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Certificate of Occupancy and Zoning FAQs

What do I need to know about Certificates of Occupancy?

1. What is a certificate of occupancy (C of O) and when is it required?
The purpose of a Certificate of Occupancy (C of O) is to ensure that the use of a building, structure or land in the District of Columbia conforms to the Zoning Regulations (DCMR Title 11) and the DC Construction Code (DCMR Title 12A), and the Green Building Act. Per DCMR title 12A Section 110.3 no person can use a building, structure or land in the District of Columbia for any purpose other than a single family dwelling, until a valid C of O has been issued.

2. What are the types of C of O applications?

There are six (6) types of C of O applications: ownership change, use change, occupant load change, revision, temporary occupancy, and new building. For new buildings, there are three (3) C of O subsets: conditional, completion of core and shell, and establishment of a new occupancy. The new C of O platform, Certifi, will guide you through each of these application types.

3. What supporting documents must I submit with my C of O application??

Reference the list of C of O supporting documents here. Please note, it is possible that additional documents may be requested during the review process.

Additionally, if the existing C of O for the property was issued prior to 2008, you must upload a copy of the document when you apply.  In the past,  C of Os were issued with a B permit number, such as B163213, as in the below example:

4. What is required to be submitted for properties that are subject to a Board of Zoning Adjustment (BZA) or Zoning Commission (ZC) Order?

For buildings and properties subject to a Zoning Commission (ZC) or Board of Zoning Adjustment (BZA) approval, the Office of Zoning Administration will verify the applicant’s compliance with the conditions of the Order prior to the approval of a C of O. The applicant is required to provide a letter or matrix, with attachments as necessary, from the property owner that documents compliance with the conditions of the Order. This information must be submitted to DOB with the C of O application. Be sure to upload this information along with the other supporting documents when you apply for a C of O, or your application will be deemed incomplete, and it will not be accepted by DOB for review.

5. What information is required to be submitted for properties that have been inspected by a third party agency?

If the applicant used a Third-Party Inspection Agency (TPIA) to perform inspections, the TPIA must submit all inspection reports, including Special Inspections when applicable, to DOB via Tertius, our one-stop shop inspections marketplace. DOB policy and procedures for the use of TPIAs can be found here.

6. What inspections by DOB are required for a C of O to be issued?

A C of O inspection will be required for all application types. This inspection will verify that use and occupant load is in conformance with any previously issued permit or C of O, and will verify fire life safety measures are in compliance. DOB’s zoning division and fire-structural division may request an inspection; if this is the case, the inspections will occur simultaneously on the date you selected for the inspection.

7. What is the review timeframe for a C of O application?

For change of ownership applications where the only change is the owner/operator, and there is no change to the approved use, load, or occupied square footage, and where an inspection is not required, the service level agreement (SLA) time frame for DOB review is one (1) business day. For all other types of applications, e.g., use or load change, temporary or conditional, new construction and core and shell, the SLA is seven (7) business days from the date that the application is accepted for review. Please note that if a particular division or agency has questions or requests additional information, the SLA clock will stop until the customer has responded. An SLA clock is a feature in our new Certifi platform that will show the status of the overall review for each C of O application.

What can I expect after a C of O application has been accepted for review?

Email notifications will be sent to the applicant, or to the applicant’s agent, at each step of the process:

  1. As soon as the application has been accepted, it will be routed for concurrent review to the required divisions and the Department of Energy and Environment (DOEE), if applicable.

  2. Following the completion and approval of all reviews, and once all required inspections have been passed, the C of O certificate will be available in draft form for the applicant’s review.

  3. Once the applicant accepts the draft and pays the  C of O fees, the finalized C of O document will be available for download at any time.

Please note that a C of O does not take the place of any license that may be required to permit you to conduct your business at the premises for which a C of O is requested. For information concerning license requirements, please contact the Department of Licensing and Consumer Protection (DLCP) by phone at 202-671-4500 or via email at [email protected].

What do I need to know about Conditional C of Os and Core and Shell C of Os?

1. What is a conditional certificate of occupancy (CCO)?
A conditional certificate of occupancy (CCO) authorizes the conditional use and occupancy of a space/building that is still under construction or phased construction per DCMR Title 12A section 110.4.3. A Core and Shell C of O is required to be issued before a CCO is issued. A Core and Shell C of O does not allow occupancy of the building.

2. What additional documents are required for a conditional certificate of occupancy?

In addition to the documents required for a certificate of occupancy application listed in this link, you will need to follow the Conditional Certificate of Occupancy Guidelines and provide any and all required information.

