The Necessity of the Certificate of Occupancy (CO)

The Necessity of the Certificate of Occupancy (CO)

Don’t panic if you are in a situation where you need your legal and permanent CO to refinance, sell, or renovate your property and you don’t have one, never received one, or need to find out if you even need one. If this sounds like you – read on.

A CO describes the legal occupancy limits, layout, and allowable use of a property/building used for a personal residence, commercial, industrial manufacturing or retail store. If you have plans for new construction you will need to have a CO, however, existing buildings/properties must either have an up-to-date CO or an amended CO if construction has changed the use, exits, or occupancy limit of your building/property.

We’ve found that often times insurance carriers prior to any issuance of building/property insurance will inspect the property, and then check and compare what they see currently on the property/building with the records found at the borough department as a reference with the filed CO, and when it doesn’t match the filed CO, the property/building owners are asked to update the CO prior to the insurance carrier underwriting the policy which will cover the property/building. Sometimes it requires an economic outlay to bring the property to code compliant or restore to the original structure if the owner wants the insurance.

We’ve also found that non-profit organizations that receive grant money to operate social programs, churches, senior centers or daycare centers are oftentimes operating without the amended CO and receive violations for not operating in a code-compliant manner. In these situation’s property/building owners can apply for the Temporary Certificate of Occupancy (TCO) which typically expires 90 days after the date of issue or if they operate from a property/building built before 1938, they are not required to have a CO unless later alterations changed their use, exits, or occupancy. This is where it becomes tricky, and costly, resulting in civil fines linked to any violations issued on the building/property.

There is a time-consuming process that allows you to obtain the proof of a property/building’s legal use, and find out if it is exempt from the CO requirement. To find out this information you can visit the borough office and start the process for a Letter of No Objection (LNO) which will require several steps from stating with property research, obtaining a survey, to searching the entire history of the property/building, to taking photos and preparing a full application, along with paying a fee – then waiting about six to eight weeks for the results. It should be noted, if one piece of the step is missing you will be informed of the missing criteria and need to resubmit another fee for the second review of the LNO request.

No property/building can be legally occupied until the borough office has issued a CO, TCO or LNO. Obtaining the CO, TCO, and LNO requires patience, and often times sign-offs from licensed engineers or registered architects to determine what may be needed in order to get a permanent CO, if applicable.

If you have any questions or would like to hire a hassle-free professional firm to facilitate this process for you, All Boro On-Call Business + Home Center is always available at (917) 805-9868.

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