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Certificates of Occupancy

Virginia law requires that a Certificate of Occupancy be issued for all new buildings and when the occupancy use of an existing building changes.  The CO is the County's way of certifying that a building may be used in a specific manner, and that construction methods comply with applicable codes.

Northampton County issues both permanent and temporary COs.

Permanent COs indicate full compliance with applicable regulations, and may include specific conditions and stipulations.  There is no charge for a permanent CO.  Structures must pass a Final Inspection before the building official will sign a certificate of occupancy.

If projects involve new or altered well water or sewage disposal connections, an "Operations Permit" or equivalent is required from the Health Department before a CO is issued.

Temporary certificates are issued at the sole discretion of the building official and may include stipulations, conditions and limitations. Temporary COs are valid for up to 30 days, and are renewable at the building officials discretion.  An escalating fee structure applies for temporary COs.

Existing Buildings

Owners may request a Certificate of Occupancy for an existing building. Owners should make requests for COs for existing building in writing to the building official.  A fee is charged for inspections associated with these certificates. Final inspection approval or approvals may serve as the certificate of occupancy for any addition or alteration to a structure for which a certificate of occupancy has already been issued.

Zoning and COs

In general, COs require approval of the Zoning Administrator or agent.  Zoning regulations applicable to new structures are enforced, and compliance is often a prerequisite for approval of the CO.

Contents of COs

The certificate of occupancy shall contain the following information:

  • edition of the USBC under which the permit was issued
  • the group and occupancy classification
  • type of construction
  • automatic sprinkler system installed
  • occupant load
  • any other stipulations or conditions of the building permit
  •  

    Certificates of Occupancy

     

    There is no charge for a certificate of occupancy (C.O.) associated with a building permit for new construction.

    It is illegal to occupy or use a structure that requires a C.O., before a CO has been issued.

     

    Certificates of Occupancy are required by the USBC, which states:

    SECTION 119.0.

    CERTIFICATE OF OCCUPANCY.

    119.1. General. A certificate of occupancy indicating

    completion of the work for which a permit was issued, in

    accordance with this code and any pertinent laws and

    ordinances, shall be obtained prior to any occupancy of a

    structure except as provided for in this section. Final

    inspection approval or approvals may serve as the

    certificate of occupancy for any addition or alteration to

    a structure for which a certificate of occupancy has

    already been issued.

    119.2. Temporary occupancy. Upon the request of the

    permit holder, a temporary certificate of occupancy may

    be issued before the completion of the entire work

    covered by the permit provided that such portion or

    portions may be occupied safely prior to full completion

    of the structure without endangering life or public

    welfare.

    [Note inserted:  Northampton County charges a service fee for 30 day temporary certificates of occupancy.  Fees are double each time a 30 day temporary certificate of occupancy is renewed.  Unpaid fees may be added to the real estate tax bill.]

     

    119.3. Existing structures continued use. Upon written

    request from the owner or his agent, or as otherwise

    determined necessary by the building official, following

    an inspection and provided there are no violations of Part

    III (13 VAC 5-62-420 et seq.) of this chapter and the

    Virginia Statewide Fire Prevention Code (13 VAC 5-51)

    and the structure's use has not changed, such structure

    shall not be prevented from continued use and the

    building official shall issue a certificate of occupancy as

    provided for in the USBC.

    [Note inserted:  Northampton County charges a service fee for certificates of occupancy for existing structures that are not associated with a building permit.]

     

    119.4. Contents of certificate. Upon completion and

    approval of the final inspection or when a structure is

    entitled thereto, the building official shall issue the

    certificate of occupancy within five working days after

    receiving a request for its issuance.

    The certificate of occupancy shall specify the following:

    1. The edition of the USBC under which the

    permit is issued.

    2. The group classification and occupancy in

    accordance with the provisions of Chapter 3.

    3. The type of construction as defined in Chapter 6.

    4. If an automatic sprinkler system is provided and

    whether or not such system was required.

    5. Any special stipulations and conditions of the

    building permit.

     

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