If you have an active Certificate of Occupancy application that was submitted between January 1, 2020, and February 27, 2023, you will need to submit a help desk ticket to have the record linked to your Permit Arlington account. If you do not already have a Permit Arlington account, you will need to create one.
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A certificate of occupancy (CO) ensures that a building or a proposed use of a building/land complies with all state building code regulations and County laws. No occupancy can occur before issuance of a CO.
There are several types of COs, but typically only one is required for each project or tenant. Certain projects, such as large commercial or multi-family buildings, may require more than one CO type. COs are not required for additions to single-family dwellings. Teardowns are not considered additions.
COs must be obtained for both residential and commercial projects. Before beginning the CO process, learn the difference between residential and commercial.
Use the table below to determine which type of CO you must apply for:
- New individual one or two family dwelling
- New individual residential townhouse (less than 3 stories)
- Accessory Dwelling
- Master certificate of occupancy for residential structures
Applying to use your home for child care? You must apply for a Commercial CO, under Family Day Care Home
- Certificate of occupancy for Family Day Care Home (all other types of childcare programs should select the most relevant option below)
- Occupying a portion of building/floor that was previously occupied
- Occupying a portion of building/floor that was not previously occupied
- Change of use or change of occupancy for the tenant space or building, as defined by the building code
- Ex: increasing the number of children, changing the age of children, etc.
- Change of ownership for a tenant space or building (except a one or two family dwelling)
- New residential building or structure, residential as defined by the building code
- Ex: Conversion of a building into a condominium or cooperative
- Ex: Vehicle dealerships
- Shell and Core
Submission Process and Inspections
Before You Apply
COs are a complex process – the applicant may need to contact staff for a full understanding of requirements, fees, and other steps of the process. Before applying for a CO, the applicant must first verify that the intended use is permitted by the Zoning Ordinance. You may contact the Zoning Division for information and/or arrange an optional code consultation with the Inspection Services Division (ISD) before signing a lease, as long as there is not a building permit associated with your project.
The applicant must also apply for any other permits required for the project. Applying for a building permit and applying for a CO are two separate processes.
All assembly rooms and spaces (such as but not limited to restaurants, conference rooms, meetings spaces, community centers, and places of worship) are required to obtain a building permit that includes an approved maximum occupant load for each such room or space. If there is not a building permit for renovations or a change of use and there is not an existing approved maximum occupant load sign, a building permit must be applied for the maximum occupant load to be reviewed.
Step 1: Apply for the CO
Apply as early as possible, at least two weeks prior to the intended occupancy date. If required, we recommend applying for a CO when a building permit is issued, but keep in mind that the inspection processes are separate.
A building or space cannot be occupied and/or opened for business until the CO has been both approved and issued. Just because a CO has been applied for does not mean the building can be occupied and/or opened for business. Additional documents are required for certain uses – review the submission requirements in Permit Arlington or contact the Zoning Division.
As part of the building permit process, the maximum occupant load of assembly rooms and spaces will be reviewed by the Inspection Services Division (ISD) and seating will be reviewed by Zoning during the plan review process. If there are not renovations or a change of use and there is not an existing approved maximum occupant load sign, a building permit must be applied for the maximum occupant load to be reviewed. See the submission requirements for the maximum occupant load sign.
Step 2: Completeness Check
Your application and any required documents or forms will be simultaneously reviewed for completeness by both the Inspection Services Division (ISD) and Zoning Division (approximately 2 business days) for compliance with various ordinances, site plan conditions, use requirements, etc.
If incomplete, the applicant and all email contacts provided on the application will be contacted by email. The comment(s) may be viewed by visiting Permit Arlington (Review Results Letters and enter the project ID, ex: COFO23-12345).
If complete, the applicant and all email contacts provided on the application will be notified by email to pay fees. To pay fees, visit Permit Arlington Online Payment and enter the CO number.
The CO review process will be delayed if the applicant hasn’t received approval or forgot to apply for a permit altogether. If there are questions about a specific permit, follow up with the department or division that the permit request was submitted to.
Step 3: Review and Revisions
County staff will review your application, supporting documents, and forms for compliance with the applicable regulations. Review times begin only after a CO application is processed and fees are paid.
- Commercial project review – up to 3 business days
- Residential project review – up to 2 business days
- Review times do not include completeness checks or final processing windows
- The applicant and all email contacts provided on the application will receive an email with any review comments. See help guidelines for adding contacts.
- To pay fees, visit Permit Arlington Online Payment and enter the CO number.
- Additional fees may be assessed for departments outside of the Permit Arlington portal, such as DHS Health.
During this time, staff involved in the inspections and approvals of your CO will receive notice that it is under review. Staff may contact you about outstanding items that should be completed prior to their inspection or approval.