3. What is a core and shell certificate of occupancy?

A core and shell certificate of occupancy is for new construction and major renovation that will have tenant spaces or will be applying for a conditional certificate of occupancy. It does not authorize occupancy of the space/building per DCMR Title 12A section 110.2. DOB will also issue a Core and Shell C of O if requested by the owner for financing or other reasons.

4. What are the requirements for a core and shell certificate of occupancy?

Please reference DCMR 12 section 110.2 Letter of Core and Shell Completion.

Per DCMR 12A Chapter 2, an occupiable Space is a room or enclosed space designed for human occupancy in which individuals congregate for amusement, educational or similar purposes or in which occupants are engaged at labor, and which is equipped with means of egress and light and ventilation facilities meeting the requirements of this code.

A core and shell is a certificate of occupancy issued that does not allow occupancy. It allows tenant spaces to be unoccupied until a tenant and use is defined for that space. Unoccupied spaces must meet all the requirements of the DC Construction Code for unoccupied spaces.

While a conditional certificate of occupancy already has a defined use, but some areas or scope of work is incomplete, this certificate of occupancy allows occupancy of permitted spaces under certain circumstances as defined by DOB and the DC Municipal Regulations.

All permits, including MEPs, are required to have final inspections for the issuance of a core and shell C of O. Any spaces that are left as shell or unoccupied also need to have inspections and must meet minimum unoccupied space requirements listed throughout the DC Construction Code.

A core and shell certificate of occupancy must include:

Building, Mechanical, Electrical, Plumbing Final or Core and Shell Inspection

Elevator Final Inspection

Boiler Final Inspection when applicable

Final Report of Special Inspections when applicable

All building, mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and other issued permits require inspections, to include energy inspections per DCMR 12 Section 109 and green inspections when applicable.

Complete and inspected Distributed Antenna System when applicable.

Complete air and weather tight envelope, to include complete installation of all envelope materials.

Inspected and functional fire alarm and sprinkler system.

Unobstructed and functional egress.

Inspected and functional common restrooms and water fountain on each floor.

5. When should I consider and plan for phased occupancy?
The best time to consider the future phased occupancy of the proposed building is during the design phase. DOB encourages owners to consult with their design professionals to develop building plans that will support phased occupancy. If questions arise during this process, the applicant can request a Preliminary Design Review Meeting (PDRM) to discuss questions with technical staff. To schedule a PDRM, please visit DOB's website at dob.dc.gov/pdrm. Conditional certificates of occupancy are a good option for phased occupancy.

6. What is the process to obtain a C of O for phased occupancy?
A project completes work under a Core and Shell building permit and then applies for and obtains a Core and Shell C of O. This ensures that life safety systems are in place. After the Core and Shell C of O is issued, a final or conditional certificate of occupancy can be applied for each space in the building as it is completed. See examples below:

Examples of Phased Occupancy:

1. A 10-story new spec office building with a grocery store on the first floor and one tenant who secured plans for occupying the 9th and 10th floors. Additionally, a 3-story underground parking garage is being built first. The developer would like to have tenants occupy spaces as they come online.Process

i. The parking garage is completed first under a building permit.

ii. The Core and Shell building is completed under a building permit.

The owner applies for and receives a Core and Shell C of O. No spaces can be occupied under a Core and Shell C of O, but the owner may apply for a CCO to partially occupy the building.

The owner applies and receives a CCO to use the parking garage. If the owner wants to use the garage before the Core and Shell C of O is complete, they can apply for a CCO for the garage space only.

The grocery store is completed under a tenant layout permit.

The grocery store applies for and receives a C of O to occupy the grocery store.

The 9th and 10th-floor tenant completes work under a tenant layout permit.

The tenant applies for and receives a C of O for the 9th and 10th floor only.

To note, all the certificate of occupancies that are being received, are the final C of Os for those spaces.

As the 2nd-8th floors are completed under a series of building permits, each separate tenant will be required to receive a C of O.

None of the C of O issued for the spaces above are “conditional”. They are the final C of O for those spaces. If there were conditions, then they would be issued as CCOs that would allow for the spaces to be occupied for a period until the conditions can be fulfilled.

A 10-story mixed-use multifamily building with three retail spaces and a restaurant/bar on the first floor. Floors 2-10 are all multifamily residential spaces and the owner plans on finishing it one floor at a time.ProcessThe Core and Shell building is completed under a building permit.

The owner applies for and receives a Core and Shell certificate of occupancy. No portion of the building may be occupied under a Core and Shell C of O.

After the Core and Shell C of O has been issued, the applicant may apply for a CCO to occupy the leasing office.

