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What is a Certificate of Occupancy (CO) in NYC- New York City

When purchasing or renovating a building in New York City it is paramount to understand what a Certificate of Occupancy is and what purpose it serves, why you need it, and what to do if you encounter a problem. 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.

A Certificate of Occupancy (CO) is a certificate that states the building's legal use and what type of occupancy is allowed. If a space is listed as retail or a restaurant space, the landlord cannot rent the space out as a housing or living space.

The NYC Department of Buildings (DOB) will inspect the property and make sure it meets the zoning and codes standards before issuing a CO.

How to Obtain a CO

According to the NYC DOB, the Department issues a final Certificate of Occupancy when the completed work matches the submitted plans for new buildings or major alterations. It issues a Letter of Completion for minor alterations to properties. These documents confirm the work 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.

Owners must also close out all open permit applications and unresolved violations throughout the property.

Who Needs a Certificate of Occupancy?

All NYC buildings completed after 1938 need a certificate of occupancy. In addition, older buildings that undergo significant changes will often require a CO to be issued.

To find out if a building does not need a certificate of occupancy, you can find out from the DOB. If a "Letter of No Objection" was issued, it means the building officially does not require one.

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