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Thread: Temporary certificates of occupancy: is this common practice?

  1. #1
    Cyburbian hilldweller's avatar
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    Temporary certificates of occupancy: is this common practice?

    Our Building Department frequently issues temporary C.O.'s. for projects in varying degrees of completion. Usually the project is mostly completed but missing finishing touches like landscaping, parking lot striping, lighting, fences, etc.

    One would think that the point of the Certificate of Occupancy process would be to ensure that projects meet the Building Code and are built in accordance with approved plans for landscaping, drainage, parking, lighting, architecture, etc., prior to being occupied. So I find it rather curious why the Building Dept. can't tell applicants to get their crap together and finish the job first. Do they plan to kick out the tenants if the site work isn't completed?

    Does anybody else have to deal with this nonsense? Frankly it ticks me off as planning staff responsible for approving these projects, and guiding them through the Boards; it'll be my arse on the line if the project isn't completed and some neighbor is wondering what happened to the fence they were supposed to put in.

  2. #2
    Cyburbian mike gurnee's avatar
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    Temporary COs are a common practice most everywhere. The terms should be in writing, with time frames. I had one case where finalization of an adoption depended on the parents having a CO on their new house. The deck railing would not be finished for four more days. I let them have a temp CO.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian zman's avatar
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    TCOs were issued often in my former place of employment. The way I saw them was that the powers that be could not say no to somebody and therefore offered a TCO, usually at the expense of site design items like landscaping, asthetics, etc. While management was covering their asses and propping their feelings up by avoiding confrontation by saying no, it was up to staff to drop everything and plead with the builder to finish the stuff, which caused much stress and poor time management.

    But I'm not bitter and may be trying to draw a certain lurker out of lurker status and into member status....
    You get all squeezed up inside/Like the days were carved in stone/You get all wired up inside/And it's bad to be alone

    You can go out, you can take a ride/And when you get out on your own/You get all smoothed out inside/And it's good to be alone
    -Peart

  4. #4
    Cyburbian
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    We don't use them commonly, but in situations where the owner needs occupancy, but has a few punchlist items to complete and we feel confident we can monitor their progress, we issue temp c of o's.

    Typical issues include: landscaping (can't plant new stuff in January) or final course of asphalt (again, weather is a factor). We would never give a temp c of o if there were life safety issues or some other building relating issue.

    I find the biggest problem with temp c of o's is that it's nearly IMPOSSIBLE to enforce the site plan or other building issues once the tenant is occupying the structure. We also have the problem of new businesses scheduling their open houses and advertising/printing fliers for dates that cannot be possibly met and then trying to force us to issue c of o's so that they can have their open house on their time schedule.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian Plus PlannerGirl's avatar
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    They are given out like candy and it bites us again and again around here for YEARS. There is virtually no effective enforcement after that temporary CO is issued

    I despise them other than for obvious reasons like winter/drought for landscaping etc.

    "we already sent out our grand opening advertisements" is NOT a valid reason buddy you created your own hardship take a hike
    "They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety." Ben Franklin

    Remember this motto to live by: "Life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, chocolate in one hand, martini in the other, body thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming 'WOO- HOO what a ride!'"

  6. #6
    Forums Administrator & Gallery Moderator NHPlanner's avatar
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    Not allowed in my community, unless granted a waiver from the Planning Board, and financial guarantee is placed with specific timeframes.

    They used to be commonplace, but abuses were rampant.
    "Growth is inevitable and desirable, but destruction of community character is not. The question is not whether your part of the world is going to change. The question is how." -- Edward T. McMahon, The Conservation Fund

  7. #7
    Cyburbian
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    When I got here, they were common, in fact, usual. When I reviewed the database, there was a couple hundred un-CO'ed houses out there. 4 years later, we've only made a dent in getting them CO'ed. We don't do TCO's anymore and I almost lost my job over it. The development/construction community cried foul. Avoid doing it at nearly all costs and if you do do it - stop! We also stopped issuing "footing/foundation" permits on the front end of the permit process. My reputation as a hardass is now complete.

  8. #8
    Cyburbian hilldweller's avatar
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    I'm hadn't even considered single family homes, I was referring to non-residential/commercial projects.

    I do know that builders have an annoying habit of requesting C.O.s for homes that they are still working on, presumably because they think it speeds up the process.

  9. #9
    Cyburbian
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    Usually, a builder wants a TCO because they have prematurely scheduled a closing or their loan has come due. We absolutely do not issue TCO's on non-residential - that's truely the public health, safety and welfare we'd be screwing with. We will sometimes allow a new store to bring in shelving and stock, but only for listed personnel and the GC must assume liability. One time though, we allowed office furniture to be brought in to a new building and the next day, it became fully staffed. We put a "Stop Work" order on the building - no more inspections. They vacated and got their final. That woke 'em up to reality and its where I got my rep.

    Bottom line: TCO's are almost always a very bad thing. Sometimes, customer service means saying no.

  10. #10
    Cyburbian
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    In Key West, a Temporary C of O was issued, and never followed up on. A few years later, a couple tourists died of Carbon Monoxide poisioning due to a leaky pipe. Big uproar and lawsuits and firings at the KW building department.

    In my old municipality, it seems like temp COs were issued whenever a contractor or owner/builder sobbed to the Building Official, usually that Planning was making them do something crazy like install stormwater controls, or landscaping, or mitigate for some trees that they cut down.

    Generally, a bad idea, but probably a necessary evil for some instances.

  11. #11
    Super Moderator luckless pedestrian's avatar
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    we issue them but we have a tickler file for follow up to ensure final CO's are obtained within a year...

  12. #12
    Cyburbian
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    COs were issued often in my former place of employment. The way I saw them was that the powers that be could not say no to somebody and therefore offered a TCO, usually at the expense of site design items like landscaping, asthetics, etc. While management was covering their asses and propping their feelings up by avoiding confrontation by saying no, it was up to staff to drop everything and plead with the builder to finish the stuff, which caused much stress and poor time management.
    living it everyday.

  13. #13
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    If the building is done, the site is safe, and say the landscaping isn't yet installed because its December in the midwest, you have to issue at least a temp CO. However, that doesn't mean you cannot require a performance bond on the incomplete items plus 10%. Granted, none of us want to be pulling bonds and completing private sites but unfortunately in some cases that is the hand that has been dealt.

  14. #14
    Cyburbian Plan-it's avatar
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    We do it on a limited basis. There has to be a real valid reason for it. If it is some bs regulatory hoop they have to jump through that has no real bearing on the integriety of the building, then yeah we will approve one. But, if it is for a true health and safety reason, then no way in heck.
    Satellite City Enabler

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