Protection of Adjoining Property During Construction
The District of Columbia has laws and regulations that protect you and your property when an adjacent neighbor is doing construction.
Specifically, the Neighbor Notification Program operates pursuant to 17 District of Columbia Municipal Regulations (DCMR) 12A Section 3307, Section 105, Section 106.2 (Sections 106.2.18 and 106.2.19 specifically), Section 106.4.6, Section 106.3 and other applicable codes, and Construction Administrative Bulletins 2015-01 and 2015-02).
Responsibilities of the Property Owner Undertaking Construction Work
When undertaking a building project, it is required that adjoining public and private property be protected from damage at the expense of the person having the work done.
Protection must be provided for lots and for all elements of a building or other structure when a permit may be issued that can impact and/or damage adjoining properties.
Provisions shall be made to control water runoff, erosion, dust and debris control during construction, demolition or raze activities. These requirements shall also apply where
- the work will cause operable chimneys or vents on adjoining premises to become non-compliant with the Chimney Provisions as defined in the DC Code or
- the work will cause the live load of the roof of an adjoining or adjacent premises to exceed the design capacity as a result of the increased snow drift load.
In these projects which could impact and/or damage adjoining properties., DC Code requires that notification be provided to adjoining property owners.
Neighbor Notification Forms must be distributed by the property owners undertaking a project to adjoining property owners prior to approval and issuance of building permits and must include either a copy of the proposed construction documents or instructions to view and download these documents online. The owner undertaking the work shall notify the owner of the adjoining premises by personal delivery, courier, or express mail service, with a copy to the code official not less than 30 days prior to permit issuance.
If there are changes in the scope of work included in the previously issued documents, then another Neighbor Notification Form with revised project drawings and supporting documents is required to be submit to adjoining property owners in the prescribed method mentioned above.
The home or business address of the owner of the adjoining premises shall be determined by the District’s real property tax records.
Additionally, adjoining property shall mean any property with a common lot line with the construction site.
Notification is not required for construction work that (a) occurs entirely within the interior of a building or structure; and (b) is authorized pursuant to a postcard permit issued by DCRA.
Notice of Filing of a Permit Application
A Notice of Filing of a permit application is required to be posted at the property address undergoing construction and the owner/permit applicant shall submit digital photographs with the permit application showing the notice posted on the project site.
The notice shall be posted for a continuous period of at least 30 days, including the 30-day period immediately prior to issuance of the permit. If the notice is destroyed, damaged, or removed the applicant shall promptly replace. The notice shall be given on a form approved by the Code Official and shall be legible from the public way that provides the main entrance to the premises. This posting will provide neighbors with the notice that work is pending on the property.
Prior to permit issuance permit applicant is required to submit a notarized Affidavit of Maintenance attesting that the posting required was continuously maintained for the requisite 30-day period at the entrance of premises for which permit application is submitted.
Responsibilities of the Adjoining Property Owner
Once notified by an owner/permit applicant undertaking construction work, adjoining property owner(s) must view the construction documents pertaining to the permit application and respond to the owner/permit applicant within 30 days of receipt of notification using page 3 of the Neighbor Notification Form.
If the adjoining property owner submits technical objections prepared by a design professional, then it shall be submitted to the owner/permit applicant with a copy provided to DCRA as specified on the Neighbor Notification Form.
Construction plans that are under review will be held for 30 days after receipt of confirmation that adjoining neighbors have been notified. If required Neighbor Notification Form(s) are received by DCRA before the 30 days, with approval of the adjoining property owner(s) provided to DCRA, the permit can be issued. If a Neighbor Notification Form is received before 30 days with a conditional approval or denial, the code official is authorized, but not required, to grant a reasonable extension of time so the permit applicant can resolve the issue(s). As to not impede or materially delay the permit applicant, the adjoining neighbor will be deemed to have elected to make safe their premises if they fail to respond within 30 days of the date of receipt.
Although the requirement to provide neighbor notification gives notice of construction to adjoining properties, this is not a tool to reject, hold, or delay a private property owner from legally performing work on their property.
View Construction Documents Online
Plans and construction documents are available online using eRecords, DCRA’s online electronic records management system. Construction documents submitted at the time of permit application will be available to view online and download as of the next business day after the permit applicant has uploaded permit documents and will be available for up to 60 days after permit issuance. Plans and approved construction documents will be available through another DCRA online system for three years.
Once an adjoining neighbor has been notified of a permit application by an adjoining property owner, neighbors may view the construction documents associated with the project online in eRecords.
- From the list of available searches, select “Neighbor Notification”.
