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The listings featured at the bottom are all in new developments that have received their Certificate of Occupancy (611 West 56th Street, #20B - Corcoran Sunshine Marketing Group) The listings featured at the bottom are all in new developments that have received their Certificate of Occupancy (611 West 56th Street, #20B - Corcoran Sunshine Marketing Group)
Whether you’re a renter, owner, shareholder, or landlord, understanding the purpose of a Certificate of Occupancy, how to obtain or locate one, and its impacts on financing and leasing is essential. This article also discusses what to do if you discover you're currently living in a building that lacks a Certificate of Occupancy or an acceptable alternative.

Certificate of Occupancy (CO) versus Temporary Certificate of Occupancy (TCO)

A Certificate of Occupancy (CO) is a document that verifies the “legal use and/or type of permitted occupancy of a building.” All new buildings require a CO to be occupied. When a building changes its use, egress, or type of occupancy, it must obtain a new or amended CO, unless the alterations are minor. Although no one is permitted to occupy a building without a CO, there are a few exceptions.

In some cases, a building may have a Temporary Certificate of Occupancy (TCO) rather than a CO. A TCO is issued when the Department of Buildings has determined that a building is safe to occupy but still has one or more outstanding issues that need to be resolved before a final CO can be issued. In addition, buildings built or altered before 1938, when COs were not yet required, can be occupied, but only if they have a Letter of No Objection. A Letter of No Objection functions much like a CO as it verifies that the "proposed or actual use of the building complies with New York City Building Codes and Zoning Resolutions.”

How to obtain a Certificate of Occupancy

If you’re a developer or individual owner who intends to rent out one or more units in your building, you’ll need a CO. In order to obtain one, however, you will first need to complete a number of other inspections. As detailed on the NYC Department of Buildings’ website, to obtain a CO, you must first get signs-offs on the following:
  • Final construction inspection
  • Final plumbing inspection
  • Final elevator inspection
  • Final electrical inspection
  • Final building survey
  • Final builders' pavement plan (BPP)

In addition, you must have no open applications or violations, have completed an Owner’s Cost Affidavit (PW3), and have an approved Schedule of Occupancy filed in the DOB NOW: Build.

The impact of Certificates of Occupancy on financing and leasing

COs aren't just issued to let tenants know that the building they are moving into as a renter, owner, or shareholder is safe to inhabit. COs also impact two important transactions. On the rental side of the market, it is illegal for a landlord to collect rent on an apartment that doesn't have a CO, correct CO, or an acceptable alternative (e.g., a TCO or Letter of No Objection). This means that if a renter runs a check on their building and discovers there is no CO on file, technically, they are not obliged to pay rent until the building's owner has corrected the problem. On the buyer and seller side of the market, COs also play a critical role since banks will not give final approval for a mortgage until they have an accurate CO or acceptable alternative on file.

How and why to find a building’s Certificate of Occupancy

While owners of condos and coops are unlikely to find themselves living in a building without a CO or Letter of No Objection due to financing regulations, renters sometimes do find themselves living in buildings without the proper paperwork. Telltale signs that you may be living in a building without a CO, TCO, or Letter of No Objection include gas appliances that have never been hooked up and elevators that have never worked.

The only way to know for certain whether or not your building has a CO or acceptable alternative on file is to run a search on the Department of Buildings website. For buildings that would have filed for a certificate prior to March 1, 2021, use the Building Information Search on the Buildings Information System (BIS). Once you type in the address, if a CO has been issued, it will appear. For newer buildings, use the address search on DOB NOW.


For buildings completed before 1938, contact the Department of Buildings’ local borough to request a copy of the building's Letter of No Objection.

What to do if you're living in a building without a Certificate of Occupancy

This brings us to a final and most important question—what should you do if you find out you're occupying a building without a CO or acceptable alternative? Like all other problems, you can report buildings with missing or inaccurate certification to the City of New York by dialing 311 or issuing a complaint on the 311 website.

If you do alert the authorities and the subsequent investigation confirms you're living in a building with no CO, TCO, or Letter of No Objection, you should be prepared to relocate immediately. If a building is missing this paperwork or has failed to update its CO after a major alteration, the Department of Buildings will likely issue a vacate order. Once the order has been issued, all tenants will be required to leave the premises. Those that require emergency housing will be directed to a local shelter. In addition, in most cases, tenants will not have time to pack up all their belongings prior to the vacate order going into effect. In buildings that are exceptionally unsafe, tenant belongings may be packed up by city workers and put into storage until they can be retrieved. For details on vacate orders, visit the Department of Buildings FAQ page on the subject. Fortunately, all of the following listings are located in buildings that have recently received their COs or TCOs.


Tribeca Green, #5D (Corcoran Sunshine Marketing Group)

46 Kossuth Place, #PHC (Corcoran Group)

Twenty First Street Condominium, #4B (Compass)

Eastlight, #PHB (Corcoran Sunshine Marketing Group)

61 North Henry Street, #6 (Corcoran Group)

Greene, #PH3C (Nest Seekers LLC)

611 West 56th Street, #20B (Corcoran Sunshine Marketing Group)

The Cortland, #9CW (CORE Group Marketing LLC)

101 West 14th Street, #PH1B (Compass)
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Contributing Writer Cait Etherington Cait Etherington has over twenty years of experience working as a journalist and communications consultant. Her articles and reviews have been published in newspapers and magazines across the United States and internationally. An experienced financial writer, Cait is committed to exposing the human side of stories about contemporary business, banking and workplace relations. She also enjoys writing about trends, lifestyles and real estate in New York City where she lives with her family in a cozy apartment on the twentieth floor of a Manhattan high rise.