A certificate of occupancy, or CO as it’s oftentimes called, is an essential document that no property owner should be without. The certificate describes the type of property and its intended use. It specifies the property as residential, commercial, business or multi-dwelling. In addition, the CO confirms that the building has passed all necessary final inspections. Finally, it certifies that the property is ready to be used and occupied. Keep reading to learn why you need a CO and how to get one.
When do you need a CO? Each locale has its own rules regarding these documents, so check with your town or county government to determine whether you need one. Situations in which a CO is required:
- Newly constructed buildings
- Property is converted from one use to another
- Substantial construction project
How do you get a CO? To obtain a CO, you’ll need to contact your local government’s building division. Sometimes requests can be filed online; other times you need to go in person. Submit your request before starting any work. To receive the CO, the property must pass all inspections. This final inspection process looks at the following items: general building code, plumbing, electrical, mechanical systems, and fire safety.
Why is the CO important? Without a CO, a building cannot be legally occupied. The CO ensures that the building is being as intended and that it’s safe to be occupied. Without it, lenders and local governments have no proof that the building satisfies building codes and standards and poses no risks to the health and safety of the occupants.
Can I be penalized for not having a CO? Yes. Your local building authority may levy a fine or begin legal proceedings.