If the listing states that the Buyer is responsible for all town certifications and inspections, then the Realtor you are working with in order to purchase the home should advise you when and how to obtain the CO (certification of occupancy). If for some reason they do not, you can ask the advice of the attorney you are working with or contact the town in which you are buying the house to find out the requirements of the CO so you are ready and know what to do if you are called on to provide the documentation.
Simplest answer is if you are working with a good buyers agent, especially with you being a first-time home buyer, then they should be taking you through the entire home buying process step by step and that would include letting you know when and how to get the CO.
Hope this helps!
RE/MAX First Choice
Can you be more specific about what you are talking about? Was it a garage that was converted into a room? An addition? A dormer? An added bathroom in the basement? That would make it easier to tell if it is something you should have looked into yourself or not.
First you must remember that everything is negotiable. Having said that, without the certificate of occupancy a lender would not consent to lend you money for something that was not legally habitable. If the seller wants this sale to proceed he would make certain that he has his ducks in a row.
Normally this information is discoverable by the search that your attorney has or will have requested and is checked against the remarks on the uniform residential appraisal report ,which will be requested by the lending institution. If 4 bedrooms appear on the report and a C of O were issued for 3 bedrooms a red flag will appear. This is fixable.
To obtain the C of O it may be as simple as filling for a permit, having the town inspect for code violations then issuing a C of O if none appear. Even if there are problems such as a missing GFIs or insufficient insulation it can be remedied and the town would come back and reinspect and issue the C of O
A bigger problem may occur when an addition was put up without permits and that addition happens to not meet specific zoning codes, such as to close to the property line. The seller may need to file for a variance and that could take a longer process. The worse that could happen it still fixable but would you be willing to wait?
Back to who pays for what? It all depends on negotiations and that is why you have someone representing your best interests so choose wisely. As a matter of fact I am not an attorney but I have enough information just to make me dangerous. So if in doubt seek counsel.