A Certificate of Occupancy (CO) is a type of permit that is required for any residential, rental, commercial, or hybrid property: any building that people live or work in. These are essential for hotels before they can open after a new build or renovation.
A CO proves that your property can legally be used as a hotel. It also shows that the building is up-to-code and safe for people to stay and work in. It says that you’ve complied with all local building codes and passed every inspection.
As a hotelier, all of your properties will require a CO before opening. When you buy a property, even if it was a licensed hotel before, you will have to get a new CO.
When conducting a new build or any significant renovations, you will need a CO before re-opening. If you choose to renovate a portion of your guest rooms while keeping another portion occupied, you will need a Temporary CO for the rooms that will remain occupied. The inspections in this case will be to ensure that the renovations don’t compromise the safety of the other rooms.
A CO is not as simple as most other permits, but absolutely necessary. Rather than one inspection, it requires many inspections which can take place at different stages in the construction or renovation process. You cannot obtain a CO until your property is complete, but you should stay on top of the process and be sure to schedule different inspections as soon as possible. For example, you do not technically need to have obtained a CO to move furniture into your hotel, but the gas and waterline inspections need to take place before you hook any appliances up to those lines. Because of the nature of this certification, you will want to begin planning for it and communicating with your local government from the very beginning of your project. That way you can have each inspection done as soon as possible, give yourself time to make changes if necessary, and avoid project delays.
The inspections you need to pass are: electrical system, plumbing system, fire safety, HVAC system, mechanical system and general building inspections. You will need to pass them all before you can get your CO. If you fail one you can make the necessary changes and have it re-done, but this could delay your project and you will have to pay the inspection fee again.
Each city has their own CO standards and regulations. You have to apply for a CO with the local government and they will hire and send inspectors.
The owner of the hotel is responsible to obtain the CO before it is opened and therefore responsible for paying the fine if that doesn’t happen. Depending on the local authority procedure, you can be sued by the local government, receive a fine, or both. In the case of a fine, the amount increases for each day that the property was open without a CO. This means that the longer you get away with it, the more trouble you’re in.
You now have all of the information you need to begin the process of obtaining your CO. Start planning at the beginning of your project, go to the local government where your hotel is being built, plan inspections as soon as possible, and absolutely do not open before you’ve got it.
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