What Is a Certificate of Occupancy and How Can I Get It?

Whether you’re buying a home, selling it, or investing in a vacation home, there’s a critical step involved. This is obtaining a certificate of occupancy. You may have heard the term if you’ve started the process. If you have, you may be wondering what it means, what it is, and how to get a certificate of occupancy.

In this article, the top realtors at Robert DeFalco Realty will answer all your questions about a certificate of occupancy. This includes which circumstances require one and how to obtain one. Keep on reading to learn more.

What Is a Certificate of Occupancy?

A certificate of occupancy, “CO,” or use-and-occupy certificate, is a document that proves that a structure is safe. It’s issued by a building department or local zoning. A CO ensures that the structure meets all building codes and safety standards. A CO also mentions the type of building, what it’s being used for, and whether it can be safely inhabited.

It’s not possible to live in or use a structure that doesn’t have a certificate of occupancy. This makes the document an essential part of construction. It’s also important for buying and selling real estate. It shows potential buyers and tenants that your property is safe and up to code. When buying a house, a CO ensures that you won’t have to deal with unexpected renovations after the sale.

Do You Need a Certificate of Occupancy?

There are many different cases where you may require a certificate of occupancy. These can range from renovations to buying and selling a property. This varies based on the local regulations. The following are some cases where you may need to determine whether a certificate of occupancy is necessary.

A New Build

Whether it’s a new commercial building or a new home, you’ll need a certificate of occupancy. Since the structure hasn’t been lived in before, the city needs to guarantee its safety. Then, they can determine that the structure is habitable.

Renovating or Building Additions

Minor renovations don’t require new certificates of occupancy. However, this isn’t the case for additions and major renovations. If you’re building a guest house, finishing a basement, or renovating a dilapidated structure, a certificate of occupancy is needed. They’re essential when you’re restoring a condemned property and need to sell it after extensive changes.

Changing the Use of a Property

There are different types of certificates of occupancy for different kinds of structures. For example, documents for a commercial building aren’t the same as those for a residence. So, suppose you’re converting a multi-family home into a single-family home. Alternatively, you could be converting a commercial facility into a house. In these cases, you’ll need a new certificate of occupancy to reflect the changes. This ensures that people use properties the intended way.

Buying or Selling a House

As a buyer, you’ll need to obtain a certificate of occupancy. This may be necessary for the mortgage process. It’s not always required to sell a home, but the process of getting one usually falls on the seller. The financial responsibility of each party may vary based on the sales agreement.

How to Get a Certificate of Occupancy

Now you know what a certificate of occupancy is and whether or not you need one. It’s time to move on to how to obtain one. The process of applying for one isn’t complicated. All you have to do is fill out an application with the local zoning, building department, or municipality. It involves paying a fee as well.

If you’re building a brand-new structure, you may need one before starting the process. Once you apply and pay the fee, the city will inform you of the inspection date. After going through the inspection process, you should be able to get a certificate of occupancy. Learn more about the inspection process below.

The Inspection Process

It’s important to prepare for the certificate of occupancy inspection. This will determine your success in obtaining one. When you apply for one, the government or municipality will send a qualified instructor to your home or commercial property. They will check to see if everything is up to code. They will also compare your property to the requirements and ensure there are no violations.

Before the inspection, be sure to check whether your structure is compliant with safety and building codes. If you have a particularly old house, the wiring and plumbing may not be up to the current code. Make the necessary changes before the inspection so the process doesn’t face delays.

This process includes various different inspections. These include an electrical inspection, plumbing inspection, fire safety inspection, and general inspection. Furthermore, they might conduct the inspection in stages. For example, there may be an initial electrical inspection as well as a final electrical inspection. You should prepare for a thorough review of the structure.

You should also note that the inspection process is much simpler if you already have a certificate of occupancy. For example, you may be getting a new one because you’re selling your home. Usually, the municipality only requires one inspection in this case.

At the end of the process, you’ll receive a report. This will say whether you’ve passed or failed. If you pass, you can move on to other aspects of buying or selling a home. However, failure entails more work and ensuring you make the right changes. These will be outlined in the report. The municipality will give you a certain amount of time to take care of the repairs. Once these are taken care of, another inspection will take place to approve them.

Robert DeFalco Realty Can Help You With Your Real Estate Needs

Whether you’re buying or selling a property, you’ll need to obtain a certificate of occupancy. This is an important step that you can’t bypass. Skipping the step may result in fines or even being sued by the municipality.

However, if the process seems complicated, don’t be concerned. The real estate agents at Robert DeFalco Realty can help you get through the buying or selling process. As real estate experts, we can make recommendations and ensure that you are supported throughout the process. Visit our offices or reach out to us at 718-987-9700. Alternatively, reach out to us via this contact form, and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible.