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What Qualifies as a Legal Bedroom in NYC?

Posted by hauseit on January 31, 2018
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NYC real estate agents are notorious for stretching the truth, especially when determining what rooms qualify as legal bedroom in New York City.

In this article, we explain the requirements of a legal bedroom in NYC. We also dispel false truths about legal bedrooms in NYC, such as the myth that all bedrooms must have a closet.

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What is a legal bedroom in NYC?

For a bedroom to be considered legal in NYC, it must satisfy the following requirements:

  • Be a minimum of 80 square feet

  • Have a minimum width of 8 feet in any dimension

  • Have a minimum ceiling height of 8 feet

  • At least one window measuring no less than twelve square feet

  • There cannot be a need to pass through any other bedroom in order to access the bedroom

  • Two means of egress, including a window and a door that can be opened from the inside

For a bedroom to be considered legal in NYC, it must satisfy the following requirements:

  • Be a minimum of 80 square feet

  • Have a minimum width of 8 feet in any dimension

  • Have a minimum ceiling height of 8 feet

  • At least one window measuring no less than twelve square feet

  • There cannot be a need to pass through any other bedroom in order to access the bedroom

  • Two means of egress, including a window and a door that can be opened from the inside

There are a few exceptions to the requirements above, which include:

  • If the apartment has three or more bedrooms, one-half of the bedrooms may have a minimum dimension of 7 feet.

  • If the bedroom is in a basement or on the top floor of a converted dwelling (such as a brownstone with multiple apartments, it must have a minimum ceiling height of 7 feet.

  • If the bedroom has a sloped ceiling, there must be a clear ceiling height of 7 feet over at least 1/3rd of the room.

  • The window cannot be a lot-line window. The window must open onto a street, yard or court on the same lot.

You should also know that a bedroom in NYC is NOT required to have a closet for it to be considered a legal bedroom.

The rules and regulations concerning legal bedrooms in NYC are located in the New York State Multiple Dwelling Law as well as the New York City Administrative Code.

A legal bedroom in NYC must satisfy specific requirements for square footage, width, ceiling height, window size and ease of access.

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Is a non-windowed bedroom legal in NYC?

A windowless bedroom is not considered to be a legal bedroom in NYC. This is a commonly asked question for buyers who are considering loft units. Many floor-through loft apartments in NYC have a large square footage but very few windows. Just because there is ample space to modify the floor plan and add rooms does not mean that you will be able to create legal bedrooms.

If you are buying a loft or a lofted apartment, you should 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.

Window regulation for legal bedrooms in NYC is addressed in § 27-2058 of the NYC Administrative Code (excerpts below):

§27-2058 Lighting and ventilation of living rooms in multiple dwellings erected after 1929

a. Required windows. Every living room in a multiple dwelling erected after April eighteenth, nineteen hundred twenty-nine, shall have at least one window opening on:

      (1)   a street;

      (2)   a lawful yard or court on the same lot;

      (3)   a partially enclosed balcony or space above a setback which opens directly to a street, yard or court if the area of the front of such balcony or space  open to the outer air is at least equal to seventy-five percent of the floor area of such balcony or space; or

      (4)   A completely enclosed balcony or space above a setback in a fireproof multiple dwelling if: the enclosure is not more than one story in height; the outer enclosing walls and roof are of incombustible materials; an area, glazed with clear plate glass or plastic equivalent, on the outer enclosing walls if at least fifty percent of the area of the interior enclosing walls; and at least fifty percent of such glazed area opens on a street, legal yard or court. One-half of such glazed area shall be openable. A living room does not include a kitchen under this paragraph.

b. No required window of a living room shall open on an offset or a recess of less than six feet in width.

c. Size of windows.

      (1)   The total area of all windows in the room shall be at least one-tenth the floor area of such room, except that when a room opens solely on a balcony or space above a setback the total area of such opening shall be one-tenth the combined floor area of the room and that portion of the balcony or space directly in front of such room. In determining the ratio of windows to floor area, the combined glazed area of windows and doors opening on a balcony or a space above a setback may be used.

      (2)   Every required window shall be at least twelve square feet.

      (3)   At least one-half of every required window shall open, except that for a mullioned casement window a minimum of five and one-half square feet is sufficient. In a room where a centralized mechanical ventilating system provides forty cubic feet of air per minute, twenty-five percent of the window area or five and one-half square feet of such area, whichever is greater, shall be openable.

