How To Obtain A Certificate of Occupancy

What is a Certificate of Occupancy?

A Certificate of Occupancy (CO) indicates the following:
1. The building or suite meets current building code requirements.
2. The building or tenant suite has been occupied by a new tenant or has not made any changes from when the previous owner or tenant received a CO.
3. Any modified portions of the building or suite  were completed in accordance with current building codes

A CO is issued to a specific company for a specific building or suite.  It is non-transferable.

Why do you need a certificate of occupancy?

The building or space cannot be legally occupied until a Certificate of Occupancy is issued by the “authority having jurisdiction.”  In most cases, this authority is the local municipal code official.

Some business insurance policies require an active CO.

How do you obtain a certificate of occupancy?

Step One – Determine if a CO already exists for the building or tenant space and if any modifications were made after the issuance of the CO.  The local municipality should have a record of any CO, but they may not have any associated drawings.  In most cases, the best course of action is to assume that you will need a new CO.

Step Two – Develop a dimensioned, scaled floor plan of as-built conditions.  This plan should indicate all walls, doors, windows, stairs, exit signs, emergency lights, and mechanical and plumbing fixtures.

Step Three – Add any planned physical changes and furniture layouts to the floor plan.

Step Four – Present the floor plan to the court official and request a CO.  The official may require that an architect address any safety and accessibility concerns and stamp the drawing.  You may need to negotiate with the municipal official regarding the physical and financial feasibility of your planned changes.

Step Five – Make any changes requested by the municipal official and receive the CO.  Keep a copy of the CO and related drawings in a safe place.

Article written by and courtesy of Garry Brinton, CFM. Mr. Brinton is Principal of FP+A, Inc. located in Harrisburg, PA. (717) 221-9700

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