A situation that tends to rear its ugly head for GC Garcia’s clients over the years is obtaining the proper Change of Occupancy permit for tenants who purchase new buildings. First, let’s discuss what it is. A Change of Occupancy or Change of Use permit as they are sometimes called, is needed when a tenant needs to change the use of an existing building, so therefore they must meet new requirements specified by that use. The Change of Occupancy permit allows a building to change from one occupancy group to another, which may or may not include changes to the building itself and allows the building to be occupied for whatever use will be located in it (i.e. a restaurant, school, office, salon etc..) in a manner that is consistent with building and fire safety codes.

Now that we’ve discussed what a Change of Occupancy permit is, let’s talk about why it’s important to obtain one. Let’s say you purchase a building that was once used as a call center and through tenant improvements, you want to convert it into a charter school. Each use of a building fits within a specific occupancy type in which it must meet certain specifications as determined by the International Building Code (IBC). The IBC is used by the building department for all municipalities and outlines and determines such things as the maximum occupancy, how many bathrooms are needed per occupancy, required fire and safety measures, compliance with building codes, and more.

As you can imagine, what is needed for the building to be used as a charter school will be drastically different than what was needed for it to operate as a call center. The most significant consequence of not obtaining a Change of Occupancy permit is that it can impact approval of your business license. Without a valid Change of Occupancy permit, you can’t legally occupy the building and may be forced to vacate. If a safety issue arises, such as a fire breaks out in your business, you are liable for any damage and injury that results. If you plan to lease out space in the building, you cannot legally collect rent from your tenants.

Change of Occupancy can also impact residential properties. If you want to convert a home into an office then a Change of Occupancy would be needed.  Say you want to run a business out of your home, depending on the business and if you are going to have employees based from your home, as well, then a Change of Occupancy may be needed.

It’s also important to note that the building you purchased was initially issued a Certificate of Occupancy – once the Change of Occupancy is approved, it will now require you to apply for a new certificate of occupancy, which is typically issued at the same time as your Change of Occupancy. Now, you are on your way to legally occupying the building and using it for its intended and approved use.

No one should have to navigate the red tape around Change of Occupancy permits, the experts at GC Garcia are here to help. Having a professional on your side with the proper expertise will save you time, money and frustration and have your building up and running with its new use in no time.