Sounds like an easy question doesn’t it? As real estate agents we walk into dozens of homes and apartments each week but we sometimes struggle with this one. “How hard can it be?” you’re asking. Surely a bedroom’s just a place big enough for a bed. We’ve all been to an open home where some enthusiastic salesperson has nominated the study or a broom cupboard as a third bedroom.
So how do you define a bedroom? Unfortunately there is no simple answer! The Building Code of Australia sets the requirements (along with a myriad of state legislation) and when you build a new dwelling the criteria are fairly clear. A bedroom is considered a “Habitable Room”, along with living rooms, kitchens, studies, rumpus and dining rooms. You have to comply with a long list of rules before you can use a room for these purposes. Note that a bathroom, laundry, pantry, hallway and “other spaces occupied neither frequently nor for extended purposes” are outside those rules.
Whether you’re in a house (Class 1A dwelling) or an apartment (Class 2), sufficient ventilation is a key requirement for habitable rooms. You need “natural air exchange” and natural light into the room and Brisbane’s location in Zone 2 means these differ from frost-laden Taswegian homes for example. If you have fans and/or evaporative airconditioning that changes things too. Oh, you can sometimes “borrow” ventilation from an adjoining room too…. but not bathrooms.
And don’t forget height. A habitable room must have minimum 2.4m ceilings (7’ 10.5”) except kitchens which can be 2.1m. So those rooms under the house with beds and rumpus furniture in them, just that bit low in height? They’re “utility rooms” and usually can’t legally be used as bedrooms or living rooms. And if you “know a friend” who rents out their utility rooms as a granny flat maybe they should have a solid read of their insurance policy. It’s hard to imagine Council suddenly policing these rules but a fire or other incident might cause problems.
Of course older homes might still be okay where they pre-date the modern requirements and are “deemed to comply”. There’s sound reasons for all these rules – safety, health and sustainability. But they do mean that your average real estate agent can really not answer the most simple of questions with 100% confidence. Building certifiers can interpret the Code for you and a pre-sale check might be worthwhile if you’re unsure.
That third bedroom might make a big difference to your sale price. But not if it’s really just a broom cupboard.