Navigating Certificates of Occupancy, Temporary Certificates and Letters of No Objection

Building and renovating in New York is no piece of cake as you probably already know. There’s a lot more to the whole process than just applying for a permit. In order to perform any construction that will change the use of a building you’ll first need one of the following three documents from your borough’s DOB: a Certificate of Occupancy, a Temporary Certificate of Occupancy or a Letter of No Objection.


If you are working on a project that involves changing a structure’s use, occupancy, or egress (means of exit), you must obtain a Certificate of Occupancy. This will be on record at the DOB for all buildings built after 1938 and for some built before. For example, builders need a certificate of occupancy if they plan to convert an industrial building to a residential building, or a 2-family unit to a 3-family unit. The basic purpose of these certificates is to state what the structure will be used for and prove that the structure is suitable for everyday use.


If the structure you are working with is mostly converted to its new use, occupancy, or exit design, but there is minor construction still going on, you can apply for a Temporary Certificate of Occupancy (TCO). TCOs last for 90 days and can be renewed. Builders and homeonwers should be careful though, TCOs are renewable, but not forever. Some borough DOBs will only renew for a set number of times before they let a TCO expire. Once a TCO expires it is very hard to obtain a new one.

If you are purchasing a property, it is strongly advised that you do not buy while the structure is under a TCO. If a Temporary Certificate of Occupancy expires, it’s also almost impossible to get things like mortgages refinanced and insurance. Make sure your seller does all that’s needed to get a permanent Certificate of Occupancy before you buy.

In New York, if you are working on a property built BEFORE 1938, and there is no Certificate of Occupancy on record for the building you’ll need to apply for a Letter of No Objection instead. A Letter of No Objection basically states that the DOB has no objection to you changing the use, occupancy, or egress of a building. Once you have this letter and your construction is complete, then you can apply for a Certificate of Occupancy and the Letter of Objection becomes null and void.


Agencies like the liquor authority and consumer affairs, and some banks usually require Letters of No Objection on older properties.

You can research construction records yourself online with the DOB’s Building Information Services, or you can use a permit expediting service like S & M to do the legwork for you. Builders, Engineers and Contractors might be more interested in hiring a permit expeditor but homeowners can also save themselves a lot of time and trouble by using an expediter.

Need help applying for COs, TCOs, and Letters of No Objection? Call us today at 718-833-2333.