Legal? don't know about that but it is customary for a room that has a closet or large enough to reasonably add one to be called a bedroom. For example many homes have "offices" with built in shelves where if an owner removed the built in it is the closet location. Should the office in this example be called a bedroom? Grey area call. The final arbiter in my opinion is public records, the rest is sales gimmickery.
Your best bet is to check the California Building Code, or your local county/city codes.
For example, here's one such definition from my city of Alameda. http://www.cityofalamedaca.gov/getdoc.cfm?id=155
It says that the California Building Code (CBC) does not define what is a bedroom, but it does provide a series of code requirements for "sleeping rooms"
Note the last line of this document: "CLOSETS ARE NOT REQUIRED."
Normally when a realtor lists the property they are going not only by what the county records state but what is also stated by the sellers. Realtors noramlly would state as an example: 3 bedrooms and a den or office. If they state they additional room is a bedroom it could be because they converted the room and removed the closet or it was an option and it's something easy to add back on. If you need help Jena in buying your home I specialize buying and selling in Contra Costa and Alameda Counties. You have some great answers by quite a few realtors. Find a realtor that fits your personality and who listens to what you and your family is asking for. She or he can do some great research for you. I am a short sale specialist, REO and HAFA certified and love negotiating on behalf of my clients. There are some excellent realtors in San Ramon, Danville, etc. Call one of us and let us do the work for you! I love saving my clients as much as I can on their home purchases. If you need help, please don't hesitate to call.
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Whether the choice to call it a bedroom or not might be legally challenged or not is dependent on local codes and what the assessor's office says the number of bedrooms in that house is.
Most localities incorporate California building codes (CBC) by reference. CBC does not require a closet. Your locality *may* require a closet, but it is unlikely.
Pacita in her answer referenced Sonoma County PRMD. What is interesting about this reference is that Sonoma is coming at it from exactly the opposite angle. They are concerned about homeowner's building rooms which they will refer to as *offices* etc. but will actually be used as a bedroom. Their concern is that this will be done in order to sidestep septic limitations.
If it is a room with no closet it is not a bedroom. It is a den or, per my husband who is the loan officer may be called a torture chamber.
However it is not a bedroom.
The problem may arise with agents who do not have enough education or are trying to put one buy on you.
I think real estate does not have room for sales in that manner.
925 699 5041
As others have mentioned, older houses did not have "built in" closets. I own several rentals that have NO closets in the 3 bedrooms, am I to sell or rent it as a "O" bedroom home, I think not.
Mainly, an old wives tale!
Egress is a concern, and without windows of certain size, a room is not safe for "sleeping" in --- hence a bedroom!
GREAT question Jena!!
With reference to victorian homes ,those were built in victorian times,and I am not sure if they had any building codes as such.Why cant real estate agents say its an office or a den ,study etc?Why they have to state it as a bedroom when it is not.....just in order to be competitive with other listings and bump up the price ,they say 5 bedroom but one room with out a closet.I have redone my entire home and the building inspector clearly stated that in order for any room to be called it as an bedroom I need to have a closet in it.
But there are specific requirements.
Here's a link you may find interesting. It refers to California building code. http://www.sonoma-county.org/prmd/docs/policies/1-4-1.pdf
Bedroom: any space in the conditioned area of a dwelling unit or accessory structure which is 70 square feet and greater in size and which is located along an exterior wall, but not including the following: hall; bathroom; kitchen; living room (maximum of one per dwelling unit); dining room (in proximity to kitchen, maximum of one per dwelling unit); family room (maximum of one per dwelling unit), laundry room, closet/dressing room opening off of a bedroom.
The Director of PRMD or his/her designee may grant exceptions if a room, by its design, cannot function as a bedroom. Sewing rooms, dens, studios, lofts, game rooms, and any other conditioned room along an exterior wall which is 70 square feet or greater in size will be considered to be bedrooms unless the room is
If a home office, library or similar room is proposed, it may be exempted from being considered a bedroom if there is no closet and at least one of the following is present: a) permanently built-in bookcases, desks and other feature that encumber the room in such a way that it cannot be used as a bedroom; b) a minimum 4 foot opening, without doors, into another room; or c) a half wall (4 foot maximum height) between the room and another room. A detached building which contains only a half bath will not routinely be considered as having a bedroom unless it is specifically identified and permitted as a guest house.
When an exception is made per the above, it shall be documented in Permits Plus in the comments section so that all staff are aware of the determination. A conditional statement may be required to be signed by the property owner if the permit is for an outbuilding which has been determined to be a use other than a bedroom or other living space. This statement may be recorded as necessary to inform future property owners of restrictions on use of the building.