Do I need to obtain a Certificate of Occupancy if I’m adding a deck to my Queens, NY home?

A Certificate of Occupancy is a document issued by the New York City Department of Buildings which is evidence that a home or addition to a home, such as a deck, has been built in accordance with plans approved by the Building Department and may legally be used or “occupied.” When buying a home, your attorney will review a report of title to make sure, among other things, that there is a certificate of occupancy (or “C of O”) for the home and any additions made to the home since it was built; such as a dormer, extension or deck.

Under the standard contract of sale used by New York City attorneys, the seller is obligated to provide such C of Os. While a seller may have cut corners when adding, say, a deck, by not filing proper plans and obtaining a C of O (yes, it is less expensive in the short run to build a deck without the proper permits) they would now have to retain professionals to file the necessary plans and undertake any remedial work which may be required to obtain the C of O. In the long run, a home owner may wind up spending more money to correct the problem created by not obtaining a C of O in the first place.

Even if you’re not planning on selling your home, by not obtaining a C of O when you build your deck, you could expose yourself to potential liability if someone is injured due to your deck not conforming to building department specifications. A tragic example of this occurred in Queens not so long ago when a second story deck collapsed resulting in injuries and a fatality. It turned out that there was no C of O for the deck and it was not built in compliance with Building Department regulations. What would otherwise have been a tragic accident became a potential multimillion dollar lawsuit.

If you plan on building a deck, or buying a home with an existing deck, be sure you consult with professionals.   You’ll enjoy your deck more knowing it’s legal and above all, safe for you and your family.

About George H. Dippel, Attorney at Law

George H. Dippel has been practicing law for over 30 years. He is a graduate of Cornell Law School and a former partner at the law firm of Rivkin Radler in their real estate/banking department. Mr. Dippel opened his own law offices in 1993 in Bayside, Queens, New York. Mr. Dippel has assisted thousands of clients throughout Queens, Brooklyn, The Bronx, Manhattan, Staten Island, Long Island and Westchester with their wills, probate, trusts, real estate and business matters. In addition to practicing law, Mr. Dippel has taught real estate courses in Long Island University’s paralegal program. He is also a licensed real estate instructor and has taught real estate licensing courses in the New York Metropolitan area. Mr. Dippel is admitted to practice in all New York State Courts and the Federal Eastern and Southern District Courts.
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