Build-out of the three retail spaces and the restaurant/bar space is completed under four separate tenant layout permits.

The operators of each retail and restaurant/bar apply for and receive a C of O to occupy their respective spaces.

The owner finishes one residential floor at a time starting with the 2 and 3rd floors under one building permit.

As each floor is finished, a CCO is applied for and received for each floor.

After all the multifamily floors (2-10) are completed, a final C of O is applied for that covers the 2-10 floors. The final C of O would also note the presence of any IZ units by unit number, the total square footage of the retail/restaurant space, and any below grade parking.

New 5 Story Hotel and the owner wants to occupy floors as they are completed.Process

The process will be the same as the multifamily building described.

7. What are green requirements for a CCO?

Green Building Act (GBA) projects must demonstrate the building is on track to certification. Privately-funded GBA projects must also provide a financial security. Green Construction Code (GCC) projects must have conducted a Rough and Final Green and Energy Inspection along with providing all applicable documents. GCC inspections must be conducted by a DOB building inspector, or an approved Third-Party Agency specifically approved for Green and Energy Inspections.

8. May multiple CCOs be issued for a single building permit?
Yes. For example, if the owner of a multi-family building would like to partially occupy units before the construction is complete, the owner or his/her designated agent may apply for a CCO as floors of the building are ready to be occupied. For a development with an inclusionary zoning (IZ) requirement, a proportion of market and IZ units must be provided and you will be asked to provide information regarding the number of IZ or affordable dwelling units in the building.

9. What is the maximum number of CCOs which may be issued for a project?
An applicant is encouraged to limit the number of CCOs for which they apply; however, there currently is no maximum number. A final C of O that lists all floors, below grade parking, IZ units (if required), and ground floor retail (if provided) must be obtained prior to the expiration of the last CCO.

10. What is the length of a CCO?
Typically a CCO is issued for 30, 60, or 90 days, as recommended by the applicant’s inspection agency. The CCO will bear an expiration date by which time the conditions of the CCO must be met. If the applicant is unable to satisfy the conditions under which the CCO was granted, the applicant should apply for another CCO, with a letter from the Third-Party Agency explaining the reasons for which the conditions could not be met and providing a date by which they will be resolved. Advise DOB if you have a special circumstance which you feel warrants a CCO of greater than 90 days; these circumstances are considered on a case-by-case basis.

11. How long after an applicant submits a CCO application will an inspection be scheduled?
The applicant will be prompted to schedule the inspection at the time of application submittal. The applicant may select a date as soon as four (4) days from submittal or after at their convenience. A passed inspection is required for the C of Oto be issued.

12. What steps are necessary if an applicant intends to operate a newly constructed parking garage prior to obtaining a C of O for the building?
The applicant shall obtain a CCO to occupy the garage while the construction of the rest of the building continues. A Core and Shell C of O is not required to occupy the garage.

13. Is it permissible to start construction on a Tenant Layout (TL) permit prior to issuance of the Core and Shell C of O?
Yes, once the TL permit has been issued, construction may begin. However, a Core and Shell C of O for the building must first be issued prior to issuance of either a conditional or final C of O for the tenant space.

14. If required, must the green roof be completed prior to the Core and Shell C of O?
In certain circumstances, an applicant may not be able to fully complete the installation of a green roof before the Core and Shell C of O is ready to be issued. In those cases, the applicant must contact DOEE and obtain their approval to delay the installation of the green roof. For example, the winter months may not be an appropriate time to install a green roof. Even if the Core and Shell C of O is issued with a partially installed green roof, the green roof must be fully installed prior to the issuance of the final C of O for the building.

15. What is required to obtain final Stormwater and GAR (Green Area Ratio) approval from DOEE, and must it occur prior to the issuance of a Core and Shell C of O or CCO?
-The operating guidance for I&EB Stormwater Management Plan (SWMP) sign-off on projects that require SWM Best Management Practices (BMPs) include:

-An approved DOEE final inspection for construction of the approved SWM BMPs and

-An “As-built Plan” is submitted to DOEE for review and is approved.

-The As-built plan is required to be submitted within 21 days of the Final Inspection. Upon approval of the As-built, a Final Approval Notice (FAN) is issued to the Stormwater Plan owner and their agents. The FAN represents final approval for SWMP compliance.

-With respect to projects where GAR is required, the completed Landscape Checklist is required to be completed by a certified Landscape Expert and forwarded to DOEE’s GAR Office. The completed Landscape Checklist represents final compliance for GAR required for inspection the I&EB. DOEE does not oppose the issuance of Core and Shell or CCO on projects where SWM is required but not completed; however, the applicant is advised that the final C of O will not be issued until the final SWMP inspection has occurred and the applicant has submitted the as-built plan to DOEE.

