DC LLC Certificate of Occupancy
or Home Occupation Permit

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Certificate of Occupancy or Home Occupation Permit from Department of Buildings

Every DC LLC must have one of the following from the Department of Buildings:

  • Certificate of Occupancy
  • Home Occupation Permit

A Certificate of Occupancy is used for commercial buildings. A Home Occupation Permit is used for residential buildings.

You don’t need both.

Note: The Certificate of Occupancy and Home Occupation Permit applications used to be handled by the Office of the Zoning Administrator. In 2022, these were both taken over by the Department of Buildings.

Certificate of Occupancy (C of O)

A Certificate of Occupancy (“C of O”) is required if your business will rent office/retail space or owns a commercial building in DC.

A Certificate of Occupancy can only be used for commercially-zoned buildings.

Exceptions: multi-family dwellings (duplex, triplex, etc.), child development homes, bed & breakfasts, group homes, and other similar dwellings.

If you’re renting office space, it’s likely that the building’s Certificate of Occupancy will cover your business activities. You’ll need to get the C of O Number in order to enter it on your Basic Business License Application, which we’ll discuss in the next lesson. The property manager should have that information.

How to get a Certificate of Occupancy

Use our step by step guide: DC LLC Certificate of Occupancy

Home Occupation Permit (HOP)

A Home Occupation Permit (“HOP”) is required if you work from home in DC.

It doesn’t matter if you own the home or rent the home; a Home Occupation Permit is required.

A Home Occupation Permit can only be used for residentially-zoned buildings.

It doesn’t matter if it’s a single-family detached home, an apartment in a skyscraper, or anything in between, you’ll need to get an HOP.

How to get a Home Occupation Permit

Use our step by step guide: DC LLC Home Occupation Permit

NEITHER is required if:

your LLC doesn’t physically operate in DC.

If your business doesn’t have a physical location in DC, then you don’t need a Certificate of Occupancy OR a Home Occupation Permit.

Caution: If you’re supposed to get a C of O or a HOP and you don’t, there will be serious fines and penalties from multiple government agencies in the District.

What if my business is online only?

If your LLC only operates online, but you’re using a computer & internet at home to operate the LLC, you need a Home Occupation Permit.

If your LLC only operates online, but you’re renting an office space where you operate the LLC from a computer, you need a Certificate of Occupancy.

What address to use if you hired a Registered Agent?

If you hired a Registered Agent, such as Northwest Registered Agent, and you’ve used their address for your Registered Agent Address as well as your Business Address, you can’t use their address for your Certificate of Occupancy or Home Occupation Permit application. You’ll need to use the address in DC where you are actually operating from.

Contact Info: Department of Buildings

If you have any questions about your LLC’s Home Occupation Permit or Certificate of Occupancy, you can contact the Department of Buildings.

Their website has an interactive chat option, or you can call them at 202-671-3500

Their office hours are 8:30am to 4:30pm, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday. On Thursdays, their hours are 9:30am to 4:30pm.

Matt Horwitz
Matt Horwitz
Matt Horwitz is the leading expert on LLC education, and has been teaching for 15 years. He founded LLC University in 2010 after realizing people needed simple and actionable instructions to start an LLC. He's cited by Entrepreneur Magazine, Yahoo Finance, and the US Chamber of Commerce, and was featured by CNBC and InventRight.
Matt holds a Bachelor's Degree in business from Drexel University with a concentration in business law. He performs extensive research and analysis to convert state laws into simple instructions anyone can follow to form their LLC - all for free! Read more about Matt Horwitz and LLC University.

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4 comments on “District of Columbia Certificate of Occupancy or Home Occupation Permit”

Disclaimer: Nothing on this page shall be interpreted as legal or tax advice. Rules and regulations vary by location. They also change over time and are specific to your situation. Furthermore, this comment section is provided so people can share their thoughts and experience. Please consult a licensed professional if you have legal or tax questions.

  1. If you are conducting business as an online business and do not conduct business out of an office do you need a C of O or HOP?

    Also what if you are a foreign entity but do not have an office in the DC do you still need a C of O? (may have an employees in the here).

    Lastly, are online businesses able to get a business license without a C of O or HOP?

    • Hi Jon, in what state is your LLC formed? And have you registered that LLC as a foreign LLC in the District of Columbia? If yes, what address/location are you using for your foreign LLC registration in DC? And if you have no location in DC, then why did you register your LLC as a foreign LLC? I just want to make sure we understand the context of your question. Thanks.

      • It is registered in the District of Columbia. DC is the home state. It is where I currently live and that is the only reason it is formed here to reduce tax complications.

        • I see. Thank you. As far as we know, there isn’t a way to get a Basic Business License without a C of O or HOP. In your case, it sounds like you’d need a HOP. Hope that helps.

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