Bedrooms and Closets

30 Replies

I am in the process of purchasing my very first multifamily unit investment property. The property listing stated that it was 3-units with 3-bedrooms in each unit. The home inspection was completed, and the appraisal was completed. The appraisal reports lists the property as 3 units all with 3 bedrooms. Yesterday I went to visit the property and noticed that the 2nd and 3rd bedrooms did not have a closet. I've looked at the Chicago code to attempt to understand if it can still be considered a bedroom. There are doors on both of the rooms as well as the room having the required sized windows. Because there is not a closet, is it still considered a LEGAL bedroom? If it is considered a bedroom, even without a closet, where in the code does it state that fact? Or does it just need to have a closet within a certain distance even if the closet is not directly in the room?

@Maurice Burnett - yes, for code you need a closet of at least 15 sq ft and below is a link to the city’s bedroom requirements. 

Chicago Residential Design Guidelines

Even if you wanted to avoid the code, you are severely hurting your rental pool and quality of tenant by not providing closets. 

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@Maurice Burnett

Agreed with @Tom Shallcross in that it will hurt the rentability of the units but you could provide a large armoire for each bedroom that doesn't have a closet to get around this problem. If you move forward with the property I'd state on your rental description which bedrooms do not have closets and that you are open to providing armoires as needed. This way you'll waste less time doing a bunch of showings only to get complaints that people are not interested due to the lack of closets.

@Maurice Burnett   the issue with closets and bedrooms is the city may still classify it as a 3 bedroom for tax purposes regardless of closets.  Not sure how an appraiser would view it.  It is an easy fix.  I would add closets in or provide an armoire.  Based on your area  with older homes this may be somewhat common.  However, if it is less then 80 square feet and it doesn't have a closet I would argue it isn't a bedroom.

As far as renting, people would definitely rent these but it is seen as a negative. 

@Maurice Burnett this is super common in older areas of the city. Yes, for marketing purposes it will be a bedroom when you rent it, but you need to project a small discount for the lack of closets when you are leasing it up. I recently leased a 3 bed/ 1 bath unit in Forest Park that was like this. We had no issue getting it leased, but we had to do a $50 price cut to get there. 

Thank you to everyone for the comments and information. Yes, the appraiser still put it in the appraisal report as having there bedrooms. This a building is close to 90-years old. I did find a link to a PDF titled MRED Room Counting Publication (Midwest Real Estate  Data). In that publication it stated a room could still be counted as a room even if there is no closet. Still trying to find something in Chicago Code that would support or contradict this. 

@Collen F. I tried looking up the tax records to see if it mentions the number of bedrooms but could not find anything when I visited the Cook County assessor website. Do you know of a county site that may list the number od bedrooms either by conducting a search via address or PIN?

@Maurice Burnett as @Tom Shallcross mentioned it is required in the City of Chicago as a city specific requirement however no where in the MLS nor IBC (International Building Code) is a closet required for a bedroom. Many older, turn of the century houses were not even built with them and many people wrongly assume that a room without a closet won't qualify a bedroom. There are minimal requirements such as size, egress, electrical outlets etc that are minimal required to classify as a bedroom but a regulating agency, such as City of Chicago can have stricter guidelines.

Another example in the link that Tom provided, the min bedroom size must be 110sqft, where as the IRC, Section 8 and my local municipality all require 70sqft with no less then 7' measurement in any direction.

I 100% trust what Tom or @Mark Ainley tell you about properties, especially in the City of Chicago, they are the masters in that domain without a doubt.

@Mark Faustrum, thank you for your response and I definitely agree with all you've said along with @Tom Shallcross. I guess what I am trying to reconcile for myself is if this property is located in incorporated Cook County City of Chicago why would the appraiser list it as a legal bedroom if the City of Chicago would not or does not reconize it as a legal bedroom without having a closet? Maybe this is a rhetorical question for this post and I really will not find out unless I call the appraiser or the city of Chicago Building Department. I would think the appraiser is bound by the City of Chicago Building code and the "Code" would supercede IBC. Would not the appraiser consider Cook County Building code in making the determination of what's considered a bedroom? For me, that where I am at a loss. Is there possibly an update to City of Chicago code to allow the appraiser to make that determination or is there a grandfather clause for older buildings that gives an exemption that newer construction doesn't have? But again, thanks for all of the comments and information.

