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Overview of Permitting Process

Getting a permit in the District involves numerous steps. Depending on the project, you may be required to get approvals or services from agencies besides DCRA.

Pre-application

The development standards outlined in Title 11 of the District of Columbia Municipal Regulations (DCMR) regulate the use of land, the height and size of buildings, the size of lots, provision of yards, parking requirements, and more.

Before you submit your permit application

Find out if development restrictions apply to your project. Learn your zoning district and if you are in a zoning overlay. Overlay districts set forth additional zoning regulations that are combined with the underlying zoning district. Additional development restrictions are administered by other agencies, such as Historic Preservation, the National Capital Planning Commission, the US Commission of Fine Arts or other preliminary reviewing organizations. For more information and a complete list of overlays, visit the DC Office of Zoning website.

Learn if you need to get Office of the Surveyor documents to submit with your permit application. These may include plats, subdivisions or street and alley closing forms. Plats are required for all exterior work and must show all existing structures drawn to scale. Plats are not required for jobs that only consist of interior work (e.g. bathroom remodeling). A building plat is a scaled drawing of a lot, showing lot lines and record dimensions. The plat must be certified by the DC Surveyor and is usually used to get a building permit. To get a building plat, you must place the order in person at the Office of the Surveyor. To place the order, you will need the Square, Suffix and Lot (SSL) number for each property. The cost of a regular plat is $30.

Find out if you need issuance of a new address. If you do, submit a completed application to the Permit Center at 1100 4th Street, SW, Second Floor.
Schedule a Preliminary Design Review Meeting (PDRM) if you are submitting a large-scale project, such as construction of a new residential or office building. The meeting provides applicants with a preliminary review of their building plans prior to filing.

Set up other pre-application meetings with the DC Water, DC Department of Transportation (DDOT) and the Department of Health (DOH). These meetings can help eliminate unforeseen obstacles during review of permit applications, particularly on large-scale projects.

Environmental Review Process

DC Public Law 8-36, the Environmental Policy Act of 1989, requires that all District of Columbia agencies consider the environmental impact of all proposed major actions before issuing any approvals for them.

Building permit applicants are required to submit an Environmental Intake Form (EIF) with their application to determine if an Environmental Impact Screening (EIS) is required. If an Environmental Impact Screening is required, an interagency review team will look over the applicants' Environmental Impact Screening Form (EISF) and make a determination. This process takes approximately 30 days.

All forms, regulations and maps relevant to the Environmental Review Process are on this website. They are also available at the Permit Center, 1100 4th Street, SW, Second Floor. Please take the time to read and understand these materials. Remember, no permit will be issued until the environmental review process has been completed.

Preparing Your Permit Application

When preparing your permit application:

  • Make sure all required information is provided and all applicable boxes are checked
  • Include your Square, Suffix and Lot (SSL) numbers
  • Identify your Zoning District and Zoning Overlay
  • Collect and submit the required supporting documentation
  • View the building permit application requirements to see all the supporting documentation required for your particular permit.

Intake/Completeness Check

All applications are reviewed in the Permit Center at second floor of 1100 4th Street, SW, to ensure that you have met the basic requirements.

Plan Submittal

When you have completed your application and plans, go to the Permit Center at 1100 4th Street, SW, Second Floor. If you are a property owner representing yourself on certain small projects, you will be sent to our Homeowners Center. Otherwise, you will be given a number and called in turn. Our intake staff will review your application for all necessary signatures and completeness.

Once an application has been reviewed for completeness, a Plans Review Coordinator will conduct a preliminary review to determine the type of job—based on the complexity and scope of work. Applications can be classified as Non-Complex Jobs or Complex Jobs. Non-Complex Jobs are reviewed by Permit Center staff. Complex Jobs are given to plans review engineers in another area. The review time for a File Job depends on the complexity, scope of work and number of disciplines that must be involved.

Plan Review

After you file your building permit application, it must be reviewed by all of the relevant disciplines. Each discipline will review the plans and approve them — or put a hold on the application so you can make corrections in response to engineers' written comments. Final building permit approval will not be given to any project until all disciplines and external agencies have approved and stamped the plans.

Typically, plans are routed through:

  • Zoning review
  • Mechanical/Plumbing review
  • Electrical review
  • Fire review
  • Structural review

For certain projects such as restaurants, excavation, work in historic districts, or work in public space, these agencies may also participate in the review process:

  • Office of Planning (Historic Preservation)
  • District Department of Transportation (Public Space)
  • Department of Health (Community Hygiene)
  • Department of the Environment (Soil Erosion)
  • Water and Sewer Authority

Permit Issuance

After all disciplines and external agencies approve the application, we will contact you to tell you your permit is ready for pick up. You must get an invoice from the Issuance Counter and pay for the permit in the Cashier's Office. Then show your cashier’s receipt to get their permit.

Inspections

There are two categories of DCRA inspections related to permits:

  • Building inspections, which include plumbing, electrical, fire and construction inspections, assure the building has been constructed in accordance with the building code and approved plans.
  • Certificate of Occupancy (C of O) inspections, related to the use of the building, is required for occupancy of all buildings except single-family dwellings.

To schedule a plumbing, electrical, fire, construction, elevator or boiler inspection, call the Building Inspections Scheduling unit at (202) 442-9557. You can now schedule construction inspections 24/7 from any phone.

If you intend to use a Third Party Inspection agency, please review the guidelines online.

Certificates of Occupancy

A Certificate of Occupancy (C of O) is a document that certifies that the use of a building complies with Zoning regulations and Building Codes.

A new Certificate of Occupancy is required when new construction or alteration has occurred—or there have been changes in:

  • Ownership
  • Occupancy Load
  • Use

You must get a Certificate of Occupancy before occupation and use of the building. The certificate must be posted onsite.

Please note that single-family homes, individual units in an apartment building and individual suites in an office building do not require Certificates of Occupancy.

Apply for the C of O in the Permit Center at 1100 4th Street, SW, Second Floor, Washington, DC 20024.