What is a bedroom?

14 July 2023

What is a bedroom? The definition of a bedroom and why it matters.

An oft-discussed topic with both sellers and buyers, an area that is able to be advertised as a bedroom can get people in a muddle.

So what is a bedroom? And why does it matter?

Definition of a bedroom

Housing Improvement Regulations 1947 outlines minimum width, floor area and ceiling height - as well as a couple exceptions. It also outlines minimum requirements in relation to natural light and ventilation.

  • A bedroom must be at least 1.8 metres wide. If there is a sloping ceiling, the width must not include any area that is less than 1.5 metres high, measured from the finished floor to the finished ceiling.
  • Every bedroom must have a minimum floor area of at least 6 square metres. An exception applies to houses built before the 1947 regulations, where a bedroom may be as small as 4.5 square metres but may only be occupied by a person less than 10 years of age.
  • Ceiling height must be at least 2.4 metres, except in houses built before the 1947 regulations, where the minimum must be 2.1 metres. Where a room has a sloping ceiling, part of the ceiling may be under these minimum heights, so long as no part is less than 1.5 metres, and no more than 50% of the area of the room may have a ceiling less than the minimum height.
  • Every bedroom must have at least one window in an external wall so as to admit adequate light. The total glass area of such window, or windows, must be not less than 10% of the floor area of the room. Windows must be able to be opened for ventilation, although only in respect of total glass area that is not less than 5% of the floor area of the room.

*There are some further exceptions which apply to apartments.

Is your home or the home you are buying on a septic system?

But wait..there’s more…

The number of bedrooms on a property greatly impact the capacity requirements of your septic tank so bear in mind that homes on septic will have a Council approved maximum number of bedrooms for the septic system in place. When tallying up your bedrooms this needs to be considered in addition to the definitions in Housing Improvement Regulations 1947. You will also want to think about implications if you intend to extend your home, increasing the number of bedrooms.

The wardrobe myth.

“I’ve been told by my mums second cousins real estate agents best friend that if there’s no wardrobe it’s not a bedroom!”

Yes, I’ve heard this one too. And may have repeated it once or twice when I was a new agent myself. Oops.

Wardrobes, while handy, have no bearing on whether or not a room is a bedroom.

"Can I rely on the number of bedrooms stated on property websites like homes.co.nz, PropertyGuru or propertysmarts?"

These websites are frequently inaccurate so shouldn't be relied on offhand.

To give you an example, I went through a property last year that was listed as having three bedrooms on the above websites. The home had been built in the 1960s but, at some stage historically, the third bedroom upstairs had been requisitioned to make way for internal stairs (no record of a building permit or consent on the LIM) and the current 'third bedroom' was quite clearly part of the original garage - the ceiling height was below 2.4m, it didn't meet the natural light or ventilation requirements (one small window for the space), was not insulated and the exterior wall was unlined concrete block with earth on the other side only a few centimetres below the window.

If you want to confirm, as best you can, what changes have been made to a property since construction the best place to look is at the approved plans in the Property File. If in Auckland, you can order one here. *The amount of information held by Council for older properties can be hit and miss. 

Why does any of this matter?

Because while you can sleep in whatever area of your home you choose to, correct advertising in relation to number of bedrooms, habitable space and so forth matters big time when it comes to renting your property out. Number of bedrooms is a significant factor in determining achievable market rent so doing your numbers in the wrong place can cost you big time.

…as can ending up in hot water at the Tenancy Tribunal because your tenant is going for a partial rent refund after a few years of vaguely wondering why the bedroom downstairs always feels so cold, the ceiling is a bit low and the ranch slider down there is weirdly the same shape as a single garage door.

Teeny tiny bedrooms: A thought on advertising.

Have a bedroom that just scrapes into the legal definition of a bedroom? Sometimes it pays to advertise very small bedrooms as a study.

Think about the difference between your pleasantly surprised buyers observing that they could actually fit a single bed into the study as opposed to indignant buyers fixating on ‘Is that even a bedroom?!’. Helping your buyers quickly accept the things that are less than perfect allows them more time to focus on and appreciate the things your home offers that matter most. Underpromising and overdelivering like this can be a really great move.

*Consider the needs of your likely buyer(s) with the above too. Checking the median prices in your suburb by number of bedrooms can give you a clue as to what your demographic values.

Happy selling and buying!


DISCLAIMER: The material and information above is for general information purposes only and is not intended to form professional legal advice. North to West @realty recommends you seek independent legal advice if you are unsure of your legal position.


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