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How to Get a Certificate of Occupancy

Although the general requirements vary by municipality, here's what to expect when applying for a certificate of occupancy for your new building.


  • Step 1: Apply for the certificate. Make sure you have all the required paperwork, including any necessary permits or licenses. Include the required fee and any site plans.
  • Step 2: Wait while your application is processed. Receive the issued certificate and display it accordingly. All the inspectors have to sign off in order for the certificate of occupancy to be issued, but with those signatures in hand, you are a legal occupant.
  • FACT: New York City issued its historic Zoning Resolution, the first zoning law in the United States, in 1916.
  • TIP: Many departments require you request an inspection at least 20 business days before the planned opening.
  • Step 3: Request an inspection and meet the inspector at the site. Bring the approved plans. Afterward, the inspector will let you know which fire, building, safety, plumbing, and electrical violations need to be corrected.
  • Step 4: Get a temporary certificate of occupancy. This allows you to work on site while construction continues.
  • TIP: Many zoning applications are available online. Check your local zoning web site for directions on how to fill out online paperwork.
  • Step 5: Check with your local zoning and planning department to make sure that your building site meets all state and local requirements. Look at any potential restrictions that could impact your business and complete all code work.

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