Just so you understand, the information I give you is based on the NEC alone and each local AHJ (Authority Having Jurisdiction) may look at things differently. The NEC is enforced by local inspection authorities but as stated in Section 90.4; the local AHJ is charged with interpretation of those rules. You are experiencing exactly one of those instances where the local inspector; serving as a deputy with all AHJ powers for the real AHJ (Building Official) has made a ruling.
There are a few things you can do if you disagree with this ruling. 1) You can go over the inspectors head (so to speak) and talk to their direct supervisor. 2) You can go over the direct supervisors head to the building official and plead your case and in many cases you can even go to the city manager or major (depending on your form of local government) and I guess another way would be a formal appeals board for your jurisdictional area.
Now I am certified in many areas by the International Code Council ( as many of the inspectors here are as well) and that means we are very aware of what constitutes a habitable room and so on. I don’t believe mixing the IRC and NEC in this case will serve you any good…and I wish the electrical inspector did not try to use that justification either but alas…they are the AHJ.
I guess if I am asking (as an inspector) I would say what is the intended use of the room? While I do not like inspectors playing fortune tellers ( municipal inspectors mind you, Home inspectors sometimes have to play fortune or misfortune tellers sometimes on things like water heaters, roof material and so on) they do have to make calls based on the intended use or perceived use of a space within the dwelling.
So I would ask you…is this “SPACE” off the bathroom the closet for the master bedroom ( no debating here…just answer the question)? If not does the bathroom that is served from this “SPACE” serve other bedrooms with no closets?
Keeping in mind that having a closet in a bedroom does not define a bedroom. It is just a good place to start with an inspectors reasoning. Agree or Disagree with the logic…again 90.4 gives us that latitude in judgment.
Now…are their any cloth hanger rods, storage racks, etc. in this 44" x 15’ space?..in your own words (not trying to circumvent what you believe the CODES say) what is the intended use of this space. If this room is off of the mater bathroom and the actual master bedroom has no closet space other than this space…then I would call it a cloths closet as an inspector and since easily ignitable material could be present (unless you convince me otherwise) I would say no dice to the electrical panel with overcurrent devices installed.
Now lets say it is not a space serving any bedroom, just a “Space” off of a bathroom for some gawd awful reason. The Inspector has to now determine the intended use…
Is the floor material the same as the bathroom?..does it flow right into the “space”? If the intended use of the space was to supplement the bathroom for placing towels and so on…then again the easily ignitable material comes into play regardless of the argument of being a cloths closet or some other closet.
Lets look at it another way…what if I have an area that has a basin and tub in one area and in a separate “Space” I have a toilet alone…does the “space” that has only a toilet no longer become looked at as a bathroom area. The answer is no, that AREA is still part of the bathroom regardless of being in a separate space so if the inspector feels that “space” you are referring to is associated to the bathroom then he will make that call and say its part of the bathroom.
Now it is very possible some AHJ’s may feel differently and say…nope its not a bathroom and as long as you having working clearances on the electrical panel per 110.26 and its not being used to store any easily ignitable material…have at it. You just ran into an AHJ that feels differently.
As for my opinion…since I am not the AHJ I will keep that to myself;)