What Is a Certificate of Occupation and Why Do You Need It?

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The process of building a home is more complicated and technical than people initially think. Other than the planning, looking for land for sale, gathering materials, and other construction-related tasks, there are legal papers and documents to take care of. One of those is the certificate of occupancy.

For first-time homeowners, this might be their first time hearing of it. Building your first home is overwhelming on its own. Learning what you can as early as now can help you better understand the legal process later on. To add, you will never get caught off guard with the extra fees for processing certain documents and certificates. The certificate of occupancy does require a processing fee, but it also requires other documents. Here’s what you need to know about it.

What Is a Certificate of Occupancy and What Is It For?

Before going any further, you should know what this certificate is for. A Certificate of Occupancy (COO) is required before an occupant moves into their home after it’s been built or altered. Having this certificate signifies that the building meets the standards of safe occupancy. This includes habitable buildings such as residential houses, hostels, residential buildings, health care buildings, aged care buildings, and more (i.e., Classes 1 to 9).

How Do You Get a COO?

The first step to any application of some sort is to gather the requirements. But generally, requirements include documentation, certificates, and the like required by the building certifier, council, and other relevant authority. It may also depend on the type of building and its intended use. Other than that, it requires a fee and application forms. There is no formal list of requirements for filing a Certificate of Occupancy. However, relevant authorities are expected to use their professional judgment in deciding whether a building is fit for occupancy. Be sure to cover the bases on safety protocols and guidelines for construction, as this significantly helps in getting approved.

How Do You Get Approved for a COO?

The process for getting a COO is a lengthy yet straightforward one. After the Certificate of Occupancy has been submitted to the issuing relevant authority, it will go through a validation process wherein g the said authority may contact the applicant if there is more information needed for the application. Only after the applicant has supplied the additional information will the relevant authority continue processing the application. Then, the acting authority will require a fee to issue the COO. However, it does not stop there. After the COO has been issued, the relevant authority will have five working days to reject the application. If otherwise happens, then the COO will officially be issued, and the applicant will be notified of this completion.

The relevant authority will ask for a fire report in addition to the documents and fee. This report is documentation that holds a fire safety plan for the layout of the construction. There will be 15 working days to provide this documentation.  Once all that is done, the applicant will be able to download the certificate online. However, an appeal should be filed within 28 days after receiving the refusal notice if the application is rejected.

Building Owners’ Obligations

Other than acquiring the legal documents, in this case, the COO, the owners should adhere to it, too. The standards and any restrictions on the COO must be followed by every building owner. Habitable buildings must have a COO clearly posted as close as possible to the main entrance. It is the responsibility of the building owners to ensure that this should be done. Class 1a buildings and class 10 buildings or constructions are exempt from these conditions.

For apartment buildings and other similar structures, building owners should include the COO’s criteria in the rental or lease agreement. If the owner does not follow the criteria of a COO, the local government may take action against them. The owner will be subjected to legal consequences. If the enforcement action is disregarded or disobeyed, fines may be applied as well. It’s important to note that there are other documents that are needed for such buildings.

The Bottom Line

Long story short, a certified habitable building implies safety for its occupants. Every home and building that’s built with safety in mind should be certified for safe use. Not only is this complying with the legal requirements, but it gives confidence to the occupants that their home is a safe space for them to live in. At the end of the day, that’s what everyone wants.

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