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General FAQs

DCRA Virtual Operations FAQs

We understand if you have more questions than usual. We have put together a special set of frequently asked questions to address any outstanding questions you may have. View COVID-19 FAQs.

Consumer Protection

1. What is the Consumer Protection Unit (CPU) and what does it do?

The DC Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs Consumer Protection Unit aggressively pursues unfair and deceptive business practices used against citizens.  Operating under the authority of the DC Consumer Protection Procedures Act (DC Code § 28-3900 – 3913), the agency investigates and resolves consumer complaints, identifies building violations and may take enforcement action, licenses businesses, educates consumers through outreach and classes, and administers programs.

2. What do I do if I have a consumer problem?

Have a complaint about a business? Didn’t get what you paid for? We want to hear from you. To submit a complaint,  fill out this form. Fill out all required fields and be as specific as possible. You may submit a complaint anonymously, however, this may hinder our ability to investigate your complaint without contact information.  Also note, the Consumer Protection Unit can investigate “consumer” complaints only. We are only empowered to investigate cases where the goods or services offered by the business were sought by the complainant for personal use, but has no authority over business-to-business transactions. We also does not have authority over landlord-tenant complaints.

If you have any other questions, please contact us on the DCRA Consumer Protection Hotline by calling (202) 442-4400 and pressing “6” for Consumer Complaints. You may also email us at dcra.consumerprotection@dc.gov


3. What does the Consumer Protection Unit do when I file a complaint?

Investigate. We will investigate the complaint, research all relevant facts, and work to identify any potential violations of the law on the part of the respondent.   We can investigate “consumer” complaints only.  We are only authorized to investigate cases where the goods or services sought by the complainant were for personal use. CPU has no authority over business-to-business transactions. Additionally, CPU does not have  authority over landlord-tenant complaints.
Mediate and Enforce. Mediation is our primary means of achieving a resolution to a complaint. However, when mediation is unsuccessful, CPU does have authority to take enforcement action against any violations committed by a respondent business, including the Consumer Protection Procedures Act, DC licensing laws, or the DC Construction Codes. In  egregious cases, CPU can coordinate with OAG on possible civil actions against a respondent. This provides CPU with a wealth of enforcement tools to both encourage an amicable resolution to a dispute, and to hold offenders accountable.

Educate. Prevention is the best enforcement. Public outreach is a crucial part of our mission, and  we take it seriously. Keep an eye out for upcoming educational and outreach events in your neighborhood. We conduct and participate in a range of events touching on various consumer issues, including new homebuyer seminars, senior outreach, dealing with home improvement contractors, and many more. Come see us, and let us know what’s important to YOU!


4. Was my house/condo recently renovated? How do I find out if it was done properly?

Questions to Ask:

     Q: Did it get the proper permits?

A: You can review a list of permits issued to the property by going to the SCOUT. Just enter the property address, and click on the “Permits” tab.

     Q: If so, do the permits cover the actual work done?

A: Compare the work done at your property with the “Description of Work” on each issued permit. If anything isn’t covered, it may have been done illegally.

     Q: Did the work get properly inspected? If so, did it pass?

A: Check for inspection records for the work done, under the Commercial Inspections..

5. Who is required to have a license in the District of Columbia?

Anyone doing business in the District of Columbia is required to have a DC business license. Home improvement contractors, electricians, plumbers, interior decorators, and many other professionals hired by District residents every day are all among a number of professions requiring specific licenses to do business.

Not sure about a license?

In order to operate legally in the District of Columbia, all businesses must be licensed. Whether or not a Basic Business License is required depends on the business activity conducted in the District. This website allows you to check if a business entity has active license(s). You can search by license number, address, name or the entire category list by clicking on the tabs.


On-Demand Customer Relationship Management (CRM)

What is the On-Demand Customer Relationship Management (CRM)?
We are streamlining the way to get you the answers you need in a timely manner. The On-Demand Customer Relationship Management (CRM) provides you with a single point of contact and assistance with permitting, licensing, inspections, investigations, and enforcement.

What kind of issues can I report through the CRM?
Whether it’s permitting, licensing, inspections, investigations, or enforcement, CRM provides a timely response by the appropriate point of contact based on your issue.

