When buying or selling real estate, especially an apartment building, be sure to check the Certificate of Occupancy to make sure the property is legal and in compliance to all laws and regulations. If not, there may be a hefty price to pay in terms of fines and legal headaches. Here’s why the Certificate of Occupancy is so important.
What is a certificate of occupancy?
A certificate of occupancy is a document issued by a local government agency or building department. It certifies that a building is in compliance with all applicable building codes and laws. It usual indicates that the condition of the property is suitable for occupancy.
Why get a certificate of occupancy?
Generally, most people obtain a certificate of occupancy for the following reasons:
Construction of new building
Converting the use of the property. For example, converting an apartment to a retail.
Change in occupancy of the property
Change in ownership of the property
How to obtain a certificate of occupancy in Los Angeles?
If there is already a certificate of occupancy issued for a property, owners can log onto the Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety (LADBS) website to find a downloadable copy of the certificate of occupancy on file. Keep in mind that prior to 1923, the LADBS were not required to issue a Certificate of Occupancy for any structure. Also, prior to 1943, the LABBS was not required to issue the Certificate of Occupancy for single family homes and duplexes.
If the file is not locatable on the LADBS website, property owners can contact LADBS directly regarding the issuance or recovery of the certificate of occupancy.
Overall, the Certificate of Occupancy plays a vital role in the value of the property. When the current use of the property is not legal, it may lead to forced demolition, high fines, and/or code enforcement liens making it difficult to buy or sell the property. Therefore, it is important to verify the Certificate of Occupancy when buying or selling real estate.