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.
Table of Contents:
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 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):
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.
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.
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):
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 **
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.
When you are ready to upgrade your apartment, you can save money on your next rental by requesting a NYC rental broker fee rebate.
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.
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.
Disclosure: Hauseit and its affiliates do not provide tax, legal, financial 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, financial or accounting advice. You should consult your own tax, legal, financial and accounting advisors before engaging in any transaction. The services marketed on Hauseit.com are provided by licensed real estate brokers and other third party professional service providers. Hauseit LLC is not a licensed real estate broker nor a member of any multiple listing service (MLS).