@Mark Faustrum and @Tom Shallcross do you know if there is a difference in the code for older buildings vs new construction? Maybe there lies the answer to my question. Just curious. Or maybe, as mentioned, I might get the answer I seek by calling the Building Department on Monday. There has to be a reason why the appraiser did not use code in identifying a room a bedroom without a closet.

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@Maurice Burnett  All good info in these posts. Different government entities have differing standards; the federal standard having the lowest requirement with the states being stricter and local jurisdictions being even more strict. This is typical. You MUST know before you purchase what you are facing so I applaud your due diligence.

Did you ask the appraiser how he came to his conclusion? 

Understanding how an appraisal standard is created and applied is important, as you are seeing with this issue. Check with Code Enforcement before checking with the appraiser so you have ammunition for your argument, especially if Code differs with the appraiser. Code wins - all the time. Even if the bank lends on projected cash flow, you are at a deficit if Code requires closets that you do not have. Armoire's are not as desirable as closets, so reduce your rental projections to accommodate this reality.

Good luck.

As long as the room is built with permits, it doesn't need a closet to be considered a bedroom as long as it has a window and a door, a ceiling that's at least 7 feet in height, and the size should be more than 70 sq. ft.

@Maurice Burnett  here the record card for a property will list bedrooms and everywhere I have had property that has been true but I actually looked in Chicago database and they list baths but not bedrooms.  That may be because bedroom numbers have caused them assessment issues because of the definition of a bedroom they use. 

As for FMV there may be little impact on FMV. For example here your number of bedrooms is limited by septic size. It doesn't make much difference in price, you can have a 2100 square foot two bedroom and the square footage sells, this is because it is common. Now for you for renting it might have less appeal and if you are going to bring code enforcement in there may be limitations on rentals that is something for a Chicago person. Unless these rooms are tiny just build a closet.

@Maurice Burnett what the City of Chicago requires for RENTALS does not translate over to what an Owner Occupant needs to adhere to, nor does it affect the sale transaction. So, in this case it is a legal 3br by the appraisal and sale, however the City of Chicago CAN disallow it as a rental if it does not meet their stricter rental regulations. It happens all the time with finished basements, bedrooms in basements, a homeowner can do it without permits but it wont pass a rental inspection without it being permitted and an egress window. 

As far as the code for older house vs newer builds and the rental licensing requirements in the City of Chicago I've never dug into them to see if there are any differences or not, sometimes things can be "grandfathered in" other times no. I don't invest in the City of Chicago but @Tom Shallcross or @Mark Ainley do and manage a good amount of units there and if they say its required, then by golly I'm sure its required there. Again, this can be and is City specific. 

Originally posted by @Alexander Szikla :

Why not use that piece of information to get a seller concession, it was advertised as 3 bedrooms, and then simply build closets once you acquire? 

 I like the concession idea, but if these are small BRs a closet may not work as the average closet is 2' x 6' or 12 SF. You can build a little 2 x 2 closet but what's the point then, just buy an armoire if closets aren't required. But a 'built-in' closet should be a plus in most markets I would think.....

@Maurice Burnett - There's a lot of replies on this thread but @Tom Shallcross provided you with everything you need to know.  

In Chicago, you need to have a closest with a minimum of 15 SF to legally call it a bedroom

Now.....does that really matter and can you call it a bedroom always?   Definitely, you just have to know it's not TECHNICALLY legal but that type of stuff is common practice in Chicago.  

Plus, you can always figure out a way to add a closet to make it legal prior to selling if that's what you are really worried about.