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What is a Certificate of Occupancy?

Malcolm Tatum
By
Updated: Feb 18, 2024

The Certificate of Occupancy is a document that provides authorization from the local government for a building to be used as a public edifice or as a private residence. The purpose of the certificate is to provide verification that the building is in full compliance with current building codes, and is safe for occupancy.

This type of certificate is issued whenever a new building is constructed within the city limits of the local government. In some cases, a building that is constructed in an outlying area of a county or parish may also require a Certificate of Occupancy before the facility can actually be occupied or otherwise utilized by people. Inspections are conducted to ensure that the basic construction, wiring, plumbing, and other elements of the building are up to code, and can be certified as being safe for occupation.

When additions or construction upgrades to existing buildings are made, the building owner is often required to obtain a new Certificate of Occupancy from the local government once the changes are complete. As with new buildings, each aspect of the edifice will be inspected to ensure that all elements meet local specifications. Once the inspection is complete and the building department or inspection unit signs off on the building, the certificate will be issued.

When professionals are used to build the new edifice or make changes to existing buildings, it is usually the function of the renovator to notify the local government that the property is ready for inspection, and make arrangements for the issuance of the certificate. Once the builder has the document in hand, copies are delivered to the owner, as well as kept in the files of the construction company. Lenders may also obtain copies of the certificates, in the event that the property is presented as collateral on a loan application. Many lenders will not approve the extension of the loan without receiving a copy of the Certificate of Occupancy.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Malcolm Tatum
By Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing to become a full-time freelance writer. He has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including WiseGeek, and his work has also been featured in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and newspapers. When not writing, Malcolm enjoys collecting vinyl records, following minor league baseball, and cycling.
Discussion Comments
By anon123486 — On Nov 02, 2010

i rent a space for this commercial building. do i really need to get the certification of occupancy myself or should the building provide it to me? thanks guys! -vincent

By anon108370 — On Sep 02, 2010

I just bought a 30 year old restaurant in Northridge, Ca. 91325) with a full liquor license. I just found out during all this time the restaurant had no Conditional User Permit, but a Certificate of Occupancy. Is this for real or someone made a mistake at Building and Safety office? According to an online search, first comes the CUP and then the issue the Certificate of Occupancy.

Please let me know what is going on. Thanks, Jenny

By anon97733 — On Jul 20, 2010

I just moved a building onto my property. The building is in my name and on my land and my fire and liability insurance that is on the building. Do I need a certificate of occupancy to have a family picnic in this building?

By anon85871 — On May 22, 2010

How long is a certificate of occupancy good for in a consignment shop?

By jeanna59 — On Feb 08, 2010

Where do you obtain a certificate of occupancy?

By anon62804 — On Jan 28, 2010

I just purchased a home 1/1/2010 and I have the purchaser's agreement. What I need to find out now is where do I obtain a Certificate of Occupancy from? Please advise. Thank you.

By anon62200 — On Jan 25, 2010

Is it possible to apply for a certificate of occupancy? I put an offer on a house this morning and we just discovered there isn't one.

By anon40806 — On Aug 11, 2009

I bought a three-family house seven years ago with each units having three bedrooms. But,I never received the certificate of occupancy. I now have requested the certificate of occupancy and there is a discrepancy. the department of building has the units as two bedrooms. What are the steps I need to take?

By anon30896 — On Apr 26, 2009

Who schedules the final inspection? The bank or the builder? Thanks!

By mamared — On Apr 06, 2009

How can I find out if the trailer I live in has a certificate of occupancy? What can I do if it doesn't?

By watkins36 — On Feb 25, 2009

Hi, can the home owner get a temporary occupancy permit?

By jasminetea — On Feb 24, 2009

Hi, I am buying an reo home. An reo home should have certificate of occupancy, right? And if this is the case, where do I get a copy?

By trouble — On Feb 10, 2009

Was the purchase of our house legal if there was no certificate of occupancy given? It has taken almost a year to get a copy and it was made out 8 days after the sale. Only one inspection is signed off on the Building permit and all we get from officials in stonewalling.

By anon20607 — On Nov 03, 2008

Can you move furniture into a home under construction without a certificate of occupancy?

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing...
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