Certificate of Occupancy: What’s the Point?

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Most towns, like Hamilton Township, require a municipal inspection before a homeowner sells or rents a property.  In Hamilton, this is known as a Certificate of Approval for Occupancy.  Most folks just call it a C.O. 

This process is an often confused and talked about subject amongst neighbors and family.  More often than not, the inspectors get a bad name for being “too hard” on the homeowner.  In Hamilton, I think I am one of the few who believe they are just doing their job. The C.O. inspection typically takes 15-20 minutes. It is not to be confused with a private home inspection, which can last beyond 3 hours, and pours over every detail of the house.  The main point to the Certificate of Occupancy inspection is to make sure:

  1. The property meets State and Municipal guidelines for safety, including:  smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors, fire extinguisher, handrails, operable heat, leaky roofs and basements, electrical hazards and more.
  2. To ensure that sellers have satisfied requirements for permits so improvements may be inspected for safety.  Be honest with your inspector and get these permits taken care of ASAP, as they could significantly delay closing.
  3. Neighborhood aesthetics.

What I like about Hamilton and Trenton inspectors is they allow the seller to have the property inspected before a buyer has been found for the property.  In Hamilton, the inspection office has sent letters to Realtors encouraging them to do just that, in order to avoid potential closing delays. This is always a good idea, and a practice of ours at Help-U-Sell.  The time frame for your town to schedule your initial inspection can be as long as 5 weeks in some towns.

A common misconception is that the report is confidential, and the buyer has no right to it.  This is not true. It is public record. Many agents have been chastised by homeowners for sharing this report with the buyer. Many buyers will compare the C.O. report to their private home inspection.

Some homeowners prefer to sell their home “as is”, having the buyer assume all violations. This is usually not a good idea, as most buyers expect thousands in credit for hundreds of cost and labor.

So, if selling your home in Hamilton or Trenton, I highly recommend you have your inspection done as soon as possible. In Hamilton, the report is good for 9 months.  After the property has been re-inspected and a C.O. has been issued, it is good for 6 more months. 

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