Can I advertise a room as a bedroom even though it does not have a closet?

QUESTION: I am in the process of listing a home for a new client. The home includes a new addition with an upstairs room that my clients are using as a bedroom even though it does not have a closet. Can I include that room as a bedroom when I list the property in the MLS?

ANSWER: Whether a room can be advertised as a bedroom is a subject that we have written about before. However, it has been over eleven years since we did so, and we continue to receive this question on a regular basis. Our 2011 Q & A can be accessed here. The Real Estate Commission also wrote on this subject once before but that was in 2006. A copy of the Commission’s guidance can be found here.

The first thing to keep in mind is that the Real Estate License Law and Article 12 of the REALTOR Code of Ethics both require licensees to be honest, truthful and accurate in their advertising. By statute, one of the bases on which the Real Estate Commission may discipline an agent is for “pursuing a course of misrepresentation or making of false promises though… advertising.”

While North Carolina law and the Code of Ethics both demand accuracy, the fact is that there are very few hard and fast rules for determining whether a room can be advertised as a bedroom. Instead, as the Commission concluded in its 2006 article, agents should use their common sense and exercise reasonable judgment when determining whether a room is, for listing purposes, a bedroom. The Commission’s article specifically notes that the absence of a closet is not a determining factor.

One hard and fast rule that does exist is whether the home complies with governmental regulations pertaining to bedrooms. If the home is on a septic system, this rule means that agents may not advertise a home as having more bedrooms than the number authorized by the current septic permit. Also, the North Carolina Residential Building Code has a provision that requires every “sleeping room” to have at least one operable emergency escape and rescue opening with a specified size. Those openings must be operational from the inside of the room without the use of keys, tools or special knowledge. Since this Code applies statewide, if a room does not have an operable escape and rescue opening, agents should not advertise that room as a bedroom.

Finally, agents should also consider one other common-sense guideline. To be considered a bedroom, there must be sufficient space in the room to accommodate typical bedroom furniture. The Commission’s 2006 article suggests that 8’ x 10’ is needed in order for a room to accommodate a single bed.

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