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posted: 3/28/2014 12:01 AM

Debate over bedroom closets continues

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Q. In a recent article, you stated a closet is not required in a bedroom. This was incorrect. As an ex-chief appraiser for FHA, any bedroom without a closet is not considered a bedroom. Realtors and appraisers are on the same page and the local building code is not going to change the opinion of the appraiser when he or she visits the house. The Realtor and the appraiser are not going to state a room is a bedroom unless there is a closet. The homeowner should not be mislead.

A. The building code is a matter of state or municipal law. It is not subject to the approval or interpretation of appraisers or real estate professionals. You may not agree with the law, but you cannot simply adjust it to fit your preference, opinion or whim.

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In older homes, it was traditional to have armoires rather than built-in closets. Because of this, closets were never mandated in the building code, and bedrooms without closets, like it or not, are definitely legal bedrooms.

Q. Our homeowners association has recently mandated that trees be planted in every yard within 5 feet of the sidewalk. They say this was listed in the original landscape plan 18 years ago. We bought our unit 15 years ago, and no one said anything about this requirement. Since then, we've had our yard totally re-landscaped, and trees would not fit our current landscaping. Are we required to comply with the HOA's ruling?

A. Whether you are bound by the HOA's landscape plan is a legal question that can only be answered by an attorney. However, there may be a way to sidestep this requirement while simultaneously complying with it. If the HOA plan does not specify the size of trees at the time of planting, you can obtain some very small tree sprouts from a nursery and keep them trimmed to the size of small shrubs that blend in with your current landscaping plan. Just a thought.

Q. We have a vacant home we are selling. Our agent told us to turn off the water during the winter to prevent the pipes from freezing. We did this, but one of the pipes split open and caused water damage in the house. How could this have happened if the water was turned off?

A. Winterizing the plumbing is not a matter of simply turning off the main water valve. Once the valve is turned off, all of the faucets should be turned on so that the water can drain out of the pipes. If the main is turned off and the water is left in the pipes, the water can freeze in cold weather, causing the pipes to crack. This may be what occurred at your home. It is also possible that the water shut-off valve is no longer functional. Hopefully, you are insured for the damage.

• To write to Barry Stone, visit him on the web at www.housedetective.com, or write AMG, 1776 Jami Lee Court, Suite 218, San Luis Obispo, CA 94301.

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