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Certificate of Occupancy Application and Review Process

As of Wednesday, February 26, 2020, we no longer accept in-person Certificate of Occupancy (C of O) applications. During this transition period, our staff will be available to assist you with any questions you may have about the application, review, and issuance process.

The purpose of a Certificate of Occupancy 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) provisions of the DC Construction Codes, and the Green Building Act. In most cases, 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 Certificate of Occupancy has been issued. There are six types of Certificate of Occupancy applications as seen below:

  1. Ownership Change
  2. Use Change
  3. Occupant Load Change
  4. Revision
  5. Temporary Occupancy
  6. New Building

For new building, there are three Certificate of Occupancy subsets:

  1. Conditional
  2. Completion of core and shell
  3. Establishment of a new occupancy

Temporary Certificate of Occupancy for Child Care Centers

Application for Temporary Certificate of Occupancy Under Phase One of Reopening The District
DCRA will accept a Certificate of Occupancy (C of O) application for a Temporary Certificate of Occupancy (TCO) to allow for the potential use of additional rooms or square footage to accommodate social distancing best practices. Expansions within the existing center, with no change proposed to the number and ages of children and staff currently allowed under the existing C of O, will be reviewed as a TCO if the applicant submits the following information:

  1. A completed C of O application with the “temporary” box checked. Please view the Certificate of Occupancy Application and Review Process to find the form and more information about the C of O application process.
  2. A layout with measurements of the proposed additional room(s)/area(s).
  3. Installation details describing how the material will be used to separate the spaces.

The material to separate the room shall be anchored from the underside of the ceiling structure, and suspended without interfering with sprinkler coverage, fire alarm coverage, and the means of egress. It should provide a maximum height of 6 feet from the finished floor to the top of the material. The material must either (a) have a flame-retardant rating or (b) be a Class A material with a minimum flame–spread rating of 0-25 and a smoke development rating of 0-450. For example, cement board has a flame spread of 0 while red oak has a flame spread of 100. Cloth partitions are not permitted for this application.

A Building Permit is not required unless permanent construction, defined as physically attaching to existing walls (or building new walls), is being performed. Temporary movable suspended dividers of 6 feet in height, that will be used for the purpose of creating the required separation mandated by the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE), will not require a Building Permit. Installation of partitions intended to remain in place for more than 6 months, taller than 6 feet, attached to a wall, or otherwise permanently affixed will require a Building Permit.

ADDITIONAL NOTES:

  1. An inspection may be required as determined by DCRA.
  2. The proposed additional space must comply with the 2013 DCMR 12 requirements for a childcare facility in order to be approved for occupancy.
  3. The standard change in use process and requirements will not apply unless a permanent C of O is applied for.
  4. Revised fire evacuation plans and a DCRA fire safety inspection will not be requested at the time of application submission but will be required to finalize the TCO application for spaces that have been approved for expansion.
  5. The TCO will be valid for one year from the date of issuance.

For questions, please contact Hillary Seybold via phone at 202.491.1979 or email at Hillary.seybold@dc.gov.

Get Started with your Change of Ownership Application

To apply for a Change of Ownership Certificate of Occupancy, follow the steps listed below:

Step 1: Review Change of Ownership Certificate of Occupancy requirements and supporting documents here.

For applicants seeking only a change of ownership and meet the following conditions, a new certificate for change of ownership will be issued within 1 business day from the time the application has been accepted for review:

  • No change other than ownership;
  • The prior Certificate of Occupancy was issued less than 10 years ago;
  • The use listed on the issued Certificate is the same as the proposed use; and;
  • The fees are paid in full.

If your change of ownership application does not meet these criteria, you will receive a notification and it will be reviewed within 7 business days.

Please note: It is likely that additional documents may be requested during the review process.

Step 2: Create your DCRA Portal Account, or log in if you are a returning customer.
Access the DCRA Accela Citizen Portal

Step 3: Follow the system’s prompts and notifications to complete your application.

Note: DCRA will not accept a Certificate of Occupancy application for a property that has any outstanding building permits, trade permits, incomplete wall test, or inspections reports.

Change of Ownership Application Help

The following videos provide step-by-step instructions for frequent tasks within the system:

How do I create a new DCRA Citizen Portal Account?

  1. Navigate to the DCRA Citizen Portal.
  2. Click “New Users: Register for an Account”
  3. Click the “Disclaimer checkbox”
  4. Click “Continue Registration”
  5. Complete fields
  6. Click “Add New Contact Information”
  7. Select the appropriate option from the Type field  
  8. Click Continue  
  9. Complete fields Note: asterisked fields are required
  10. Click Continue
  11. Click “Continue Registration”
  12. Thank you! Your account has been successfully created.

Note: You will receive a confirmation email > Note: Check your Inbox and Junk/Spam folder for the confirmation email > Please store login and password in safe space to reference later.

How do I complete and submit a Change of Ownership Application using my DCRA Portal Account?

  1. Navigate to the DCRA Citizen Portal. Log into Account
  2. Click “Building”
  3. Select the appropriate option > Request a building permit, shop Drawing Approval or Survey Plat
  4. Click the “Disclaimer checkbox”
  5. Click “Continue Application”
  6. Click or Search the appropriate Permit Type application > Certificate of Occupancy
  7. Click “Continue Application”
  8. Complete Fields
  9. Click “Search and Validate”
  10. Confirm Search Results
  11. Click “Select”
  12. Complete Fields
  13. Click “Continue Application”
  14. Complete Fields
  15. Click “Continue Application”
  16. Click “Add” to Upload the Required Documents
  17. Click “Continue Application”
  18. Review and Confirm
  19. Click “Continue Application”
  20. Pay Fees (Optional: fees can also be paid after application is approved)
  21. Click “Checkout”
  22. Complete Fields
  23. Click “Submit Payment”

How do I pay fees using my DCRA Portal Account if I completed my Change of Ownership Application online?