- Enter either the permit number from the Neighbor Notification Form supplied by the property owner, or the address of the property associated with the project.
- Select the available documents for download and review.
Technical Objections by the Adjoining Property Owners
The owner of adjoining premises shall have 30 days from the date that a notification form with project documents is delivered to them to prepare technical objections. The technical objection shall be prepared by licensed design professional and shall include technical support documents for the objecting that the proposed work plan will not protect their adjoining property. A copy of the technical objection, with supporting technical documentation, shall be provided to the code official at technicalobjections-DCRA@dc.gov and to the property owner seeking to undertake the work.
The code official is authorized, but not required, to grant a reasonable extension of time to the adjoining owner receiving a notification, if necessary, to complete the evaluation of the proposed work plan.
Failure to Respond by the Adjoining Property Owner
If the adjoining property owner does not respond within the 30-day period following issuance of a Neighbor Notification Form, such inaction does not relieve the owner/permit applicant undertaking construction work from the safeguards and protections of the adjoining properties. If the adjoining property owner submits their technical objections after issuance of permit, the owner/permit applicant undertaking construction work shall provide a detailed technical resolutions response with supporting documents to resolve any technical objections.
Resolution of Objections
In situations where the adjoining owner objects prior to permit issuance, the property owner seeking to undertake the work shall provide a detailed technical resolution response package prepared by design professional with a response to each point listed in the technical objections with revised drawings, design calculations, reports etc. to resolve technical objections. Upon review and acceptance of technical resolutions response package by the design professional of adjoining neighbors and DCRA, DCRA will ask the property owner seeking to undertake the work to upload a final resolutions package (drawings into drawing folder and all other documents into supporting older) in a DCRA ProjectDox system .
In situations where the adjoining owner objects prior to permit issuance, the property owner seeking to undertake the work shall elect:
- To modify the proposed work plan to incorporate any specific protective measures requested by the adjoining owner and amend the permit application(s) as necessary to update the work plan; or
- To request a determination by the code official whether the specific measures requested by the adjoining owner are reasonably practicable and supported by technical documentation.
If option two is elected, following the code official’s determination, the property owner seeking to undertake the work shall modify the proposed work plan, and amend the affected permit application(s) as necessary (a) to incorporate any specific measures deemed necessary by the code official to protect the adjoining property; or (b) to forego any proposed work that involves the need for structural support of the adjoining building or structure or support of the adjoining property.
Access to Neighboring Property
Within the same 30-day period, the adjoining property owner shall indicate on their response using page 3 of the Neighbor Notification Form, whether or not access to their property is authorized to protect their property. If such access is requested by the owner/permit applicant undertaking construction then the adjoining property owner shall answer with options like yes, no, or yes with conditions. If such access is authorized with conditions, then those conditions need to be provided to the owner/permit applicant undertaking the construction work.
Where an application proposes work that will or potentially require protective work adjoining property, and such protective work will require access to the adjoining property and property owner undertaking the work submits one of the following:
- A written agreement in an approved form signed by the owner/permit applicant undertaking the work and the adjoining property owner that grants access to undertake the protective work;
- A written agreement signed by the owner/permit applicant undertaking the work and the adjoining property owner that denies access and which acknowledges the obligation of the adjoining property owner to be responsible for the protective work on the adjoining owner’s property;
- A court order granting the owner/permit applicant undertaking the work access to the adjoining owner’s property to perform the protective work; or
- A revised work plan that eliminates the need for access to the adjoining owner’s property.
If the access to adjoining property is requested for construction work, then the both owner/permit applicant and adjoining property owner shall prepare agreement and shall submit a signed copy to DCRA with the permit application documents.
Limited Access Authorized
Where the adjoining owner fails to grant access or to respond, said adjoining owner shall be deemed to have authorized limited access to their property in the following circumstances:
- Where a wall or foundation located on a party line or on the property requires underpinning as a result of the proposed work;
- Where the underpinning can be provided by the property owner undertaking the work from their property, even if the footing extends onto the adjoining owner’s property; and
- Where extension of the footing is required to stabilize and support the adjoining owner’s property, and to avoid unreasonable delay in excavation and development of the permitted project.
Additional Resources and Information
- 2017 District of Columbia Municipal Regulations 12A
- Neighbor Notification Form -Safeguards During Construction[PDF]
- Affidavit of Maintenance – Evidence of Notification and Posting[PDF]
- Notice of Filing of a building permit application[PDF]
- Construction Codes Administrative Bulletin CC2015-02 (Underpinning)[PDF]
- Construction Codes Administrative Bulletin - CC2015-01 - (Neighborhood Notification)
- Underpinning Guidelines[PDF]