Most people understand that they must obtain a building permit to begin construction of a commercial building and that they must obtain a certificate of occupancy before the building can be put to its intended use. The owner of a parcel of commercial real estate in North Philadelphia may be about to learn the consequences of ignoring these requirements.

A building permit is necessary to ensure that the plans for a proposed structure will comply with the city’s building code. A certificate of occupancy will only be issued after a building has been inspected by officials of the city’s Department of Licenses and Inspections to insure that the finished building is safe for human occupancy.

According to city records, the building in question — a four-story apartment building with eight units — was constructed before a building permit was issued, and units were rented to tenants before the city issued a certificate of occupancy. The building is now occupied by eight students at Temple University.

After receiving an inquiry from a Philadelphia newspaper, the department notified the owner of the building that he had 35 days to conduct the necessary inspections and to obtain a certificate of occupancy. If the owner does not obtain the certificate, the city will declare the building unsafe, and the tenants will be forced to move. The owner of the building claims that the building was inspected, but he refused to make any further comment on the situation.

This case demonstrates the hazards of failing legal building requirements. Builders often view the city’s inspection and licensing requirements as an unnecessary nuisance, but the laws were passed to protect the public. Anyone contemplating the erection of a commercial building must understand all the necessary permits and licenses that must be obtained in order to build and all inspections that must be passed before a building can be put in to use. By failing to comply with these requirements building owners and developers could open themselves up for legal disputes and increasing costs.

Source: Philadelphia Inquirer, “Safety questions loom for apartments built illegally without L&I inspection,” Alfred Lubrano, April 25, 2015