16. Is a C of O required for residential projects?
A C of O is required for residential buildings that consist of two or more dwelling units. A C of O is not required for a single-family dwelling. In the case of a single-family dwelling, an approved building final inspection is required prior to occupancy.

17. Is a C of O required for individual office tenants in an office building?
If a valid C of O has been issued for office use for the entire building, an individual office tenant is not required to obtain their own C of O. Occasionally, a tenant will want to obtain their own C of O for financing or other reasons. In those cases, DOB will issue a C of O after the applicant submits the application, pays the application fee, and provides a copy of their lease or letter from the property owner giving the applicant permission to apply for the C of O.

18. An existing office building with a valid C of O is fully renovated. Is a new C of O required?
If only interior renovations occurred, with no change to the layout, and the amount of square footage, use, occupant load, and the ownership of the building remains the same, a new C of O is not required.

 

Zoning Compliance Letter FAQs

What is a Zoning Determination Letter?

A Zoning Determination Letter is generated following a Preliminary Design Review Meeting (PDRM). A PDRM provides applicants with an exploratory review of their building plans or development proposals prior to a formal submission of a building permit application, and allows for a deeper detailed discussion in an effort to answer questions about the project. There is a cost associated with PDRMs. The result of a PDRM memorializes a Zoning Determination Letter for the applicant, based on the proposed project and its compliance with the zoning regulations.

To request a PDRM, click here. For more information or technical assistance, fill contact us via phone at 202-671-4500, via email by using our online inquiry form or using our live chat available at dob.dc.gov.

What is a Zoning Certification?

A Zoning Certification is also issued by the Office of the Zoning Administrator (OZA) to certify the zoning district and that the current use of a specified property is in compliance with the DC Zoning Regulations. These certifications are usually required in the Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA) process. To request a Zoning Certification fill out our online inquiry form and include “Request for Zoning Certification” under the How Can We Help section.

What is a Certification of Zoning?

Developers, architects, lawyers, realtors, tax assessors, land owners, and others in the land-use business often require definitive authentication of zoning classification of property for due diligence purposes. A Certification of Zoning is used as a means of gaining official written recognition of zoning from the DC Government.

A Certification of Zoning can be obtained by submitting a request through the Office of Zoning (OZ) online system IZIS. The response will be provided within ten (10) business days.
Per OZ procedure, the request must include the following:

  1. Name and address of the person making the request.
  2. Square and lot numbers of the property.
  3. Address of the property.

This process also involves the following:

  1. $50 fee
  2. A PDF copy of a plat (no larger than 11" x 17") of the property, prepared by the DC Surveyor or an engineer licensed in the District of Columbia.

Please note that the Office of Zoning is a separate DC Government agency, not part of DOB.  Contact the Office of Zoning at (202) 727-6311 or [email protected] for further information.

How do I pay fees using my Access DC Account?

  1. Create your Access DC Account, or log in if you are a returning customer.
  2. On the Blue Menu Bar, Click the "My Records" tab, to populate your record history.
  3. Under the "Action" section, select the appropriate permit number that matches the address for your Zoning Compliance Letter request.
  4. Click "Pay Fees Due"
  5. Under the "Applicable Fees" section, click "Checkout" to pay fees (Credit or Debit Card payments only)
  6. Verify fee amount under the "PAY NOW" section and click "Checkout."
  7. Complete fields.
  8. Click "Submit Payment" to receive a payment receipt. Your Zoning Compliance Letter will automatically be e-mailed to you electronically once your request has been reviewed and accepted in the system.

How do I submit a Zoning Compliance Letter Request?

  1.  Create your AccessDC Account, or log in if you are a returning customer. Access the Accela Citizen Portal
  2.  One the top left, select "Building" located on the Menu Bar.
  3.  Under the "Building" tab, select " Request a Building Permit, Shop Drawing Approval, Register with Vacant Building Enforcement, and Survey Plat."
  4.  Review and select the checkbox to agree to the general disclaimer and click "Continue Application."
  5.  Under "Select a Service Type," choose Zoning Compliance Letter," and click Continue Application.
  6.  Follow the system's prompts and notifications to complete your request.

Note: Once your request is approved in the system, you will receive an e-mail notification with instructions on paying the fees. After the fees are paid, the system will automatically issue the letter and e-mail a PDF copy to the address provided. The option for paying fees in the customer portal will not be visible until DOB has approved an applicant's request.