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Navigating New York’s new TCO process

By Robert Tymecki

The pinnacle of any construction project is the issuance of the Certificate of Occupancy (CO), albeit temporary or final. These documents, distributed by the NYC Department of Buildings (DOB), grant the legal occupation of a new development or an existing building under construction in NYC. The process can be daunting and lengthy, but extremely necessary to not only protect residents and workers, but also to make the project financially viable. Developers do not see any money until the building is occupied.

On December 10, 2020, the New York City Council passed Intro. 2033 creating Interim Certificates of Occupancy (ICOs) for NYC buildings. Starting in April 2021, this new type of temporary certificate of occupancy can be used in place of a traditional Temporary Certificate of Occupancy (TCO) to allow specific floor(s) of qualifying buildings to be partially occupied before full completion of construction work.

ROBERT TYMECKI

While the ICO and TCO are similar in nature, by implementing this change the DOB intends to streamline the building occupation process and cut through the long existing bureaucratic morass while maintaining all necessary compliance and safety standards for the occupants of buildings under construction.

What does this mean for your project?

For those looking to obtain a certificate of occupancy, the biggest change to the current process applies to term limits. Previously, TCO’s were issued for a term no longer than 90 days. However, DOB’s new ICO will not require renewals. This change aims to provide building owners with peace of mind when attempting to secure financing, selling and leasing spaces, and as well as giving assurances to incoming commercial and residential tenants. 

It is important to note that the process of obtaining a certificate of occupancy remains unchanged. Obtaining an ICO still requires all inspection and sign off requirements including review for proper means of egress, fire protection systems, and required special inspections. There can be no outstanding objections that affect the occupancy of the proposed building. 

However, certain types of buildings do not qualify for this process and will continue to receive TCOs. These building include:

  • Residential buildings with fewer than eight stories or four dwelling units,
  • Non-residential buildings with fewer than five stories,
  • Mixed-use buildings with fewer than four dwelling units, or
  • Parking structures.

Construction professionals must be aware that the new accommodations will not affect the phased certificate of occupancy process. That process must follow the normal TCO procedures in the NYC construction industry.

How can we help?

The efforts to cut down review time and unnecessary paperwork on the DOB administrative end will prove beneficial but the process to move a building from ICO/TCO to a Final Certificate of Occupancy is still complex. Many buildings find themselves in this interim state for far too long. The entire process calls for constant coordination and communication by all entities involved in a project including the owner/developer, the construction manager, and all subcontractors. These new processes regarding occupancy coupled with ongoing changes in DOB policy, procedures and movement to a more online/electronic methodology call for an experienced and thorough consulting team to guide developments to the finish line.

All information no longer exists in one place. Now, construction professionals must navigate DOB Now: Build, DOB Now: Inspections (AKA Inspections Ready), DOB Now: Safety in addition to the traditional BIS system to review all information necessary to obtain an updated status on the project. In addition, project professionals are now required to enter data that was typically done by the expediter., and all must be aware of the newly created coordination delays that arise as a result.

Robert Tymecki is the Senior Vice President of Consulting with Domani Consulting

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