Do I Need A Municipal Certificate For My Home Purchase?

New Jersey law requires that the seller of a home obtain a smoke detector and carbon monoxide detector inspection and certificate (sometimes called a “fire certificate”). This is initiated by completing a form at the office of the town, city or township where the property is located and paying a fee. An appointment is then scheduled and the municipal inspector checks the home to see that all required detectors are present and in working order. If that is the case, his office will then issue the certificate, which should be delivered to the buyer at closing. Typically, buyers will refuse to close title without the certificate. The seller is liable for a fine to the municipality for closing without the certificate. There is a limited exception for condominium and townhouse developments where the smoke detection system is for the entire building, but that exception needs to be verified with the municipality.

In New Jersey, when a new home is constructed, the municipality will inspect and issue a certificate of occupancy, evidencing that the home is complete and that the buyer may move in. In addition, municipalities have the option of requiring a home seller to apply for a certificate of occupancy or compliance on the resale of an existing home. In such cases, the seller must fill out a form, pay a fee and give the municipal inspector access to the property. Some towns are more stringent than others, but if the inspector finds a building violation, the seller must correct it and arrange for a re-inspection before the municipality will issue the certificate. Again, the seller can be fined for closing without the certificate. This process is also helpful to the buyer in that any improvements to the home which were constructed without required permits are redflagged. In some cases, the buyer and seller can agree that the buyer will take responsibility for correcting the violations within a limited period of time after closing and will sign an agreement to that effect which is given to the municipality so that a temporary certificate of occupancy or compliance can be issued.

An experienced real estate attorney will see to it that these certificates are produced on or before closing so that the transaction can be smoothly closed.

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