Certificate of Occupancy

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A document issued by a local building orzoningauthority to the owner of premises attesting that the premises have been built and maintained according to the provisions of building or zoning ordinances, such as those that govern the number of fire exits or the safety of electrical wiring.

A certificate of occupancy is evidence that the building complies substantially with the plans and specifications that have been submitted to, and approved by, the local authority. It complements a building permit—a document that must be filed by the applicant with the local authority before construction to indicate that the proposed construction will adhere to zoning laws.

In legal practice, the requirement that a certificate of occupancy be presented on the day of closing is usually attached as a rider to a contract for the sale of a house or building. If the seller is unable to present the certificate of occupancy the buyer may refuse to complete the sale.

Some cities require that a landlord file a certificate of occupancy for apartments to be leased. This requirement is designed to prevent a building's deterioration to such an extent that it could expose its tenants to risks to their health and lives. Each time an apartment is vacated, an inspector from an appropriate government agency—such as the housing authority—inspects the apartment to make sure that it meets minimum standards of habitability. If the apartment does not, the inspector may issue a warning to the landlord to correct the violation within a certain period of time or the landlord will be prevented from leasing the apartment.