What is a Certificate of Occupancy (“C of O” or “CO”)?
A Certificate of Occupancy is a document utilized by the New York City Department of Buildings that legally classify a building’s legal use, status, and type of permitted occupancy. For example, a CO will classify a property as a residential, commercial, or mixed-use building. The CO will also contain the number of residences or units that are permitted in the building. Overall, this legal document authenticates that a property is safe for occupancy. A Temporary CO is issued, typically in 90-day increments, when a property is deemed safe for occupancy, but the property has outstanding work or permits that must be obtained before the DOB can issue a permanent CO. New York City did not require CO’s until approximately 1938. As such, some buildings built prior to 1938 do not have one. In place of a valid CO, I-Cards may be recognized as the legal record of existing occupancy. Sometimes, buildings with an I-Card may require the issuance of a CO, if the structure has been altered or converted after the last date listed on the I-Card. Interim Multiple Dwelling (“IMD”) buildings also don’t have CO’s. An IMD is a non-residential building that has been occupied as a Residential Building, without a CO for Residential apartments. IMD’s must be converted to legal NYC Multiple Dwellings in accordance with the Loft Board’s rules and regulations.
What is a Letter of No Objection in NYC?
Essentially, a Letter of No Objection (LONO) is a legal document issued by the New York City DOB to confirm the legal status of a structure built prior to January 1, 1938. Specifically, some buildings typically do not have a CO on file with the DOB because, as mentioned previously, buildings constructed prior to 1938 were not required to have a CO. Additionally, a LONO is required for all proposed construction work in IMD buildings, no matter who requested the work that is going to be performed. To get a LONO from the NYC Loft Board, an owner must be following all applicable Loft Board rules.
If you are considering purchasing a building that was built prior to 1938, you are not required to have a CO or a LONO on file in order to buy the property. Most standard purchasing contracts include boilerplate language that simply states that if a seller is unable to obtain a valid certificate of occupancy because one is not available, this requirement may be waived.
The most common reason that a LONO is requested is to verify the legal use and status of a building before an owner or developer files an alteration application with the Department of Buildings.
An owner may also request a LONO to satisfy a requirement or request from a lender, insurer, or prospective buyer.
Finally, a LONO may be required even if the property has a current CO if the building has a different legal use than what is stated on the certificate of occupancy or in the building records.
It is extremely common in New York City for buildings not to have a certificate of occupancy because a lot of buildings were built prior to January 1, 1938, when a COs was not required.
What is the process for obtaining a letter of no objection from the NYC DOB?
The most common and fastest way to obtain a letter of objection from the Department of buildings is to hire an expediter. The expediter will work directly with the Department of buildings on your behalf and submit all the paperwork necessary in place of completing the application yourself. Typically, expediters can complete the process of receiving a letter of no objections around in one month.
The expediter will submit the following documents
In order for the New York City DOB to issue a valid letter of no objection, the property must belong to the same “use group” as outlined in the city’s zoning resolution. Additionally, the building must also have what is called an occupancy group. The expediter will submit the following documents for buildings that do have a current CO on file. The application states that structures without a CO must attach the following documents to their application when requesting a Letter of No Objection:
- Copy of Property Profile as well as a list of Job Filings
- Block & Lot Folder Plans/Microfilm
- *For 3-family + Dwellings, residential or mixed-use, the Department of Housing, Preservation, and Development (“HPD”) printout listing the total number of units, the HPD MDR number, and any available I-Cards, if possible.
- the DOB may also want a field inspection if it deems it necessary
The application states that buildings that already have a valid CO must attach the following documents to their application when applying for a Letter of No Objection from the DOB:
- A copy of the most recent CO
- Copies of the Property Profile and a list of Job filings
Additionally, the DOB requires for IMD buildings that:
- The yearly IMD registration must be current.
- All delinquent fines and fees must be paid (or an agreement for payment must have been executed, and the owner must be following the payment arrangement); and
- Owners must demonstrate that all reasonable and necessary steps are being taken to legalize the IMD apartments within the building in accordance with the Loft Board Rules.