What You Need To Know About A Certificate Of Occupancy in NYC

So you decided to move to New York City or you already found the perfect place.

That’s great news! NYC can open so many new opportunities and experiences, just on one little island. Something to know about before you move in is a Certificate of Occupancy or C of O, for short, or CO, for even shorter. Keep reading below to find out more and why it’s important.

What is a certificate of occupancy and what does it mean?

A Certificate of Occupancy is a document that identifies how a building can be used, for example, how the building is zoned for use—be it commercial or residential—and how many households can be accommodated at the address. 

C of O shows that a property complies with local building and safety codes. It’s required to be presented by the seller (or landlord, in the case of tenants) when buying or renting a property. Without it, banks may not approve a mortgage, renters may be able to withhold rent, and cities may order a vacate order due to unsafe living conditions.

Where and How to obtain a certificate of occupancy?

Your local Department of Buildings can issue a C of O. You can also look up and find the status of any property’s Certificate of Occupancy or TCO through the city’s Buildings Information System

A temporary certificate of occupancy or TCO, means a building is safe to inhabit but still has some outstanding work to do or permits to obtain before a C of O is granted. Either document is fine but it’s good to know which one is attached to your property or apartment. 

Is a Certificate of Occupancy required in New York State?

New buildings must have a CO, and existing buildings must have a current or amended CO that meets the certificate of occupancy requirements. No one may legally occupy a building until a CO or TCO has been issued.

If you’re in the process of buying an apartment or townhome and discovered it doesn’t have a CO or a TCO, you will want to handle it before you proceed to do anything else. “You don’t want to inherit other people’s legal messes,” says Dean Roberts, a real estate attorney at the firm Norris McLaughlin

Problems or delays can derail the mortgage process. Banks need at least a TCO to issue financing. Usually, any C of O problem will surface in the title search. One solution could be to have the seller put money aside in escrow to allow you to fix the problem if you can’t find the money right away to process the necessary documents.

I am a renter, who is responsible for the certificate of occupancy?

If you’re a renter, the burden is on your landlord. They will need to correct any missing documentation if it is not present. 

Hint: They can’t collect rent from you if there’s no C of O or TCO. 

Buying into a New Development in New York

Certificate of Occupancy problems also tends to pop up for buyers in new construction buildings. It’s common for a new development in New York that has a TCO but can’t finalize a certificate of occupancy until the project is completed. It may be worth assessing an extra 3 months to the date the developer gives you, to avoid the annoyance and expenses that rise with a delayed move-in date. 

We also want to remind you that in your contract for an apartment in new construction, there may be a clause to allow you to get out of the purchase. If the closing does not happen by a particular date and/or the certification of occupancy or TCO is delayed beyond that date, you may be able to walk away from the deal. 

Something like this may never even come up as an issue for you, especially if you’re working with a buyer’s or seller’s agent, but it never hurts to be armed with information. If you choose to work with us, we’d do most of this kind of digging for you (and your a-team!). Get in touch today!


If you’re interested in learning more about the buying or selling process, download our free Buying Into Brooklyn Ebook or Seller’s Guide. We share a ton of valuable resources to demystify Brooklyn real-estate and give you all the information you need!

Share Page