Step 4: Inspections and Results
Inspections must be scheduled through Permit Arlington. Some inspections do not require site visits. The complete list of inspections and/or approvals can be found under the Inspections tab. Additional fees may be assessed.
Schedule an Inspection Instructions
- Log in to Permit Arlington.
- In the upper-right corner, search for the certificate of occupancy number.
- The CO will appear on screen. Note: the status of the CO must be Awaiting Inspection for inspections to be available for scheduling.
- Select the Record Info drop-down menu, followed by Inspections.
- View the list of Pending inspections, which are all required for the CO to be issued.
- If you need to schedule multiple inspections or inspections across multiple permits, you will need to follow these steps for each inspection and each permit separately.
- Select the Actions drop-down menu, followed by Schedule or Request an Inspection.
- Select the day that you wish to schedule your inspection.
- See table below for details
- Select the radio button next to 7:30 AM – 3:30 PM time frame. Click Continue.
- Select Change Contact. You must provide the name and phone number of the person that will be on-site for the inspection.
- Confirm your contact details and click Finish.
|CO Inspection Type
- Electrical, Fire, Mechanical, Plumbing
The applicant and all email contacts provided on the application will receive a confirmation email when you schedule your inspection, with information about how to identify and contact the assigned inspector on the morning of your inspection, which is when the inspection time is finalized by the assigned inspector.
The individual that will be on-site the day of the inspection must contact the assigned inspector the morning of the inspection. If the inspector is not contacted, the inspection will be canceled. After 7 a.m. on the day of your scheduled inspection, use this guide to contact your inspector.
The applicant and all email contacts provided on the application will receive a confirmation that the request has been submitted successfully and that it will be prioritized with the third-party inspection scheduler. An up-to-date contact name and mobile phone number must be provided. The third-party inspector will contact you to confirm or modify the requested date.
You are required to notify all on-site parties, including contractors, owners, management, and security in order to complete your inspection. Inspections may be canceled without penalty as long as the third-party inspector is given at least 24 hours’ notice. If an inspection cannot be performed (ex: site is inaccessible), you may be subject to reinspection fees.
- Business License
- Urban Forestry
- Historic Preservation
|Staff will complete the inspection or review within 3 business days for residential COs and 5 business days for commercial COs of the requested date. You will receive an email notification when the results are available online.
- Department of Environmental Services (DES)
Your inspection may address multiple requirements related to your CO. Staff will provide results listing any outstanding items, along with who to contact about that item, within 3 business days for residential COs and 5 business days for commercial COs of the requested date. You will receive an email notification when the results are available online.
Staff will contact you within 5 business days of the requested date to coordinate a day and time for the inspection.
Finding an Inspector and Checking Results
Zoning: Complies with Zoning regulations only.
ISD: Approved, no further action required for this inspection type.
DES: Complies with DES requirements only.
Inspection failed and requires re-inspection. Re-inspections visit may be assessed a fee.
The inspection has been rescheduled to another date from the original request. This is typically done during the first communication with an inspector.
The inspection needs to be rescheduled.
The CO is on hold and cannot move forward, even if other departments or divisions approve permits and/or inspections.
This is not an approval or rejection, it’s only a method to record and share information.
|Waive CO Inspection (DES only)
The CO will not be placed on hold due to DES requirements.
If there are building plans/a buildout involved with the application, be mindful that are there are separate inspections required for COs, building permits, Land Disturbing Activity/Stormwater (LDA) permits, and any other permits. It’s the applicant’s responsibility to coordinate these inspections. For information on public infrastructure, transportation, real estate or similar requirements for your CO, contact CEPCoordination@arlingtonva.us. Uses such as daycares and restaurants require extra inspections and licensing, which should be coordinated with the respective group.
Step 5: Final Approvals and Issuance
Zoning does a final check on the CO before issuance. Once payment is received for all fees, and the final check has been completed, the applicant will be provided with a digital copy of the certificate of occupancy within approximately 2 business days.
Accessing the CO Instructions
- Log in to Permit Arlington.
- In the upper-right corner, search for the certificate of occupancy number.
- Click on the CO number.
- Click on Record Info.
- Click on Attachments.
- The applicant should see a file named certificate of occupancy
Due to the complexity of CO applications, submission requirements vary depending on the proposed use, location, and other details. Begin the Permit Arlington application process and provide the requested details for an accurate list of submission requirements. Staff will request additional materials (ex: certified parking plan) during the application process, as needed.
Fee Schedules provide the range of fees charged for each type of application or activity related to land development in Arlington. Fees cover permitting, plan review, enforcement, inspection, service delivery, performance agreements, and conditions. There are separate fee schedules for Inspection Services Division (ISD), Zoning, and the Department of Environmental Services (DES). Some permits involve fees from more than one schedule.