Certificate of Occupancy

Whether it is for a new building, an addition or alterations, having your building plan approved and the building work done is not the last task you have to take care of - you still need to approach the town council for a ‘Certificate of Occupancy’ before you can move in and settle down.

A Certificate of Occupancy is only issued once all building work has been done according to the supplied building plans, and all the contractors such as the electrician, plumber, engineer etc. have provided their compliance certificates stating that their work complies to the relevant standards. (The building inspector will supply you with a list of certificates that is needed for your class of building).

Why do you need a Certificate of Occupancy?

The short answer is that the law requires it.
The longer answer is that this document is only issued after the building has been thoroughly inspected and is deemed safe. It is thus a safeguard for your family or business, and your peace of mind.
Your bank also has a say in this - after all, most properties are mortgaged, and the banks want to protect their investments.

What happens if I don’t get this Certificate of Occupancy?

To start off with, your newly approved building plan will lapse a year after being approved. That’s right - building plans lapse!
You have to start work within a year, and you have to call the building inspector to do regular inspections. (The building inspector or local town council will supply you with a document detailing which phases of the building work needs to be signed off).
Also note that, should you have any insurance claim such as for a fire, for instance, an insurer could refuse to pay out if they find that your building was occupied without this certificate.

So I cannot move in without this document?

Under certain conditions, you can apply for a temporary certificate of occupancy.

How do I get a Certificate of Occupancy?

Your builder or project manager should get this Certificate of Occupancy for you once all work has been done.
If your building plan is for work that was done without building plans, and for which the building plans were done retrospectively, you will need to approach the building control office of your local council to obtain said certificate. The certificate will only be issued once all engineer, plumbing, electrical etc certificates have been provided.
Once you have this Certificate of Occupancy, file it away safely!

A last note
Building and alterations can mean a lot of things, from changing a single wall in a small house to building a brand-new skyscraper, therefore this document is by no means exhaustive, it is here merely as an informative piece to describe what Certificates of Occupancy are and why they are needed.


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