      (4)   The top of one required window in every room shall be at least seven feet above the floor, except that in dwellings erected pursuant to plans filed after April twenty-third, nineteen hundred fifty-nine, and prior to June fourteenth, nineteen hundred sixty-seven, this requirement shall not apply.

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Does a bedroom in NYC need a closet to be considered legal?

No. Contrary to what you may have heard, bedrooms in NYC are not legally required to have a closet. However, you should be mindful of whether or not bedrooms (and the apartment altogether) have sufficient closet space. Having poor closet space can make your life difficult while you live there and make it more difficult for you to sell in the future.

If you are considering an apartment with poor closet space, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Does the current floor plan / layout offer an easy way to add more closets?

  • If it’s not possible to add closet space, does the building have storage? If so, is there a a waitlist? How much does storage cost?

If storage space is important for you, ask your buyer’s agent what options are available in the building you are considering. A seasoned buyer’s broker will know to request the storage unit and bike hanger documentation from the listing agent. If the building does not have separate documentation regarding storage, the storage policies are likely discussed in the house rules documentation.

What Qualifies as a Legal Bedroom in NYC? Understand the requirements for legal bedrooms in NYC.

No. Contrary to what you may have heard, bedrooms in NYC are not legally required to have a closet. However, you should be mindful of whether or not bedrooms (and the apartment altogether) have sufficient closet space. Having poor closet space can make your life difficult while you live there and make it more difficult for you to sell in the future.

If you are considering an apartment with poor closet space, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Does the current floor plan / layout offer an easy way to add more closets?

  • If it’s not possible to add closet space, does the building have storage? If so, is there a a waitlist? How much does storage cost?

What Qualifies as a Legal Bedroom in NYC? Understand the requirements for legal bedrooms in NYC.

If storage space is important for you, ask your buyer’s agent what options are available in the building you are considering. A seasoned buyer’s broker will know to request the storage unit and bike hanger documentation from the listing agent. If the building does not have separate documentation regarding storage, the storage policies are likely discussed in the house rules documentation.

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What are the minimum bedroom dimensions in NYC?

The minimum bedroom dimensions in NYC are 8 feet in any dimension with a minimum ceiling height of 8 feet. A legal bedroom in NYC must have a minimum square footage of 80 feet. It must also have at least one window measuring no less than twelve square feet.

There are a few exceptions which permit a legal bedroom in NYC to have dimensions less than 8 feet.

These exceptions include the following:

  • One-half the  number  of  bedrooms in a dwelling unit containing three or more bedrooms may have at  least  minimum  dimension  of  seven feet;

  • A room in a class B multiple dwelling (hotels, boarding schools, etc.) as defined in section four of the multiple dwelling law which may have  a  minimum  floor  area  of sixty square feet and a least horizontal dimension of six feet.

There are a few exceptions which permit a legal bedroom in NYC to have dimensions less than 8 feet.

These exceptions include the following:

  • One-half the  number  of  bedrooms in a dwelling unit containing three or more bedrooms may have at  least  minimum  dimension  of  seven feet;

  • A room in a class B multiple dwelling (hotels, boarding schools, etc.) as defined in section four of the multiple dwelling law which may have  a  minimum  floor  area  of sixty square feet and a least horizontal dimension of six feet.

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What are the minimum dimensions of a habitable room in NYC?

Habitable rooms in NYC shall have a minimum clear width of eight feet in any part, a minimum clear area of eighty square feet and a minimum clear ceiling height of eight feet. 

The minimum dimensions of a habitable room are covered in the NYC Administrative Code, § 27-751 (excerpts below):

§27-751 Minimum dimensions of habitable rooms.

Habitable rooms shall have a minimum clear width of eight feet in any part; a minimum clear area of eighty square feet and a minimum clear ceiling height of eight feet for the minimum area, except:

(a) A room which complies with the requirements for natural light  and ventilation and in addition has an opening of not less than sixty square feet into an immediately adjoining room may have a minimum floor area of seventy square feet and a least horizontal dimension of seven feet;

(b)  A  dining  space  which  has legally required ventilation, and in which the window has an area of at least one-eighth the  floor  area  of such dining space;

(c)  One-half  the  number  of  bedrooms in a dwelling unit containing three or more bedrooms may have at  least  minimum  dimension  of  seven feet;

(d)  A  room in a class B multiple dwelling as defined in section four of the multiple dwelling law which may have  a  minimum  floor  area  of sixty square feet and a least horizontal dimension of six feet.

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Is a bedroom legal in NYC if you must pass through another bedroom to access it?

