Certificate of occupancy
AKA CO, C.O., C of O, Certificate of Completion or Letter of No Objection.
The CO is a recorded document used by Cities, Towns, Villages or any other Code Enforcement Jurisdiction that establishes the legal use of an improved property. The CO is issued to new construction or amended for additions and alterations. A CO may also be issued to an existing improvement that lacks any historical record. A CO has not always been a requirement to occupy a home or to run a business, however, in the early 1900's the CO became the main guarantee that a lending institution has that they enjoy equity in a property. The CO has evolved to be a very powerful instrument that can deny a person the use of their property as the result of a lack of a CO regardless of a mortgage , real tax payment or property condition. The CO places limitation on the use by stating the legal use and by providing restrictions relative to Zoning and structural limits. The CO format varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. New York City has, perhaps, the best and most complete requirements to gain a CO. In order to gain a CO in NYC the following areas are examined and inspected in conformance with a plan filed by a licensed professional:
1. Conformance to local zoning being Residential, Business, Commercial, Industrial, Water Front, Special or a combination of any of the aforementioned.
2. Parking requirements.
3. Loading Requirements.
4. Maximum occupancy.
5. Loading limitations.
6. Code conforming plumbing, electric, heating and ventilation is a required certification.
7. Habitability relative to light, ventilation, minimum areas, minimum clearances and egress.
8. Number of dwelling units.
9. Yard setbacks and open space.
Residential single family COs are simpler than a Manufacturing use that may have the CO dependant on performance standards including hours of operation, noise limitations, pollution limitations and any other requirement meant to protect the property and the public.
AMENDING OR OBTAINING A CO FOR RESIDENTIAL PROPERTY OWNED FOR YEARS.
I have been retained by many to assist in obtaining a CO for an improvement for sale or re-finance. The knowledge that one requires A co is often very stressful. Often the property owner was not aware of the requirement for needing a CO or they believed that they had a CO. Several of my clients learned that they were required to legalize conditions that existed before they purchased the property or before they were born. Some jurisdictions will require a new CO if the existing CO is too old. Other times there are no records or the existing records disagree with the current condition. Local requirements, building codes and zoning change regularly. In Westchester County, New York, a home of 60 years old has , probably, existed through 20 building code changes, 5 zoning changes and countless policy changes. Some jurisdictions had granted permits and did not require a close-out , final inspection or a certificate of completion, however, the record of an old permit is enough to trigger the requirement to have a modern CO. Conformance with Health Department rules when property has on site sewerage disposal (septic system) may also require review or improvement.
Ordinarily plans are filed to indicate existing conditions and inspections are performed to certify safety and code compliance. The modern code provides for the requirement to add smoke detectors or improve egress, light or ventilation. For older homes relief from some requirements can be sought from the State in the form of a variance. Local zoning may also have to be reviewed. Aside from construction costs and fees or penalties professional consultant costs may be between $500 and $5,000. If Health Department record and existing conditions are OK my usual fee is $750 outside of NYC .
JOHN A LENTINI ARCHITECT 914-737-2890 email mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org