Counting the number of rooms in a rental unit may seem quite straightforward and fairly simple to do. However, if you ask a property appraiser, real estate agent, or a lender, you will quickly realize that there may be a difference in how you count rooms in an apartment and how they count them. It is important to be informed on how to count rooms in an apartment so that you have a rough idea of the rent you are expected to pay.
How do you count rooms in an apartment? In general, the rooms in an apartment include a bedroom, a living room, a family room, a kitchen, a dining room, a study, an office. However, bathrooms, laundry rooms, foyers, storage rooms, closets, mudrooms, and breakfast nooks are not counted as rooms.
In some real estate markets, rental units utilize an open floor plan design, with the open area encompassing the living room, dining room, and kitchen. In such cases, the open area, which is sometimes referred to as a great room, may be counted as three rooms even though there are no walls that divide them up.
When it comes to counting the rooms in an apartment, it is not uncommon to find disparities in how people do it, which inevitably results in inconsistency and confusion. Here is how rooms in an apartment are counted according to the Residential Guide which was formulated by the REBNY’s (Real Estate Board of New York) Residential Brokerage Division:
- 1 room– This is a studio rental unit that has a Pullman kitchen
- 1½ rooms – This is a studio apartment that comes with a Pullman kitchen and an alcove or dining area.
- 2 rooms – This is a studio with a separate kitchen
- 2½ rooms – This is a studio with a separate kitchen and alcove. This could also be a one bedroom unit with a Pullman kitchen and living room.
- 3 rooms – This is a one bedroom unit with a living room and a standard kitchen.
- 3½ rooms – A one bedroom unit with a living room, a kitchen, and a dining alcove
- 4 rooms – This is a one bedroom apartment that comes with a living room, kitchen, and a dining room. Alternatively, it could be a 2 bedroom unit with just a living room and a kitchen.
- 4½ rooms – A two bedroom apartment with a living room, a kitchen, and a dining alcove.
- 5 rooms – A two bedroom unit with a living room, a kitchen, and a dining area.
- 5½ rooms – A three bedroom apartment with a living room, a kitchen, and a dining area.
- 6 bedrooms – a two bedroom unit with a living room, a kitchen, a dining room, and maid’s room.
- 7 rooms – Three bedroom unit with a living room, kitchen, a dining room, and a maid’s room. This could also be a two bedroom apartment with a living room, a kitchen, a dining room, and two maid’s rooms.
- 8 rooms – three bedroom unit with a living room, a kitchen, a dining room, and two maid’s rooms
- 9 rooms – This is typically a three bedroom unit that comes with a library, a living room, a dining room, a kitchen, and two maid’s rooms.
- 10 rooms – This is a three bedroom apartment that has a library, a living room, a dining room, a kitchen, and three maid’s rooms.
- 11 rooms – A four bedroom apartment with a library, a living room, a dining room, a kitchen, and three maid’s rooms.
- 12 rooms – A four bedroom apartment with a library, a dining room, a living room, a kitchen, and either three maid’s rooms and a servant hall or four maid’s rooms.
- 13 rooms – A four bedroom unit with a library, a living room, a dining room, a kitchen, four maid’s rooms, and a servant’s hall.
- 14 rooms – A five-bedroom unit with a library, a living room, a dining room, a kitchen, and four maid’s rooms, and a servant’s hall.
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What are the legal requirements for a bedroom?
Perhaps one of the reasons why the counting of the rooms in an apartment often results in differing opinions may be the number of bedrooms. While defining a bedroom is simple, the concept is not as clear when it comes to real estate. Bedrooms are one of the most important pricing points, which basically means the more bedrooms an apartment has, the higher the rent you will have to pay. Here are the features that define a bedroom:
- Two means of egress – In order for a room in the apartment to be categorized as a bedroom, it has to have two means of egress. This simply means that the room should be accessible through a door and then have a window as well for an emergency exit. A second door could also serve as an emergency egress, but it has to be directly connected to the exterior of the room. In some market, a skylight could also qualify as an outlet. Otherwise, a window should be present in a bedroom, and it should be big enough to climb through.
- Square footage – Although the minimum square footage required to categorize a room as a bedroom varies from one state to another, it should be at least 70 to 80 square foot to be acceptable.
- Horizontal footage – The room cannot be less than 7 feet in any horizontal direction.
- Window size – As mentioned before, a window is necessary for a space in the house to be declared a bedroom. The window size is also taken into consideration for safety purposes in case you need to exit the building if there is an emergency. The minimum requirements for a window are as follows:
- The window opening should be a minimum size of 5.7 square feet.
- It should not be more than 44 inches above the bedroom floor.
- It should be at least 20 inches wide
- The window should be at least 24 inches high
- Ceiling height – The ceiling height is another important consideration in determining the number of bedrooms in a unit. The ceiling in the bedroom should be a minimum of 7 feet tall. If some portions of the bedroom ceiling do not reach this level, it is still acceptable as long as at least half of it is above the requirement.
- Lighting and ventilation – Many of us sleep in bedrooms that would not qualify as such under the requirements of the International Residential Code (IRC). Although they may not seem significant, they are actually meant to keep you safe. For example, according to the IRC, a bedroom has to have adequate ventilation and lighting that is proportional to the square footage of the room. When it comes to lighting, the size of the window view has to be proportional to 8% of the room size, while the opening should be at least 4% of the room size for ventilation purposes. However, this is only required when there are no artificial light sources or a mechanical source of ventilation.
- Private access – In states such as Washington, D.C, Maryland, and Virginia, for a space in the rental unit to be considered a bedroom, it has to be easily reached without having to go through another bedroom. Additionally, each bedroom should have access to a bathroom without passing through another bedroom. This ensures that the privacy of the occupant is not interfered with.
Dens, basements, and closets
Some apartments are marketed as having an extra bedroom, taking the den into consideration. However, if a den doesn’t meet the legal requirements such as means of egress, square footage, and window size, it cannot be categorized as a bedroom.
Basement spaces cannot be legally classified as bedrooms if they do not meet the requirements set by the IRC. You have the option to install window wells to enlarge your basement windows and effectively qualifying it as a bedroom under the code. Just remember to stick to the size and height requirements.
Although a bedroom that comes with a closet is usually desirable, there are no specifications in the IRC that it must be included. In fact, many older, classic homes do not have closets in the bedroom. However, closet space has become a major selling point in the current real estate market, consequently influencing the rent price.
- Is an enclosed porch considered living space? In order for an enclosed porched to be counted in the square footage, it has to have the same qualities as the interior of your home. An enclosed porch is considered to be finished if it is located under the same roof as the rest of the unit or a similar quality roof, and there is a mechanism of heating or cooling within the space as well.
- Is a family room the same as a living room? While many people use the terms “living room’ and “family room” interchangeably, they are actually not the same. A living room typically serves as the main common space in most homes. Living rooms have evolved from formal spaces to the more casual rooms that they are now. A family room is quite similar to the living space, although they are viewed as more relaxed and kid-friendly. Most apartment dwellers generally consider their living rooms to be family rooms as well.