How To Acquire a Certificate of Occupancy for Tenant Improvements in a Commercial Building

This article is designed to help you through the permitting and construction processes associated with a tenant improvement (TI) project. Tenant improvements are defined as structural or nonstructural interior alterations to an existing commercial or industrial space. This includes electrical, mechanical and plumbing permits, a change in the permitted use or an increase in the permitted number of occupants.

To apply for a tenant improvement permit, you need to stop at the building counter in the public service building in your city and provide them with a complete submittal package. A complete submittal package consists of the following:

  1. A completed Tenant Improvement Worksheet.
  2. Four copies of a Plot/Site Plan showing the general layout of the existing building site, the location of the tenant improvement, the address, and the handicapped path of travel from parking to the accessible entrance(s).
  3. Four copies of construction plans and details, including but not limited to the floor plan, exiting plan, reflected ceiling plan, framing details, lighting plan, electrical/plumbing/mechanical plans and other applicable plans as listed in the Tenant Improvement Worksheet.
  4. Two sets of Title 24 energy compliance documents, when changes are proposed to the mechanical system, lighting or building envelope.
  5. A completed Hazardous Materials Questionnaire.

During the permitting process you will be asked to pay two separate fees: a plan check fee and permit fee. You are required to pay the plan check fee before they take your application for plan check. As for the permit fee, you must pay it at the time of permit issuance. Both fees are determined by the type of construction, the type of occupancy, the square footage and the extent of the tenant improvement.

After the development services technicians (DST) verify that the application package is complete, and you have paid the plan check fee, they will forward a set of plans/documents to each of the four departments/divisions: Building, Planning, Engineering and Fire. Approval from all four departments/divisions is required prior to permit issuance.

After you obtain all the required approvals and pay the permit fee, a DST will issue you a building permit. Now you can start construction. At certain stages during construction, you must schedule an inspection. The following list represents the sequence of required inspections for a typical tenant improvement:

  1. Underground plumbing and electrical
  2. Foundation
  3. Interior wall framing and rough electric
  4. T-bar ceiling and rough trades (electrical, plumbing & mechanical)
  5. Drywall nailing
  6. Electrical service
  7. Final Inspection

After all required inspections are approved and any required approvals from other divisions and/or departments are obtained, the building inspector will notify the utility company to release the electric meter and a Certificate of Occupancy will be issued. The issuance of a Certificate of Occupancy authorizes you to occupy and use the facility based on the permitted use shown on the Certificate of Occupancy.