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Renting & Buying a Home

Before renting or buying a home, you should:

  • Verify that the building can be legally occupied as presented by the seller

  • Research the history of the building, including violations and permits

  • Check that required safety measures are present


Illegal dwellings endanger the safety of occupants, neighbors and first responders. If you are looking for a rental apartment, the Department has created 10 tips to help you recognize an illegal dwelling.
View Tips

Certificates of Occupancy

A Certificate of Occupancy is the key document used to certify the legal use and occupancy of a building. Learn more about Certificates of Occupancy 

  • The Department strongly recommends that you negotiate a closing based on a final Certificate of Occupancy, not a Temporary Certificate of Occupancy (TCO).

  • If you purchase a co-op, condo or house that has a TCO, consult a licensed architect or engineer to determine what work has to be done in order for the building to receive a final CO.

  • Once you purchase a property, you, as the owner, have the legal obligation to make sure that the building obtains a final CO documenting its compliance with the Building Code and the Zoning Resolution. Because this is your responsibility, you should ask your attorney to obtain written assurance and sufficient escrow from the seller/developer to ensure that the developer actually finishes any outstanding work and obtains the final CO in a timely manner.

  • If a TCO expires and is not renewed, a new buyer may find it difficult or impossible to renew homeowner's insurance policies or to sell or refinance the new home.

Building History

You can research the history of the building using the Department's Buildings Information System (BIS).

  • Check for any outstanding violations that not have been corrected and closed. Reviewing violations (even if they have been corrected) provides important information about the history and maintenance of the building.
  • If you see evidence that that work has been performed on the building, verify that permits were obtained to do the work (if required).

Safety Measures

When looking at the space you are seeking to rent or purchase, verify that:

  • The apartment/room has fire and carbon monoxide detectors
  • The apartment/room two means of exiting in the case of a fire
  • The room(s) has access to natural light and ventilation – all bedrooms must have a window
  • Electricity to the apartment/room is not provided by an extension cord
  • The room(s) are not locked with a padlock