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Development Services

From Concept to Construction

Phone: 503-823-7300

Email: bds@portlandoregon.gov

1900 SW 4th Ave, Portland, OR 97201

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What is the Inspection Process – Type A – 1&2 Dwelling Structure

An accessory short-term rental in a 1&2 Dwelling Structure requires a BDS inspection.

This inspection will ensure your rental provides a minimum level of protection to the general public who are sleeping in unfamiliar surroundings, and are at a disadvantage for evacuating a structure in the event of an emergency. The inspection standards of Section 33.207.040.B.4 are meant to ensure that the bedrooms for overnight guests were originally allowed and constructed as sleeping rooms under the building codes in effect at the time they were created or converted. The inspection standards also include provisions for interconnected smoke detectors and carbon monoxide alarms in and adjacent to the guest bedrooms for early detection and warning. The BDS inspection is limited to inspecting the bedrooms intended for use as part of the ASTR and will be to ensure that the three inspection standards listed above have been met.

I am not the original owner of the house, what if I’m not sure the bedrooms meant for overnight guests met the building code requirements for a sleeping room at the time they were created?

Housing stock in Portland is diverse in age and construction type. Most bedrooms in existing structures were originally created and were approved as sleeping rooms based on the building code requirements at that time. There are situations, though, where homes may currently utilize spaces as bedrooms, but those spaces were never approved as legal sleeping rooms. Examples of these types of spaces can include attic and basement spaces not approved as sleeping rooms, converted garage spaces not approved as sleeping rooms, and converted porches, patios, or other accessory structures. Note – if you are not sure the space you are going to be renting was legally converted to habitable space, take the time to research this prior to applying for the permit. If the space intended to be rented as a bedroom to overnight guests has not been legally created under permit this will be discovered during the BDS inspection of your property and may result in a more costly and time sensitive legalization than if you perform the legalization prior to City involvement.

In order to establish whether or not a space was approved as a sleeping room and met the building code requirements at the time it was created or converted, a review of approved building permits is necessary. More recent permit history and building plans can be viewed on www.portlandmaps.com by entering your address, then clicking the permit/case tab. In addition, historic building permit plans and inspection cards can be reviewed at the Development Services Center Resource Records counter. You can find more information on checking your property’s permit history at http://www.portlandoregon.gov/bds/54330.

What if the permit history isn’t clear, and I’m not sure if I can legally use my basement or attic (or other space) as a bedroom for overnight guests?

In some situations permit records may not clearly identify the use of spaces, such as attic spaces or basements. In many situations attics and basements were only approved as storage space and were not approved as habitable space or sleeping rooms. In other cases attics and basements were originally constructed as habitable space including sleeping rooms, but historic permit records may not accurately reflect the original use of the space at the time the house was constructed. In lieu of clear permit records, BDS can evaluate these spaces to determine if the space in question was intended as habitable space at the time the house was constructed. The determination is made through a fee paid inspection for examination of the space configuration and of the finish materials. Floor finish, wall cover material, window trim, head height, and stair configuration are some of the features evaluated. While the actual finish material may vary from those found on other floors or parts of the home, the criteria for finish material is predicated on what type of finishes were typical for the time period of original construction and for the style of the house.

To determine whether or not a space was originally constructed or converted as a sleeping room, the criteria will focus on the historical code requirements for windows in sleeping rooms. Window requirements for sleeping rooms have changed and evolved since the adoption of the City’s first Housing and Building Codes.

1928 window requirement – The window area of each room shall be at least one-eight (1/8) of the floor area of the room. For each room there shall be either one window not less than twelve (12) square feet in areas or two windows not less than six (6) square feet in area. Fixed windows are allowed provided adequate ventilation was provided by doors or other windows. No minimum sill height is specified.