No. A bedroom is only legal in NYC if you are not required to pass through a different bedroom to access the bedroom. Furthermore, for a bedroom to be considered legal you must be able to access a water-closet (bathroom) from it without passing through any other bedroom.

Source: New York Multiple Dwelling Law: §82 & §179 **

New York Multiple Dwelling Law: §82 & §179 **

§82. Privacy. In every apartment of three or more rooms in every class A multiple dwelling erected after April eighteenth, nineteen hundred twenty-nine, there shall be access to every living room and bedroom without passing through any bedroom.

§179. Privacy. In every apartment of three or more rooms in every class A converted dwelling there shall be access to every living room without passing through any bedroom, and to at least one water-closet compartment within the apartment from every bedroom without passing through any other bedroom.

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Does it matter whether my bedroom is legal as a renter in NYC?

Safety considerations aside, there’s no real long-term downside if you or one of your roommates is sleeping in a windowless or tiny room (illegal bedroom) in NYC. After all, you are likely paying much less to sleep in that room versus what you would have paid if you rented a legal bedroom.

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The topic of illegal bedrooms is much more important if you are buying a condo or buying a co-op apartment in NYC.

Unknowingly purchasing an apartment which is incorrectly marketed as having more bedrooms than what is legal can cost you money down the road. This is because you won’t be able to market it as having as many bedrooms you thought it had when you purchased it.

If you are financing your purchase, you may encounter difficulty with your appraisal if it turns out that the apartment has fewer legal bedrooms than what you were expecting.

The topic of illegal bedrooms is much more important if you are buying a condo or buying a co-op apartment in NYCUnknowingly purchasing an apartment which is incorrectly marketed as having more bedrooms than what is legal can cost you money down the road. This is because you won’t be able to market it as having as many bedrooms you thought it had when you purchased it.

If you are financing your purchase, you may encounter difficulty with your appraisal if it turns out that the apartment has fewer legal bedrooms than what you were expecting.

However, just because a bedroom is illegal in NYC does not mean that the space is wasted or not valuable. Buyers will always value the optionality of having an extra room (such as a Junior 4 configuration), however it’s simply not worth as much as having a legal bedroom.

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Disclosure: Hauseit and its affiliates do not provide tax, legal or accounting advice. This material has been prepared for informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for, tax, legal or accounting advice. You should consult your own tax, legal and accounting advisors before engaging in any transaction.

7 thoughts on “What Qualifies as a Legal Bedroom in NYC?

  • Ben Coble
    on February 2, 2018

    Excellent article! This is super important info regarding home value, especially given the current loft craze

  • Ezra
    on February 23, 2018

    Thanks for the info. It may have been included in the legalese for §27-2058, but what about rooms with windows and ample space but below street level? If it opens to a courtyard/garden say in a multi-story coop.

    • hauseit
      on February 23, 2018

      Hi Ezra – great question! A basement in NYC must have at least one-half its height above curb level. The basement would also need to meet all of the requirements for light, air, sanitization and egress in addition to receiving DOB (Department of Buildings) approval for it to be considered legal. As we explained above, the ceiling height in a basement also needs to be at least 7 feet.

      Does this answer your question?

  • Frank
    on April 2, 2018

    Thank you for putting all this information in one place.
    What about buildings erected prior to 1929? Are the rules for legal bedrooms different?

  • Sara
    on May 4, 2018

    I take issue with the comment that “there’s no real downside to renting an illegal bedroom.” With high rents and tight vacancy creates predatory behavior in which landlords/renters are exploiting desperate people without many options. It also impedes any progress towards raising our housing standards to be safe and livable (sorry but sunlight, ventilation, and fire escapes are required for livability), erodes the enforcement of legal standards, and encourages exploitation. NYC has already had a horrific period of slums, and we shouldn’t encourage a return to such conditions.

  • J Revson
    on May 29, 2018

    I heard from a lawyer friend that the duplex condo units in our building which have the lower floor below grade can’t advertise their lower level rooms as legal bedrooms. Even though they have a walk out backyard accessible from the lower level (very common by the way in Lower Manhattan neighborhoods like the West Village, Greenwich Village etc.).

    He says the reason is because there’s no fire exit and it’s below grade, so it can’t be legally marketed as a bedroom if it’s on the lower level. Can you confirm?

  • Paula
    on July 20, 2018

    Can someone show me where an official building code/NYC code/NY code says that a bedroom needs two means of egress? Would really help me if you could

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