Certificates of Occupancy

A Certificate of Occupancy is issued by the Department of Buildings to certify that residential buildings with 4 or more units and larger non-residential buildings conform to the requirements of the Chicago Building Code.

When is a Certificate of Occupancy Required?

A Certificate of Occupancy is REQUIRED for permitted work that meets one or more of the following:

  • Construction or substantial alteration (reconfiguration) of 4 or more dwelling units or sleeping units
  • Construction or substantial alteration (reconfiguration)  of more than 10,000 square feet of non-residential occupancy
  • Change of occupancy (e.g. converting a storefront to an apartment or converting a warehouse to an office building)
  • Construction or substantial rehabilitation of any space, regardless of floor area, used for assembly (Group A), educational (Group E), institutional (Group I) or Hazardous (Group H) occupancy
    • Assembly (Group A) occupancies involve the use of a building or space for more than 50 people to gather for purposes such as civic, social, or religous functions, recreation, food or drink consumption, or awaiting transportation.
    • Educational (Group E) occupancies involve the use of a building for educational purposes for children from 3 years old through the 12th grade or to provide child day care services primarily for children over 2 years of age
    • Hazardous (Group H) occupanies involve operations or materials that create a heightened risk of detonation, deflagration, combustion, physical hazard, or human health hazard exposure. Group H occupancies are regulated by the Chicago Fire Department, Fire Prevention Bureau. 
    • Institutional (Group I) occupancies include hospitals, nursing homes, halfway houses, and jails. Some day care programs for children 2 and younger or for adults who need assistance are also classified as institutional occupancies.
    • All child day care centers (other than home-based day care services for 8 or fewer children unrelated to the operator) are classified as either Group E or Group I occupancies.

It is illegal to occupy or permit others to occupy a building or portion of a building which requires a certificate of occupancy before obtaining the certificate of occupancy or a partial/temporary certificate of occupancy.

A certificate of occupancy may be requested for all other projects, including single-family homes, but the request must be made online and approved before any construction work begins.

What Steps Are Required to Obtain a Certificate of Occupancy?

After the building permit issues and when work is ready to begin:

  1. The applicant must schedule, be present for, and pass all required inspections as the work progresses. Inspections must be requested online.
  2. The applicant must use the online Certificate of Occupancy Application to submit technical and contact information when work is nearing completition.
  3. The applicant will be contacted by the Department to schedule certificate-of-occupancy-related inspections. The Department of Buildings will also provide contact information to schedule required inspections with the Chicago Fire Department, Fire Prevention Bureau, if required.
  4. The owner must pay all outstanding inspection fees and pick up the hard copy certificate of occupancy before occupying the building or allowing others to occupy the building.

What Inspections Are Required for a Certificate of Occupancy?

Underground Inspections
  • Plumbing underground
  • Rebar, structural steel prior to concrete pours (initial and ongoing)
Rough inspections
  • Carpentry (new construction)
  • Electrical
  • Iron
  • Plumbing
  • Ventilation
Final Inspections
  • Boilers
  • Carpentry (new construction)
  • Electrical
  • Iron
  • Plumbing
  • Refrigeration
  • Ventilation
Certificate of Occupancy Inspection(s)
  • Fire Prevention Bureau

Are There Additional Requirements for Inspections?

Yes, for inspections, the applicant or the applicant's agent must:

  • Be present at the time of the scheduled certificate of occupancy inspection.
  • Make sure a representative for any technical trade is present at the inspection, if requested by the Department.
  • Make available at the inspection the full set of stamped permit plans and any technical document approved by the Department.
  • Make sure that all rooms and spaces required to be inspected can be accessed.
  • Provide all equipment required by the Department to undertake the inspection, including but not limited to, ladders, safety equipment, and lighting.    

A reinspection fee, as provided in section 14A-5-501.4 of the Chicago Construction Codes Administrative Provisions, will be charged whenever any scheduled inspection cannot take place because of the absence of, or other action or inaction by, the building’s owner or permit holder. The reinspection fee must be paid to the City's Department of Finance before a certificate of occupancy can be issued.

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