Certificate of Occupancy


  • The Certificate of Occupancy Program is now located in room 028B with hours:  Monday – Friday from 9am to 4pm.
  • Any questions regarding the C Of O program, please email:  cofo@cityofrochester.gov.   

A community's health, vitality and quality of life can be measured by the condition of its properties.  Pleasant homes, appealing shops and attractive workplaces add up to comfortable residential areas supported by convenient services and access to good jobs nearby.  Neat neighborhoods and safe, well maintained structures also keep real estate values stable for property owners; attract customers for businesses; and enhance the images of urban based corporations.

The City's renewable Certificate of Occupancy (C of O) program is designed to help stabilize and enhance our city neighborhoods by conducting regularly scheduled and ongoing property maintenance inspections.  These visual inspections, based on local, state and federal code standards, ensure the preservation of property and the protection of life.

C of O's are required to be renewed for any structure that has residential rental dwelling units.  One and two family structures are renewed every six years; multiple dwellings and mixed use occupancies that have at least one dwelling unit are renewed every three years.  Effective January 1, 2014, any C of O issued to a one or two family dwelling which is located in the Lead High Risk Area where interior deteriorated paint is found and remedied by means of applying Interim Controls must be renewed after three years.

Property owners who occupy a one or two family dwelling are exempt from the C of O requirement.  Owners whose spouse, parent, child or sibling occupies a one or two family dwelling may apply for an exemption by submitting an application along with the required proof of relationship and residency.  Once approved, the exemption must be renewed every three years.  If at any point the qualifying residency situation changes, the owner is required to secure the necessary C of O.

Owners of one or two family dwellings which are occupied by Section 8 tenants and subject to the associated annual inspections conducted by the Rochester Housing Authority (RHA) may apply for a waiver from the interior inspection of the unit in question during the C of O process.  In order to secure the waiver, an owner must complete the waiver application and submit the necessary RHA inspection report indicating a passed inspection and no interior deteriorated paint.  The report must be dated within one year of the date of submission.

What is the process for renewing a Certificate of Occupancy (C of O)?

Step One: Renewal Letter:

Each month an automated report is produced to identify any C of O's due to expire. This list is used to generate renewal letters which are then mailed to the property owner along with a C of O application.

Step Two: Generation of a Case:

Once a renewal letter has been sent, a case is generated and assigned to the area Inspector.

Step Three: Application Submitted:

Once a completed application has been submitted to the Permit Office along with the associated fees and after it is approved by Zoning, an appointment is scheduled and the owner is notified by mail of the date and time.  If the date or time is not convenient, the owner can call and request it to be changed.

If an application is not submitted prior to the due date, the area Inspector is dispatched to the location and an exterior inspection is conducted from the right of way.  Any exterior related violations, including failure to obtain a C of O, are cited on a Notice and Order.  The Notice and Order is mailed the next day to the property owner.

Step Four: Initial Inspection:

The assigned Inspector meets the owner or their representative at the location and an inspection of the structure and premises is conducted.  Any code violations found on the inspection are captured in a Notice and Order, including whether or not a lead dust wipe test is necessary, and the order is mailed the next day to the property owner.

Step Five: Final Inspection:

Once all of the outstanding violations have been corrected and abated, or if after conducting the initial inspection no violations were identified, the assigned Inspector will approve the issuance of the C of O.

Once approved by the Inspector, the pending C of O is placed in a queue for the support staff to process.  The C of O is typically processed and mailed to the applicant within ten business days of being requested by the inspector. 

Certificate of Occupancy FAQs

Why do You Need a Certificate of Occupancy (C of O)?

The Certificate of Occupancy is the City's assurance to a prospective buyer, current owner or tenant that the building substantially conforms to repair and maintenance standards as of the date of issuance.

When do You Need a Certificate of Occupancy?

A Certificate of Occupancy is required for any building that contains residential rental dwelling units.  One and two family structures must be renewed every six (6) years except if located in the the Lead High Risk Area where interior deteriorated paint is found and remedied and thereby must be renewed after three (3) years.  Multiple families and mixed use occupancies containing at least one dwelling unit must be renewed every three (3) years.  

A new C of O is also required whenever any of the following occurs:

1. A transfer of title of a two family,  unless a C of O was issued within two (2) years of the transfer date.

2. A re-occupancy of a dwelling which has been entirely vacant for more than two (2) months, unless a C of O has been issued within a year of the re-occupancy.

3. A change of occupancy or use.

4. A change in the occupied status of a one or two family exempted property where the structure is no longer occupied by the owner or the spouse, child, parent or sibling of the owner.

What is a Certificate of Occupancy Inspection?

The Certificate of Occupancy inspection is a visual property maintenance inspection.  It includes the interior and exterior of the structure and premises.  The primary focus of this inspection is on health and safety and blight.  The Inspector will look for such items as: paint and trim; fire protection requirements; stairs and handrails; roofs; gutters; accessory buildings; interior mechanical systems such as heat, electric and plumbing; interior and exterior structural soundness; and space requirements.  This inspection process aids in bringing houses within the City of Rochester into substantial compliance with the City Property Conservation Code, Building Code, Zoning Code and other applicable State and local laws, ordinances and regulations.  A list of the most common items reviewed during a C of O inspection can be found on our Property Maintenance Inspection Checklist.  Also checkout the City of Rochester Fire Escape inspection Policy.

How to Apply for a Certificate of Occupancy

An applicant for a Certificate of Occupancy must be the owner of the property or the owner's representative.  An applicant should have the following information:

1. The type of construction (e.g. frame, masonry, number of stories).

2. The use of all parts of the building by story and by type of residential and/or commercial units.

3. Other buildings on the property, such as garages or sheds.

4. Building Owner Registry contact information.

Applications may be made in person or mailed to the Permit Office, Room 121B, City Hall, 30 Church Street, Rochester. The hours of operation are Monday through Friday 9 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. The application must be completely filled out, including the Building Owner Registry section, and you must submit the associated fee, made payable to the City Treasurer. 


Unit Fee
Single Family $60.00
Two Family $80.00
Three Family or more $100.00 + $10/unit over 5
Rooming House $100.00 + $10.00/unit over 5
Mixed Commercial/Residential $100.00 + $10.00/unit over 5
Non-Residential 0 - 25,000 sq. ft. $100.00
Non-Residential 25,000  sq. ft. or more $150.00

Please Note:  The fee to renew a certificate of occupancy when required by §90-16A of the Municipal Code shall be the same as set forth in §39-222C, except that the renewal fee shall not exceed $200.

In accordance with §39-222(C)3, if the C of O renewal application is not received within 40 days of notification letter date the fee will double subject to the limitation listed above.