A Certificate of Occupancy (CO) is used to confirm that a new building has been inspected, and is ready for use by the intended occupants. The document is issued by a local government agency, typically the building department. It certifies that the building is in compliance with all local laws and building codes.
The builder is responsible for scheduling the final inspection, required to get sign-off on a certificate of occupancy (CO). At this point in the schedule, the builder wants to close as soon as possible so problems get fixed in hours. For example, my building inspector found one of the breakers in my electrical box was undersized. An electrician was there replacing it within an hour because the closing was two days away, so there was little time for the inspector to return and signoff.
Steps to Getting a Certificate of Occupancy
The certificate of occupancy is the last step in the process of building or remodeling.
- A building permit is taken out before work begins, to demonstrate that the work planned will follow local laws and building codes.
- One or more building inspections will take place during the project, until the CO is issued. There can be separate inspections for plumbing, electrical and HVAC, depending on the scope of the construction project.
- A final inspection is needed to confirm that all work is completed.
- Only then will a certificate of occupancy be issued.
This process provides homeowners who have little/no knowledge of building codes, with the assurance their new home is safe to occupy. It's also important because some home insurance policies will not pay claims for damage to a property that has not been approved for occupancy.
Sample Certificate of Occupancy (CO)
Every county has their own rules and forms for building permits, inspections and what's documented on the CO certificate. Here's one I found from Oregon (shown below) so you know it's easy to read and understand.
- Building permit number.
- Address of the structure.
- Name and address of the owner of the property.
- Description of the work
- Statement that the residence has been inspected, with reference to which code.
- Name of the building official performing the inspection.
- Any special conditions of the building permit.
- License and contact information for the contractors listed.
What Happens After CO Issued?
Once a builder gets their CO, they're ready to close. Hopefully you as the buyer have also gotten your home inspection done and most (ideally all) of items identified have been corrected. My advice … don't close on your home until your punchlist is complete or adequate funds are held in escrow to cover the cost of correcting outstanding problems!