Blocks & Lots

Certificate of Occupancy: Boring but oh so important

According to the NYC Buildings Department, a Certificate of Occupancy (CO), “states a building’s legal use and/or type of permitted occupancy. New buildings must have a CO, and existing buildings must have a current or amended CO when there is a change in use, egress or type of occupancy.”

Are you allowed to occupy a building without a Certificate of Occupancy?

No. No one is allowed to legally inhabit a building until the Buildings Department has issued a Certificate of Occupancy or a Temporary Certificate of Occupancy.

What is the difference between a Certificate of Occupancy and a Temporary Certificate of Occupancy (TCO)?

A Temporary Certificate of Occupancy (TCO), according to the NYC Buildings Dept, “indicates that the property or partial property is safe for occupancy. TCOs typically expire every 90 days, but may be less based on Building Code or Inspection Unit approval.” 

The official line is that a TCO will not be renewed when the outstanding issues for a permanent CO have not been resolved prior to the expiration date. In these cases the building must remain vacant until a CO has been issued.

A TCO is often issued when the majority of work has been completed after a renovation or new construction, with a few minor items left to finish.

In reality this is not always accurate. Records show that certain properties in New York City continually have their TCO’s renewed and this can stretch on for years.

What happens if a building never had a CO?

Certificate of Occupancies were first issued in 1938 in NYC. Buildings that pre-date that may have a Letter of No Objection issued in lieu of a CO, to confirm a building’s legal use.

Can I purchase a property without a CO?

You can’t close on a purchase in a new development until a TCO has been issued. In an older building the city may block the sale or require the building gets a TCO in order for the sale to proceed. After the sale a CO must then fulfilled by the new owner. Also, It may be very difficult to get a conventional lender to extend a loan for without a CO.

When is a CO issued?

A building must be inspected by the city before a CO can be issued. If a building “complies with all applicable laws, all paperwork has been completed, all fees owed to the Department have been paid, all relevant violations have been resolved, and all necessary approvals have been received from other City Agencies,” then a CO will be issued.