Obtaining a temporary certificate of occupancy (TCO) is perhaps the most critical stage of the filing process for change of use projects. Without a TCO a building is not legally habitable. Many factors can prevent the acquisition of a TCO. The most critical, and often the most overlooked, is the signing off open applications with life safety work types.
The New York City Department of Buildings cannot issue a new TCO if a building has open applications with life safety work types. There are no exceptions or waivers. Sign off is the only recourse. This is problematic as many applications are difficult to sign off, particularly when they’re over two years old. Old applications with open work types like sprinkler, standpipe, plumbing, and fire alarm will have to be reinstated before they can be signed off. Reinstatement takes time and costs lots of money. Reaching out to architects, contractors, and engineers from these old applications can be a nightmare. It’s not uncommon for a sign off to take six months or more for an old application.
When planning a project that involves changing use of the building and obtaining a new certificate of occupancy it’s important to look for open applications with life safety work types.
Life safety work types included the following:
Signing off a building’s applications with life safety work types will help secure a TCO. However, the Department of Buildings can reject a final certificate of occupancy for applications with open work types that are not life safety. An application waiver can be submitted in these instances. Application waivers are typically accepted when the open applications do not affect the current scope of work. For instance, the old application could be on a different floor than the one under construction.
Doing the bare minimum is rarely the best course of action in construction. Signing off all applications will lead to less problems down the road.
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