The New York City Department of Buildings or DOB issues Certificates of Occupancy to identify the legal use of a given property. This practice began in 1938, meaning buildings built before 1938 are not necessarily required to have a Certificate of Occupancy. In cases where there is no such Certificate on a given property, one can request a Letter of No Objection, commonly referred to as an LNO.
What is a Letter of No Objection?
A Letter of No Objection is a document issued by the NYC Department of Buildings stating that the Department has no objection to the specified use of a given building. The LNO is for buildings without a Certificate of Occupancy. Additionally, a Letter of Verification can be issued to verify the use of a building with a Certificate of Occupancy.
I am Jorge Fontan, an architect in NY and owner of NYC-based architecture firm Fontan Architecture. At our office, we have filed many LNO applications. In this post, we will review some key points to these types of documents, some general expectations, and explain why one would need to obtain such a letter.
Letter of No Objection Example from NYC DOB
Below is an example of a Letter of No Objection we acquired for one of our clients. The content of this letter is quite basic. It states that the Department of Buildings has no objection to the specified use of a one-family residence. Although this is not a Certificate of Occupancy, in many cases, it will be acceptable in lieu of a C of O.
Letter of No Objection Sample NYC DOB
How Long Does a Letter of No Objection Take?
Obtaining a Letter of No Objection from the NYC DOB will take at least one month, provided it is a clear case. Some applications need to be resubmitted if the DOB raises objections to the request. In that case, it can take additional time and up to several months.
How Do You Get an LNO in NYC?
Filing an LNO is like a court case. The more evidence you have, the more likely you will win the case. When we file an LNO application for one of our clients, we begin with research on the property. We need to see what documentation is available to support the request. The more supporting documentation we include, the better our chance of getting the application approved.
As an architect, I always include a letter with our request that explains the applicability of zoning and building codes that may be pertinent to the request. The letter is not a requirement for the applications, but I believe it enhances the likelihood of approval as we clarify that there are no zoning or building code issues.
Example of LNO Supporting Documentation
There are many types of documents you may include in an LNO Application. Here are a few examples:
- Letter of No Objection application form
- Photos of the property
- DOB records
- HPD records
- Letter explaining Zoning Use Group and Building Code Occupancy Group
What Is the Purpose of a Letter of No Objection?
One would request a Letter of No Objection to verify the legal use of a property with no current Certificate of Occupancy or where the Certificate of Occupancy may be unclear. A Letter of Verification is filed. There are various reasons this can be required, such as selling a property, renovating, obtaining a liquor license, obtaining a loan, opening a new business, and many other reasons.
Below I will run through a few examples of LNOs that we obtained for our clients.
LNO to Sell Property
When someone wants to purchase a home or a building in NYC without a Certificate of Occupancy, it can be risky as you may need to know the legal use of the structure. We have often obtained Letters of No Objection for people looking to sell or rent property to ensure the use they are marketing is acceptable by the NYC DOB. A typical example is verifying how many families are allowed in a residential townhouse.
Below is an example of a two-family attached townhouse that one of our clients was selling. They asked us to obtain an LNO to verify that it was, in fact, a legal two-family residence for their potential buyer.
LNO to Verify Acceptable Use of a Property
One common reason to request a Letter of No Objection is if you need to confirm that a particular use complies with the Certificate of Occupancy. In this case, it is called a Letter of Verification, but most people still refer to it as an LNO.
In the example below, a client of ours wanted to open a Dog Daycare in the West Village. The Certificate of Occupancy did not list this specific use. So, one might assume you would need to apply for a new Certificate of Occupancy, which would be a much more involved process. That was not the case here. If you intend to change the use of a property and such use still falls within the Zoning Use Group and the Building Code Occupancy Group, you can obtain a Letter of No Objection, and you will not have to obtain a new C of O.
Below is the LNO for the Dog Daycare Center.
LNO for Dog Day Care Verification
LNO For Liquor License
If you want to obtain a liquor license in NYC, you will need either a Certificate of Occupancy or a Letter of No Objection. In this case, the LNO or C of O should state Eating and Drinking Establishment.
Below is an example of an Eating and Drinking establishment Letter of No Objection we obtained for a client.
LNO for Eating and Drinking Establishment
LNO Applications with The NYC DOB
All Letters of No Objection applications need to be considered case-by-case. Some have more merit than others. It is essential to understand the zoning and code implications of the request. The better the application is put together and the more precise the supporting documentation is, the higher the likelihood of approval.
You can visit the New York City Department of Buildings website to learn more about the LNO Process.
Thank You for Reading Our Blog Post on the NYC DOB LNO Process.
I hope this was helpful. If you want to speak with an architect about a potential project, contact us at Fontan Architecture directly.
This post was written by Jorge Fontan AIA a Registered Architect and owner of New York City architecture firm Fontan Architecture. Jorge Fontan has earned 3 degrees in the study of architecture including two degrees from the City University of New York and a Masters Degree in Advanced Architectural Design from Columbia University. Jorge has a background in construction and has been practicing architecture for 20 years where he has designed renovations and new developments of various building types.