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Report Illegal Construction

Bulldozer on top of demolished building

Any construction done without required building permits is illegal construction. Illegal construction is a public danger: it can hurt people and property.

To report illegal construction, call DCRA’s Illegal Construction Unit, at (202) 442-STOP (7867) or call 311 during non-business hours and you will be routed to an on-duty inspector.

Please give the address and describe the illegal construction. DCRA will schedule an inspection to investigate.

Video: Defining Illegal Construction 

Legal Construction Hours

Construction is allowed Monday through Saturday from 7 am to 7 pm without any special permits. Customers must apply for an afterhours permit to work beyond these legal construction hours. If you believe work is being done after legal hours without permit, please report to DCRA.

What Work Requires a Permit?

The following are types of work that require building permits:

  • New construction
  • Additions
  • Demolition
  • Construction of retaining walls, decks, fences, sheds, garages, and vaults
  • Erection of signs and awnings

You need a public space permit for the following:

  • Dumpsters in public space
  • Sidewalk construction and repair
  • Flag poles, planter boxes, retaining walls and fences in public space

Please note that the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) issues public space permits.

You need a raze permit for demolition of buildings and structures. To raze structures larger than 500 square feet, you must show a certificate of insurance for $500,000 in coverage.

The following work requires a water or sewer excavation permit:

  • Water or sewer pipe installation
  • Connections to water and sewer mains in the street
  • Excavation for water meters and meter vaults in public space

Only licensed DC contractors within the specific trade may apply for these permits.

The following work requires a supplemental systems installation permit:

  • Air conditioning installation
  • Refrigeration system installation
  • Plumbing fixture installation
  • Electrical installation
  • Gas appliance installation

Only licensed DC contractors within the specific trade may apply for these permits.

Work Not Requiring Permits

Unless you live in a historic district, these projects do not require permits:

  • Brick pointing
  • Caulking, patching, and plaster repair
  • Installation of cabinets and architectural millwork
  • Installation of window screens and storm windows
  • Repair of existing fences with like materials
  • Retaining walls, 4 feet (1219 mm) or less in height, measured from the bottom of the footing to the top of the wall, for one and two family dwellings only
  • Construction of garden storage sheds complying with DC Code Section 107.3.3
  • Painting, but not painting with fire-retardant paint

Replacement of:

  • non-rated windows and doors
  • roofing and coping
  • siding
  • gutters and downspouts
  • private sidewalks and driveways
  • patios
  • non-rated suspended ceiling tile
  • floor coverings
  • up to 160 square feet (9.3 cubic meters) of gypsum board
  • up to 50 linear feet (15.24 meters) of sanitary venting piping
  • up to 10 linear feet (3.05 meters) of sanitary drainage system piping
  • up to 20 linear feet (6.1 meters) of sanitary venting piping
  • up to 50 linear feet (15.24 meters) of hydraulic system piping
  • up to 10 linear feet (3.05 meters) of duct work, in non-hazardous and commercial kitchen exhaust systems

Penalties and Stop Work Orders

There is a $2000 fine per infraction for:

  • Work without a permit
  • Work outside the scope of a permit
  • Work before 7am or after 7pm Monday through Saturday or any time on Sunday, and on holidays.

If you break these laws again, you may be fined up to $4,000 per infraction.

If you get a Stop Work Order for illegal construction, you will also have to pay a fine of 50 percent of the cost of the permit you should have obtained.

DCRA will not release the Stop Work Order until you pay the permit fee and fine.

Stop Work Order Appeal Process

Under Title 12A, DC Municipal Regulations § 114.11, you have the right to appeal the Stop Work Order on your property. To exercise this right, you must complete and file this form within 15 calendar days after posting of the Stop Work Order. You may hand-deliver or mail your appeal to the Reviewing Official:

Chief Building Official
Department of Consumer & Regulatory Affairs
Inspections Division
1100 4th Street, SW
4th Floor
Washington DC 20024

For questions, please email Sarah Thigpen (Sarah.Thigpen@dc.gov) or Darrell Pope (Darrell.Pope@dc.gov).  

Note: Due to the time-sensitive nature of these appeals, we strongly suggest you hand deliver your appeals form to the Reviewing Official.

Within ten (10) working days of the Reviewing Official’s receipt of your Appeal Form, the Reviewing Official shall affirm, modify, or reverse the Stop Work Order. If the Reviewing Official denies your appeal or takes no action within  ten (10) working days, you may appeal to the DC Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH). You may deliver or mail your written request for a hearing to:

Office of Administrative Hearings
One Judiciary Square
441 4th Street, NW
Washington, DC 20001-2714

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