  1. Log into your DCRA Portal Account.
  2. Click the “Building” menu tab
  3. Locate the correct permit number for your Certificate of Occupancy under the permit column
  4. Click “Pay Fees Due”
  5. Click “Checkout”
  6. Complete Fields
  7. Submit Payment
  8. Thank you! Your Certificate of Occupancy Permit will be e-mailed to you shortly.

Get Started with All Other Types of Certificate of Occupancy Applications

Step 1: To apply for other types of a Certificate of Occupancy other than Change of Ownership, complete the C of O Application and follow the directions listed below. If you propose to operate an eating establishment, submit the Eating Establishment Questionnaire with your Certificate of Occupancy application.

Step 2: Review Certificate of Occupancy Application requirements and supporting documents here.

Step 3: Submit the Certificate of Occupancy Application and supporting documents via email to coapp@dc.gov

Note: DCRA is working hard to process your application and deliver your Certificate of Occupancy permit within 7 business days. Unless you receive information from DCRA that your application cannot advance in the process, please allow us to honor our commitment by completing the processing of your application within the specified timeframe, before contacting our offices. We appreciate your patience!

Note: DCRA will not accept a Certificate of Occupancy application for a property that has any outstanding building permits, trade permits, incomplete wall test, or inspections reports.

Help with All Other Types of Certificate of Occupancy Applications

How do I pay fees using a DCRA Portal Account if I submitted my application via email to coapp@dc.gov?

  1. Create your DCRA Portal Account, or log in if you are a returning customer
  2. Click the “Building” menu tab, to populate the record search screen
  3. Under the “General Search Section” type the appropriate permit number for your Certificate of Occupancy in the search field and press enter
  4. Click “Add to Cart”
  5. Click “Cart Icon” located at the top of the page
  6. Click “Checkout” to pay fees (Credit or Debit Card payments only)
  7. Click “Print/View Receipt”
  8. Click “Download or Print” payment receipt.
  9. Thank you! Your Certificate of Occupancy Permit will be e-mailed to you shortly.

5-Step Review Process

What to expect after a Certificate of Occupancy Application is submitted:

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

  1. The application will be screened and either accepted for review or deemed incomplete and put on hold until the outstanding items have been submitted or completed.
  2. 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.
  3. Following the completion and approval of all reviews, and any required inspections have been passed, the C of O certificate will be ready for issuance.
  4. Invoices will be sent via email to the applicant to pay the fees.
  5. Upon receipt of fees, the certificate will be sent by email to the applicant.  

For buildings subject to a Zoning Commission (ZC) or Board of Zoning Adjustment (BZA) approval, the Office of Zoning Administrator 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 DCRA with the C of O application.

If the applicant used a Third Party Agency to perform inspections, the Third Party Agency must submit inspection reports to DCRA Third Party Program staff. A DCRA zoning and oversight inspection(s) may be required prior to the approval of the C of O.  

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 the C of O is requested.  For information concerning license requirements, contact the Business Licensing Center, by phone at 202-442-4311 or via email at dcra@dc.gov.

Types of Certificate of Occupancy Applications

Ownership Change: If the operator of a use established by a prior C of O is changing, a change of ownership application is required. No changes to the use, square footage, or occupant load are proposed.  Note, a zoning inspection is required for nonconforming uses, apartment buildings, rental units, eating establishments, for any use for which the current C of O was issued greater than 10 years ago, and other uses as determined by the Office of the Zoning Administrator.

New Construction, Use Change, Occupant Load Change: if a new building or addition is constructed or there is a change of use, a building permit application with plans is required to be approved, constructed and passed inspection prior to the approval of a Certificate of Occupancy. A building permit may also be required to change the occupant load, as determined by the Building Department.

Certificate of Occupancy for a new construction and load occupancy change (over 5,000 square feet) will be reviewed by District of Energy and Environment (DOEE) Stormwater Management. Failure to request a final inspection of storm water management facilities, and submittal of as-built plans of the completed storm water facility, may result in the denial of the C of O application.

Completion of Core and Shell: A means to recognize that the core and shell of a building have been substantially and materially completed in accordance with the DC Construction Codes. A Core and Shell Certificate of Occupancy does not allow occupancy of a building.  A core and shell must be obtained prior to a Conditional Certificate of Occupancy for a new building.  

Conditional Occupancy: A conditional certificate of occupancy may be issued for part of the building before completion of the entire work covered by the building permit. For more information, review the Issuance of Conditional Certificates of Occupancy Guidelines about the application submission, review and approval process.

Revision: If a typographical error was made in a previously issued Certificate of Occupancy, the applicant should apply for a revision to the issued Certificate of Occupancy. Note, a revision will not allow substantive changes to be made to the use or occupancy of an issued Certificate of Occupancy.

Temporary: For use of a building or outdoor event on a temporary basis. Conditions may be imposed as necessary and will include an expiration date. A building permit may be required prior to the issuance of a temporary Certificate of Occupancy.

 

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