least one operable emergency escape and rescue opening. Where basements contain one or more sleeping rooms, emergency egress and rescue openings shall be required in each sleeping room. Where emergency escape and rescue openings are provided they shall have a sill height of not more than 44 inches (1118 mm) above the floor.  Emergency escape and rescue openings shall open directly into a public way, or to a yard or court that opens to a public way.

R310.1.1 Minimum opening area. All emergency escape and rescue openings shall have a minimum net clear opening of 5.7 square feet (0.530 m2).

Exception: Grade floor openings shall have a minimum net clear opening of 5 square feet (0.465 m2).
R310.1.2 Minimum opening height. The minimum net clear opening height shall be 24 inches (610 mm).
R310.1.3 Minimum opening width. The minimum net clear opening width shall be 20 inches (508 mm).
R310.1.4 Operational constraints. Emergency escape and rescue openings shall be maintained free of any obstructions other than those allowed by this section and shall be operational from the inside of the room without the use of keys, tools or special knowledge.

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. 


Aug 30, 2011 09:55 AM #15
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Deborah Engel

San Diego Homes & Property
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