California Temporary Certificate of Occupancy being issued to a property owner

California Temporary Certificate Of Occupancy (TCO)

The Temporary Certificate of Occupancy is an interim document issued by local building departments granting occupants permission to use a building before completing all construction work. This article explains the certificate's purpose, requirements, eligibility, timing, costs, and differences from the standard Certificate of Occupancy.

  1. What Is A Temporary Certificate Of Acceptance In California?
  2. What Is The Difference Between A TCO & A Standard Certificate Of Occupancy?
  3. Why Is It Required?
  4. Who Can Obtain It?
  5. What Is The Application Process?
  6. What's Required For Compliance?
  7. How Much Does It Cost?
  8. Conclusion

What Is A Temporary Certificate Of Acceptance In California?

The primary purpose of a Temporary Certificate Of Acceptance (TCO) is to allow for the partial or complete occupancy of a building, facilitating the commencement of business operations or residential use on time. This temporary permit is especially beneficial for projects that face minor delays in final touches or awaiting the completion of non-critical aspects that do not affect the overall safety and usability of the premises.

What Is The Difference Between A TCO & A Standard Certificate Of Occupancy?

The main difference between a TCO and a regular Certificate of Occupancy is their permanence and completion scope. A TCO is, by nature, a provisional document. It is issued for a specific period, often with conditions that must be met to transition to a full C of O. In contrast, a standard Certificate of Occupancy is a permanent document indicating that a building has fully met all regulatory standards and is safe for occupancy without restrictions.

Why Is It Required?

A TCO is necessary when a building is safe and suitable for occupancy but requires minor work to comply entirely with all building codes and regulations. It is most commonly sought towards the project's end, allowing owners and tenants to utilize the space without waiting to complete all construction activities. The timing for obtaining a TCO is critical, as it directly impacts the project's overall timeline and the ability to begin operational or residential use.

Who Can Obtain It?

Similar to the standard C of O, applying for a TCO typically falls on the property owner or the project's general contractor. They must demonstrate that the building is safe and that any remaining work does not affect its safety or functionality.

What Is The Application Process?

The validity of a TCO varies and is determined by the local building department based on the scope of remaining work and the project's specific conditions. The process involves an inspection to ascertain that the essential safety systems are in place and operational. Depending on the jurisdiction, the TCO can be issued for a period ranging from a few weeks to several months, with the possibility of extension upon request and justification.

Navigating a Temporary Certificate of Occupancy process demands a clear understanding of local requirements and a proactive approach to completing the necessary conditions for full compliance. Engaging with experienced professionals familiar with the intricacies of building codes and the TCO process can be invaluable in achieving a smooth transition to full occupancy.

What's Required For Compliance?

Obtaining a TCO is a strategic step that underscores a commitment to compliance while recognizing the practical needs of project completion timelines. It allows for the early occupancy of the building, providing economic benefits to the owners and occupants. However, it also comes with the responsibility to ensure that all conditions of the TCO are met within the stipulated timeframe to secure the permanent C of O.

How Much Does It Cost?

Obtaining a TCO may include application fees, inspection fees, and potentially additional charges for extensions. These fees vary by municipality and are generally in addition to the costs of obtaining the final Certificate of Occupancy.


The Temporary Certificate of Occupancy plays a pivotal role in the continuum of construction and development projects in California. It offers a practical solution for safe and nearly complete buildings, providing a pathway to early occupancy and use. Understanding the nuances between a TCO and a standard Certificate of Occupancy and the strategic considerations in applying for one is essential for developers, contractors, and architects aiming to optimize their project timelines while adhering to regulatory standards. As the construction landscape continues to evolve, the flexibility offered by a TCO remains an indispensable tool in the successful completion and operational transition of development projects.