Certificate of Occupancy

Virginia law requires that a Certificate of Occupancy be issued for all new buildings and when the occupancy use of an existing building changes. The CO is the County's way of certifying that a building may be used in a specific manner, and that construction methods comply with applicable codes.

Northampton County issues both permanent and temporary COs.

Permanent COs indicate full compliance with applicable regulations, and may include specific conditions and stipulations. There is no charge for a permanent CO. Structures must pass a Final Inspection before the building official will sign a certificate of occupancy.

If projects involve new or altered well water or sewage disposal connections, an "Operations Permit" or equivalent is required from the Health Department before a CO is issued.

Temporary certificates are issued at the sole discretion of the building official and may include stipulations, conditions and limitations. Temporary COs are valid for up to 30 days, and are renewable at the building officials discretion.

Existing Buildings

Owners may request a Certificate of Occupancy for an existing building. Owners should make requests for COs for existing building in writing to the building official. A fee is charged for inspections associated with these certificates. Final inspection approval or approvals may serve as the certificate of occupancy for any addition or alteration to a structure for which a certificate of occupancy has already been issued.

Zoning and COs

In general, COs require approval of the Zoning Administrator or agent. Zoning regulations applicable to new structures are enforced, and compliance is often a prerequisite for approval of the CO.

Contents of COs

The certificate of occupancy shall contain the following information:

  • edition of the USBC under which the permit was issued
  • the group and occupancy classification
  • type of construction
  • automatic sprinkler system installed
  • occupant load
  • any other stipulations or conditions of the building permit

Certificate of Occupancy

There is no charge for a certificate of occupancy (C.O.) associated with a building permit for new construction.

It is illegal to occupy or use a structure that requires a C.O., before a CO has been issued.

Certificate of Occupancy are required by the USBC, which states:



116.1 General; when to be issued. A certificate of
occupancy indicating completion of the work for which a
permit was issued shall be obtained prior to the occupancy
of any building or structure, except as provided for in this
section generally and as specifically provided for in
Section 113.8 for additions or alterations. The certificate
shall be issued after completion of the final inspection and
when the building or structure is in compliance with this
code and any pertinent laws or ordinances, or when
otherwise entitled. The building official shall, however,
issue a certificate of occupancy within five working days
after being requested to do so, provided the building or
structure meets all of the requirements for a certificate.

Exception: A certificate of occupancy is not required
for an accessory structure as defined in the IRC.

116.1.1  Temporary certificate of occupancy. Upon
the request of a permit holder, a temporary certificate
of occupancy may be issued before the completion of
the work covered by a permit, provided that such
portion or portions of a building of structure may be
occupied safely prior to full completion of the
building or structure without endangering life or
public safety.

116.2 Contents of certificate.
A certificate of occupancy shall specify the following:

1. The edition of the USBC under which the permit
is issued.

2. The group classification and occupancy in
accordance with the provisions of Chapter 3.

3. The type of construction as defined in Chapter 6.

4. If an automatic sprinkler system is provided and
whether or not such system was required.

5. Any special stipulations and conditions of the
building permit and if any modifications were
issued under the permit, there shall be a notation
on the certificate that modifications were issued.

6. Group R-5 occupancies complying with Section
R320.2 of the IRC shall have a notation of
compliance with that section on the certificate.

116.3 Suspension or revocation of certificate.
A certificate of occupancy may be revoked or suspended
whenever the building official discovers that such
certificate was issued in error or on the basis of incorrect
information, or where there are repeated violations of the
USBC after the certificate has been issued or when
requested by the code official under Section 105.7 of the
VMC. The revocation or suspension shall be in writing
and shall state the necessary corrections or conditions for
the certificate to be reissued or reinstated in accordance
with Section 116.3.1.

116.3.1 Reissuance of reinstatement of certificate
of occupancy.
 When a certificate of occupancy has been revoked or suspended, it shall be reissued or reinstated upon correction of the specific condition or conditions cited as the cause of the revocation or
suspension and the revocation or suspension of a certificate of occupancy shall not be used as justification for requiring a building or structure to be subject to a later edition of the code than that under which such building or structure was initially

116.4 Issuance of certificate for pre-USBC buildings or
 When a building or structure was constructed
prior to being subject to the initial edition of the USBC
and the local building department does not have a
certificate of occupancy for the building or structure, the
owner or owner’s agent may submit a written request for
a certificate to be created. The building official, after
receipt of the request, shall issue a certificate provided a
determination is made that there are no current violations
of the VMC or the Virginia Statewide Fire Prevention
Code (13VAC5-51) and the occupancy classification of
the building or structure has not changed. Such buildings
and structures shall not be prevented from continued use.

Exception: When no certificate exists, but the local
building department
has records indicating that a
certificate did exist, then the building official may
either verify in writing that a certificate did exist or
issue a certificate based upon the records.

Staff Information

Susan McGhee

757-678-0443 ext. 541

[email protected]

Zoning Administrator

757-678-0443 ext. 545 

John Outten
Building Official

757-678-0445 ext. 525

[email protected]

Kelley Lewis Parks
Planner/GIS Specialist

757-678-0443 ext. 546

[email protected]

Tom Rippon
Code Compliance and Building Inspector

757-678-0445 ext. 526

[email protected]  

Julie Floyd
Development Inspector

757-678-0443 ext. 542

 [email protected]
Jennifer Sayers 
Building Permit Technician

757-678-0445 ext. 543

[email protected]

Carolyn Duffy
Zoning Permit Technician

757-678-0443 ext. 544

[email protected]

Administrative Clerk 

Department of Planning, Permitting & Enforcement
PO Box 538
16404 Courthouse Road
Eastville, VA 23347

Hours of Operation
9 AM - 5 PM