Acquiring a Certificate of Occupancy

Acquiring a Certificate of Occupancy (CO) is one of the final steps in a new or altered building or a change in occupancy, location, ownership, or use of any land or building. The CO ensures that your building or proposed use of the building/land complies with all regulations of Arlington County, including laws and ordinances.

Timing and Types of COs

No occupancy can take place until a CO is issued, and the application process must begin at least two (2) weeks before occupancy begins. There are several types of COs, although generally only one certificate is required for each project or tenant. Certain projects, like large commercial or multi-family buildings, may require more than one. This could include a shell and core certificate for inspection and occupancy of the common areas and garage; a partial certificate for floors, units or spaces; and a master certificate for inspection of the site and completion of the site plan conditions. A temporary Certificate of Occupancy may be issued by the building official when appropriate.

The two-week window between CO application and occupancy allows for final inspections to be completed. An optional pre-occupancy meeting can be arranged with Inspection Services thirty (30) days prior to occupancy. CO applications should be submitted no later than Thursday, 4:30 p m, two (2) weeks prior to the scheduled occupancy date.

In some cases additional information may be needed, such as a parking plan or a seating layout plan.

Check with the Zoning Administration Office (703) 228-3883 for additional requirements in filing applications for restaurants and for car dealerships.

Certificate of Occupancy Process

STEP 1 – Check with Zoning – Call (703) 228-3883 to ensure the proposed use is permitted in the desired location.

STEP 2 – Required Permits – The customer checks to find out if any permits are required for their building. If permits are required, the customer will apply for those permits before applying for a CO.

STEP 3 – Apply for a Certificate of Occupancy (CO) – After all necessary permits have been obtained; the customer applies for a CO through the Zoning Administration Office at 2100 Clarendon Blvd., suite 1000, no later than 4:30 p.m. on the Thursday (two weeks before the building is complete or the business is relocated). The customer will then be given an application number.

STEP 4 – Review Certificate of Occupancy (CO) Checklist – Check the Certificate of Occupancy submission checklist to see if there are any requirements specific to your CO application.

STEP 5 – Schedule an Inspection – A site inspector will then contact the customer to schedule an inspection. It is the responsibility of the customer to complete any requested changes to comply with all building codes and zoning ordinances if the inspection reveals this to be necessary.

STEP 6 – Check the Status of the CO – After the inspections are signed off, the customer will check with Inspection Services Division (ISD) regarding the status of their CO application and find out if there are any outstanding approvals. If there are outstanding approvals, the agency that is responsible should be contacted and worked with to comply. If there are no outstanding issues, ISD will approve the CO and send the application to Zoning for issuance.

STEP 7 – Final CO issued – If there are no outstanding Zoning concerns, the CO will be issued. The customer will be contacted and given the option to pick up the permit or have the permit mailed to them.


The cost for a Certificate of Occupancy (CO) depends on the type of project. For additional information about fees, see the Zoning Fee Schedule.

A 5% automation fee will be applied in addition to all fees below.

Master Certificate of Occupancy (including condo conversion)
a. New apartments, office, commercial and hotel with or without elevators – $2,186 plus $17 per unit
b. New tourist homes, rooming houses and boardinghouses – $548 plus $17 per unit
c. One- and two-family dwellings – $275
d. New town house projects (site work) – $1,093
e. Change in ownership of office and commercial – $1,093
f. Change in ownership of apartments and hotels – $1,093 plus $22 per unit
g. Condo conversions – $1,093 plus $22 per unit
h. Re-inspection fee – $165 per inspection

Shell and Core Certificate for Elevator Buildings
New apartments, office, commercial and hotel
a. Up to 150,000 square feet of gross floor area – $2,186
b. Over 150,000 square feet of gross floor area – $2,733
c. Re-inspection fee – $165 per inspection

Certificate for Partial Occupancy (including change in business or use of an existing structure)
Office and commercial
a. Up to 150 square feet of gross floor area (desk space) – $220
b. Over 150 square feet of gross floor area and up to 2,000 square feet of gross floor area – $329
c. Over 2,000 square feet of gross floor area – $548 per 10,000 square feet of gross floor area or fraction thereof.
Apartments and hotels – $439 plus $22 per unit
Town house units – $275 plus $22 per unit.


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