Whether you’re taking in lodgers or letting the whole property, it can be tempting to market a windowless room as a bedroom to make a little extra money. However, without a suitable window in the bedroom, it cannot be a legal dwelling.
This means that you cannot legally use this room as a “spare room” to offer to lodgers, nor are you legally allowed to include it in the bedroom count while advertising the property. If the windowless room is in addition to two other bedrooms in the property, you can market it as “2 bedroom + studio” or “2 bedroom + office” but you cannot market it as being a 3 bedroom property.
There are exceptions, however. A bedroom is required to have a window as to conform to building regulations by providing a means of escape. But a window is not the only way to achieve fire safety; it is merely the simplest.
What about bedrooms with no external walls? This is a common problem with new basement conversions and warehouse conversions. For warehouse conversions, a popular solution is to feature skylights in place of windows. These provide a source of natural light, ventilation, and a means of escape. With basement conversions, often you will find windows at ceiling height (or ground height, from outside of the building). You could argue that both are in fact actually windows, though they may not be the typical type of bedroom window.
The requirement for bedroom windows is for the tenant’s safety. In the event of a fire, even if you’re unable to safely jump out to street level due to being on the upper floors of a HMO, firefighters would be able to climb a ladder to rescue you. The alternative is that you could be trapped in your bedroom, with no means of emergency escape or smoke ventilation.
Building regulations in the UK also state the need for adequate ventilation with three different ventilation types considered:
- Whole building – background ventilators, mechanical supply ventilation
- Local extract – extract fans
- Purge – openable windows
Openable windows are obviously the easiest and most commonly found in residential properties, solving both the need for ventilation and emergency escape. The criteria for the window is an openable area of no less than 0.33m² with a width and height no less than 450mm.
How to make the most of rooms without windows
First and fore-mostly, good lighting is essential for rooms without windows. Ideally, you need to give the impression of natural light entering the room. Using light, bright colours for the walls and ceiling can help to make the room feel airy.
Lack of ventilation can make the room feel stuffy, dusty, and even smelly without adequate circulation of air. Extractor fans are the best solution to ventilate windowless rooms. Some indoor plants can also help to improve the quality of the air or, at the very least, are aesthetically pleasing when there are no other visual reminders of the world outside. Not all indoor plants can strive in a windowless room, however, so make sure to do your research when selecting suitable plant types.
Without a window, rooms can feel as if they’re lacking some kind of focal point. A feature wall, or just a wall-mounted painting or ornament, can make the room feel a little less boxed in.
You may not be able to market the windowless room as a bedroom to prospective tenants, but by displaying the room in the best light possible (no pun intended) and demonstrating alternative uses for the bedroom —as an office, crafts studio, play room, or home gym— you can use it as part of your marketing strategy. Targeting professional couples? It’s an office. Family house? It could be a play room or a crafts studio. House share with single-room tenants? The windowless room could even be a home gym, to market as a “perk” for your single tenants.