The Nest

NestApple's Real Estate Blog

Featuring real estate articles and information to help real estate buyers and sellers. The Nest features writings from Georges Benoliel and other real estate professionals. Georges is the Co-Founder of NestApple and has been working as an active real estate investor for over a decade.

What Qualifies as a Legal Bedroom in NYC? Definition & Requirements

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Definition & Requirements of a bedroom legal bedroom in nycReal estate agents (and homeowners alike) will often try to embellish as much as possible when they’re trying to sell a home in NYC. What is the legal definition & requirement for a bedroom? The difference in price between a one-bedroom and a two-bedroom is astronomical, for example. So they might try to squeeze an extra bedroom out of a property whenever possible. That said, it’s essential to understand what a legal bedroom is. That way, if you’re in the market for a home listed as a three-bedroom. But you only see two actual bedrooms; you can combat the false narrative of some additional space counted as a bedroom. In this article, you’ll learn everything about what a legal bedroom in NYC is. We will explain what it needs to have, the exceptions to the legal bedroom qualifications, including legal bedroom size, and the legal ramifications.

So without further ado, let’s dive in. Here is everything you need to know about legal bedrooms in NYC.

Qualifications and Exceptions of a Legal Bedroom in NYC

What is the legal requirement for a bedroom? In summary, a legal bedroom in NYC must have minimum dimensions of 8 feet on either side, including a minimum ceiling height of 8 feet. Also, it must be at least 80 square feet in size. Furthermore, a bedroom must have at least two forms of egress. One of them being a window no smaller than 12 square feet. For a bedroom to be considered legal, it must be possible to access a bathroom without passing through any other bedroom.

Legal bedroom size

The most important thing to know about legal bedroom sizes in NYC is the qualifications they must meet (besides the exceptions). As of 2021, New Yorkfloorplan in nyc - multiple City requires that bedrooms include the following:

  • Legal bedroom size. A minimum of 80 square feet of space with no dimension being less than 8-feet. This consists of both directions (length and width).
  • Exception: If the apartment has at least three bedrooms, half of them can have minimum dimensions of 7-feet, rounded down. So for three bedrooms, one could have minimum dimensions of 7-feet.
  • The ceiling height must be at least 8-feet high. Combined with the minimum floor space, this means that legal bedrooms must have a minimum of 256 cubic feet in volume.
  • Exception #1: If the bedroom has a sloped ceiling, at least ⅔ of the ceiling needs to be a minimum of 7-feet high.
  • Exception #2: If the bedroom is in the basement, it must only have a minimum ceiling height of 7-feet.

Legal definition of a bedroom

  • The bedroom must have at least one window facing a garden, yard, court, or street that measures at least 12 square feet.
  • You must not walk through another bedroom to access the bedroom. You must access from the common area, such as a hallway, to be legal.
  • The bedroom must have at least two means of egress or ways to exit the bedroom in case of fire. This must include a window (the window willhow to add a legal bedroom in an apartment count) or a door. They both have to be operable from the inside without the use of keys or locks.

Does a Legal Bedroom Need a Closet and a Window in NYC?

The legal definition of a bedroom: does a Bedroom Need a Closet?

For some reason, over the years, something strange has happened in regards to a legal bedroom. Many real estate agents have started pedaling the idea that a legal bedroom must have a closet. Some might say this to try to get the best deal possible. But many of them genuinely don’t know.

But if you hear that, know that it is not true. As of 2021, the NYC building codes do not require a bedroom to have a closet to be considered legal. So if you are selling your property and your bedroom meets all of the above requirements, don’t worry. If it has a closet or not, you’re good!

The legal definition of a bedroom: does a Bedroom Need a window?

This one is required. As mentioned above in the qualifications list, a bedroom in New York City must have a window to be considered a bedroomcute bedroom legally. This is for the window qualification itself as well as the two necessary means of egress. So if you’re looking at a property and see a bedroom without a window, it shouldn’t legally be classified as a bedroom! A windowless bedroom is not legally a bedroom in NYC. Buyers frequently ask this when considering loft units. Many NYC lofts have sizeable square footage but very few windows. There is ample space to modify the floor plan and add rooms. However, that does not mean that you can create legal bedrooms.

Leverage the expertise of your buyer’s agent and real estate attorney to have them confirm the current legal configuration of the apartment you are interested in purchasing.

What if You Have to Walk Through Another Bedroom?

This is another one of the qualifications you need to keep your eye on when you’re on the market for a new home. Recall from the list of qualifications above that a bedroom cannot require walking through another bedroom for access. People must access the bedroom from a common area, such as a hallway or living space. You must be able to access a water closet (bathroom) from it without passing through any other bedroom.

This is especially common in NYC where people have done conversions of other spaces such as an enormous walk-in closet. If a walk-in closet meets the other requirements, listing agents can try to pass it off as an extra bedroom. But if you have to walk through another bedroom to enter it (like a walk-in closet), it will not be legally counted as a bedroom.

Can I Rent an Apartment With an Illegal Bedroom?

The terms legal bedroom and illegal bedroom might be instilling some fear in you about renting an apartment in the city. What happens if you don’tnew york city real estate know the code well enough and inadvertently list your unit on the market with the wrong number of bedrooms? Maybe it does not meet the bedroom size. Or, more commonly, what happens if you rent an apartment that has an illegal bedroom?

Illegal Bedroom

If you’re sleeping in an illegal bedroom or accidentally buy a unit with an illegal bedroom, it isn’t illegal in the sense that you will be arrested and tossed in prison. It just isn’t legal in the sense that you’ll be able to relist it for sale as a legal bedroom. So, in that case, you would’ve likely overpaid for the number of actual bedrooms that you got.

This is why it’s essential always to make sure you and your realtor do your research and know precisely what you’re buying. If you’re interested in a property and realize that one of the bedrooms is not legal, inform the listing agent or homeowner, and you might be able to cut a massive deal because it will have one less bedroom!



Georges Benoliel Founder of NestApple - NestApple NYC cashback rebate

Georges Benoliel

Georges has been working in Wall Street for the last 16 years trading derivatives with hedge funds. He has been an active real estate investor for over a decade. Georges graduated from HEC Business School in Paris and holds a master in Finance from ESADE Barcelona.