City of Chicago Zoning Certification / Certificate of Zoning Compliance

–        Issued by Bureau of Planning & Zoning, Department of Housing and Economic Development

A Zoning Certification / Certificate of Zoning Compliance is a certificate stating the number of legal dwelling units in a building.  It is required for the sale of any building containing 1-5 dwelling units.  It applies to residential (not commercial) units.  A single family residence would be certified as one unit.  A building with one commercial unit on the first floor and one legal apartment on the second floor would be certified as one unit.  Zoning Certifications are not required for condo/co-op units or buildings.  A $120 fee is due at the time of application.

The Bureau of Zoning issues a determination on all applications in 5 business days.  The City will either provide the stamped/certified application, or will advise that the application was denied and will set forth the reasons for the denial.

For 2-5 unit applications, the City first looks for City building permit records.  A permit application that has had plans reviewed and approved by the Zoning Department Plan Review is deemed to be reliable evidence of the legality of any dwelling units in a building.  In the absence of any building permit records, the City will look at less-reliable records, such as 1940s/50s Department of Public Works/Water inspection records, Sanborn maps, and pictures of the building from the Cook County Assessor’s website.  The number and location of apartments on the application as listed by the applicant is also taken into consideration.

The Cook County Assessor’s website does list the property type and number of apartments for buildings, but this information is not reliable and does not state the legal number of units.  Zoning Certifications older than one year, which do not contain any permit information, are not evidence of the legality of units, as the City used not-so-reliable Buildings Department records in the past, and does not stand by their old Zoning determinations.