Certificate of Occupancy – What is it?


What exactly is a certificate of occupancy? Here’s what every property owner needs to know.


A certificate of occupancy, usually called CO, is an essential document that no property owner should be without. The certificate describes the type of property and its intended use. It classifies the property as residential, commercial, business, or multi-dwelling. The CO also confirms that the building has passed all necessary final inspections. Finally, it certifies that the property is ready to be used and occupied. Keep reading to learn why you need a CO and how to get one.

When do you need a Certificate of Occupancy?

Each locale has its own rules regarding these documents, so check with your town or county government to determine whether you need one. Here are situations that require CO:

  • Newly constructed buildings
  • Property is converted from one use to another
  • Substantial construction project

How do you get a CO?

You’ll need to contact your local government’s building division to get a CO. Sometimes you can file a request online, but other times you need to go in person. Submit your request before starting any work. To receive the CO, the property must pass all inspections. This final inspection process looks at the following items: general building code, plumbing, electrical, mechanical systems, and fire safety.

Why is the CO important?

Without a CO, a building cannot be legally occupied. The CO ensures that the building is being as intended and that it’s safe to be occupied. Without it, lenders and local governments have no proof that the building satisfies building codes and standards and poses no risks to the health and safety of the occupants.

Can I be penalized for not having a Certificate of Occupancy?

Yes. Your local building authority may levy a fine or begin legal proceedings.

Published by Jeff Anderson

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