1938 window requirement – The window area of each room shall be at least one-eighth (1/8) of the net floor area of the room. For each room used or intended to be used for living purposes, there shall be at least one window of not less than twelve (12) square feet in area, or two windows of not less than six (6) square feet in area. Windows shall provide an openable area not less than 45%of the total required window area (either 1/8th of floor area or minimum of 12 square feet, whichever is greater). A fixed window may be counted as required window area if openable area equal to at least 45% of the required window area is provided. A door opening from a room to the outside may count as a part of the required openable area if at least one-half (1/2) of the required openable area is provided by a window. No minimum sill height is specified.

1956 window requirement – All rooms for sleeping purposes shall be provided with windows with an area of twelve square feet or one-eighth of the floor area of the room, whichever is greater. Not less than one half of the required window area shall be openable. Fixed windows may be used if a mechanical ventilation system capable of producing a change or air every five minutes and connected directly to the outside is installed. No minimum sill height is specified.

1973 window requirement – Sleeping rooms must have a window with a net clear openable area of not less than 5 square feet with no dimensions less than 22 inches. Sill height may not be more than 48 inches above the floor.

1976 window requirement – Sleeping rooms must have a window with a net clear opening of not less than 5.7 square feet. The minimum net clear opening height dimension shall be 24 inches. The minimum net clear opening width dimension shall be 20 inches. Sill height may not be more than 44 inches above the floor.

1995 window requirement – Sleeping rooms must have a window with a net clear opening of not less than 5.7 square feet. The minimum net clear opening height dimension shall be 22 inches and the minimum net clear opening width dimesons shall be 20 inches. Sill height may not be more than 44 inches above the floor.

Will the BDS inspection be of my entire house and/or additional dwelling unit?

The ASTR inspection will be limited to the three inspections items above (1. The bedrooms were legally created as sleeping rooms, 2. They meet minimum fire/life/safety requirements, 3. Smoke and carbon monoxide detector requirements are met). The inspection is not meant to evaluate the exterior or interior of the home against other building code or property maintenance minimum standards. However, certified building inspectors have an obligation to declare and pursue correction of imminent safety hazards for the protection of occupants and overnight guests. Examples of imminent safety hazards are live exposed electrical wires observed en route and during the inspection of the requested bedrooms or an incident of tripping or falling due to hazardous and non-complaint stairs leading to the bedrooms. These types of imminent hazards must be addressed prior to approving the Type A accessory short-term rental permit and allowing the general public to use the bedrooms. Due to this issue, the property owner's signature is required on the application form to authorize the requested ASTR bedroom inspection.

What are the Smoke Detector and Carbon Monoxide Detector requirements under the ASTR program?

The other two inspection standards of Section 33.207.040.B.4 will verify that each bedroom to be rented to overnight guests has 1) a smoke detector that is interconnected with a smoke detector in an adjacent hallway, common area, or immediate vicinity of sleeping rooms and 2) is located on a floor of a dwelling unit equipped with a functioning carbon monoxide alarm. Carbon monoxide alarms shall be located in each bedroom or within 15 feet outside of each bedroom door. Interconnected smoke detectors may be hardwired or may function wirelessly. If you do not currently have hardwired interconnected smoke detectors in your home (a requirement for newly constructed homes) you may wish to install battery operated wireless interconnectable smoke detectors. These devices are readily available at home improvement stores and the devices should be installed according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Battery operated or plug in carbon monoxide alarms are also readily available at home improvement stores and the devices should be installed according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

What happens if the BDS inspection discovers my bedrooms were not legally created under permit, or finds imminent safety hazards?

Should imminent safety hazards or illegal bedrooms be found to exist in the building or on the premises, they will be cited as violations. A violation letter will be sent to the owner and occupant of the property. The property owner will be required to correct the conditions regardless of the status of the Type A accessory short-term rental permit application. If the violations cited are not corrected within thirty (30) days of the date of a violation letter, the property owner may be subject to a monthly code enforcement fee until the violations are corrected and the property is re-inspected and approved by the Bureau of Development Services.