I am building a bedroom in the basement of a rental home ( we have been trying to sell it with no luck). We

Asked by Danielle, Battle Creek, MI Fri Feb 22, 2008

have been getting mixed opinions about the window that is in the bedroom. We do not know whether to spend $3,000 or more to put in an egress window (so that it can be used as a bedroom) or call the room an office and leave the window alone. If someone ends up renting from us and using that room as a bedroom (even though we say it is an office only) what are the legal repercussions if something happens??

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Don Tepper, Agent, Burke, VA
Fri Feb 22, 2008
Check with a lawyer.

If it's not a legal bedroom (window with egress, a closet if that's required), don't advertise it as a bedroom. However--and, again, check with a lawyer--you probably couldn't stop someone from using a room in the basement as a bedroom if they so chose. Sure, you could write something into the lease, but I haven't seen that done.

One other question: Is spending $3,000 for the window to make the room a bedroom the best use of that $3,000? You might check with a Realtor. But, for instance, if the house is already a 4 bed/2.5 bath, it might not be the best use of the money. Maybe it could be better spent on landscaping, or new carpets, or paint, or a bathroom rehab. On the other hand, if the house currently only has 2 bedrooms, it could make sense. But you need to address that point, if you haven't already. And you need to ask whether $3,000 spent on making it another bedroom will result in an adequate return on investment (ROI). For instance, if you spend $3,000 and can rent the house for $83 more a month--or $1,000 a year--that's a 33% ROI. On the other hand, if the house will rent for only $10 more a month--or $120 a year--that's only a 4% ROI. There are also various tax implications; check with an accountant for details.

Hope that helps.
2 votes
Missy Caulk, Agent, Saline, MI
Fri Feb 22, 2008
You have to have a way to escape from a fire to call it a bedroom and it must have a closet. For further advice check with the township where the home is, or an attorney. But, the township will know or city. They have all the regulations. Good luck !
1 vote
Paul McIntyre, Agent, Portage, MI
Tue Feb 24, 2009
Talk about a sticky legal question. No Realtor could responsibly advise you to list a basement room as a bedroom without an egress window. As for your legal liability if you knowingly allow someone to use the room as a bedroom, that should be addressed by an attorney. On a personal note, I would feel awful if I knew someone was harmed because I allowed one of my properties to be used in a way for which it wasn't intended.

The price tag you put on the egress window caught my eyes, as well. I would recommend you check with several contractors about the cost. I have heard of egress windows being installed for less than half the price you quoted, which may make the option seem a little more palatable to you.

If you are a do-it-yourselfer, check the link below for directions on how to install an egress window yourself and save a small fortune.
0 votes
Scott A. Nel…, , 02155
Sat Feb 23, 2008
Another consideration for basement rooms is carbon monoxide and even radon. You might also want to look into these issues.
0 votes
J R, , New York, NY
Sat Feb 23, 2008
Make sure you check with the zoning also. My first question, when I see apartments or finished basements, is "do you have a c.o. for that?".
0 votes
Melinda J. R…, Agent, Grand Rapids, MI
Sat Feb 23, 2008
Danielle, eek! This is a little grey area! To be on the safe side I think I would suggest just putting the window in so you don't have to worry about it. I know less is more in today's market. It kind of depends, do you have a 2 bedroom home and this basement bedroom would make it 3 bedrooms? Or is it that there are already 3 or 4 bedrooms so this would make a 4th or 5th bedroom. I really think there is a big difference between a 2 and 3 bedroom house, but after that it does not matter quite so much.

If you are still trying to sell it maybe you could let your agent know that you would consider putting one in for a buyer. You don't just want to loose a buyer over a $3,000 fix in today's market. Your agent could let buyers agents or buyers know as they come through if that is a problem you are willing to fix it.

In regards to the legalities. I would really suggest that you discuss this with either an attorney or your insurance company. You might not want to risk it if you are having renters in there and you have knowledge they are using as a bedroom even though it is not legal because of the window. Might give you more peace of mind just to get it done.

I hope this helps! Best wishes to you!
Web Reference:  http://www.gomelinda.com/
0 votes
smith3gary, Agent, White Lake, MI
Fri Feb 22, 2008
Danielle, I suggest you speak with legal counsel to get answers to this question. Your homeowner insurance company may be a second source of information.

I am aware of a real estate company in Michigan that was taken to court. One of their agents advertised a home as having a basement bedroom. After the sellers moved in they used the room as advertised. There was a fire and someone was badly hurt. Would you want to place yourself in the same situation? Remember, information on the internet, stays on the internet.
Web Reference:  http://mi-living.com
0 votes
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