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If you are considering purchasing a home, you have likely heard of certificate of occupancy (C/O) or building permits and wondered what it all means. In this blog, we will answer some frequently asked questions about both documents to make your homebuying journey smooth and hassle free.

What is a C/O?

A Certificate of Occupancy (C/O) is a crucial document that certifies a building’s legal use and permitted occupancy. A building cannot be legally occupied without a C/O or Temporary Certificate of Occupancy (TCO). A C/O confirms that the completed work complies with all relevant laws, all paperwork has been completed, all fees paid, all violations resolved, and all necessary approvals obtained from other City Agencies. The Department of Buildings issues a final C/O when the completed work matches the submitted plans for new buildings or major alterations.

Who needs a C/O?

A C/O is mandatory for all new buildings in New York, while existing buildings require an updated or modified C/O in case of a change in occupancy, egress, or usage.

I am looking to buy a home. Does C/O matter to me?

Yes, absolutely! A C/O confirms that the property is safe, habitable, and legally permitted for occupancy. Without this document, the property may be deemed illegal, and you may face legal and financial consequences. A C/O is also necessary for obtaining financing, insurance, and other legal documentation related to the property. Therefore, it is crucial to ensure that the property has a valid C/O or that the seller is in the process of obtaining one when buying a home.

I am buying a condo. Do I need a C/O for my unit?            

In most cases, a condo building has a single C/O covering the entire building, so you don’t need an individual C/O for your unit. However, in the case of townhouses, each house is typically considered an individual unit and requires a separate C/O.

It is important to note that a C/O for a condo building does not necessarily need to state that it is a condo. As a condo owner, you can request a copy of the building’s C/O from the condo association or the local government agency responsible for issuing C/Os to ensure that the building is safe and legally permitted for occupancy.

Can I sell my property if I don’t have a C/O?

If a building was built or altered before 1938, there may not be a C/O. Instead, a Letter of No Objection may be issued to confirm the building’s legal use. Similarly, if the building has an A1 or NB type open permit, a C/O Request can be submitted in the DOB NOW: Build system. The request is then reviewed by technical and operations staff, and if all requirements are met, a C/O is issued.

In most cases, homebuyers will require a C/O of the property before a closing will take place, so it is crucial to ensure that the property has a valid C/O or alternative legal confirmation of use before selling to avoid any potential legal issues or complications.

What if my C/O does not specify the number of dwellings?

If your C/O lacks information about the number of dwellings, you can check the following sources for clarification:

1) The 1937 tax assessor roll;

2) The I-card from the Housing Preservation and Development (HPD);

3) The docket book for the original building permit; or

4) Obtain a letter of no objection.

What is a building permit and when is it required?

A building permit is an official approval issued by the Department of Buildings (DOB) that authorizes you or your contractor to proceed with a construction or remodeling project on your property. Though it may seem like a tedious process, a building permit is a crucial step that ensures the safety of everyone involved.

How many types of building permits are there?

There are four types of building permits: 1) New Building (NB) permit, 2) Major Alteration Type 1 (A1) permit, 3) Minor Alteration Type 2 (A2) permit, and 4) Minor Alteration Type 3 (A3) permit. C/Os are required for NB and A1 permits, while a letter of completion or signoff paper is required for A2 and A3 permits.

To sum up, while the need for a C/O or building permits depends on local laws and regulations, obtaining valid C/O and building permits for any steps in a real estate transaction will be hugely beneficial for potential home buyers and sellers alike. If you have any questions about this topic, do not hesitate to contact us at Federal Standard Abstract today.