How do I submit an inquiry directly into the system for CRM?
To submit an inquiry or get additional information about CRM, please visitdcra.dc.gov/crm.

Can I still contact Customer Service directly?
Yes. Our Customer Service department is available to answer questions and offer assistance. If your inquiry cannot be resolved within one email or call, Customer Service will include your inquiry into the system for CRM. The advantages of inquiries entered into the system are the updates and resolutions delivered to you by the appropriate division, in one seamless platform.

Do I have to use the CRM form to report an issue?
No. Regardless of how you contact DCRA (web, social media, phone, and email), CRM bundles your inquiries into a single point of contact that allows for efficient customer interactions and assistance.

How long will it take to get a response?
The CRM process is powered by a system that is designed to submit, assign, prioritize, and resolve your inquiries within 3 business days. Once your inquiry is submitted, our Customer Service Team will acknowledge your inquiry and stay in contact until your inquiry has been resolved.
Department of Consumer & Regulatory Affairs ǀ1100 4th Street, SW, Washington, DC 20024 ǀ202.442.4400 ǀdcra.dc.gov

What does resolution/resolve mean for CRM?
When your inquiry has been resolved it means your inquiry has been answered. This includes, but is not limited to, scheduling an inspection, revising permit applications, providing status updates on vacant property registrations and other actions taken to address your inquiry.

What does the Account Management Team do?
Our new Account Management Team handles escalated customer service issues for strategic accounts. An Account Manager serves as an advisor to the strategic account customer and escalation point for service issues.  In addition, an Account Manager reviews all services (permits, inspections, licenses, enforcement) provided to the customer for consistency, identifies issues and proactively advises customers to minimize noncompliance, ensures customer satisfaction with services, reviews customer’s project pipeline, anticipates needs and channels findings to appropriate managers within DCRA.

What is the difference between Customer Service Representatives and Account Managers?
The Customer Service Representatives service all DCRA customers and the Account Managers focus on escalated issues for strategic accounts.  All Customer Service Representatives and Account Managers ensure customers’ issues are resolved and that they are satisfied with DCRA services.

When do I contact the Customer Service Department versus an Account Manager?
You may contact our Customer Service Department for all issues which will in turn direct any escalated issues to your assigned Account Manager (if one is assigned) when there is a service problem.  For example: a) If you would like to inquire about your application status, our Customer Service Department will be happy to assist.  b) If you have a service problem such as a permit application pending beyond our current Service Level Agreements (SLAs) of 30 business days for an initial review or 15 business days for a re-review, your Account Manager will be happy to check why your project is being delayed and to assist in getting the project reviewed as soon as possible. You can also reference the permit review SLAs listed under the “Job Classification System -DCRA Review Target Timelines by Job Type “on our website.
Department of Consumer & Regulatory Affairs ǀ1100 4th Street, SW, Washington, DC 20024 ǀ202.442.4400 ǀdcra.dc.gov If you are unsure who to contact, please contact our Customer Service Department and they will resolve your issue or route your inquiries to the appropriate contact.

How are Account Managers assigned?
Account Managers are assigned to our customer categories. Our customers are grouped into –residents, businesses, government and non-government stakeholders.  Account Managers are assigned per Ward for our residents, by high volume business companies for our business customers, government entities, on-profit and other stakeholders.  

My project is not meeting the agency’s required Service Level Agreement (SLA).What should I do?
Please contact your assigned Account Manager if the agency’s SLA was not met so that they can reach out to the appropriate division to determine what transpired with the project and take the necessary steps to ensure that the project is moving forward in a timeframe that will resolve the issue(s).If you do not have an assigned Account Manager, please contact the Customer Service Department to assist you.

How can I check on the status of my project?
If you are the applicant or the applicant’s agent, you will receive a notice via email from ProjectDox whenever the status of a project has changed.  Alternatively, you can check the status via DCRA’s website (https://scout.dcra.dc.gov). The Account Manager focuses on service issues.  Please refer to FAQ #10for an example of a service problem.  

My project is being reviewed by another District agency or entity and I need to get it completed. What can I do?
Contact the District agency or entity directly to determine the status of the review.

Can you assist in getting a meeting setup with the reviewer on my project?
I’ve been unsuccessful in reaching the Reviewer. If the project is still within the agency’s SLA, please contact the specific discipline’s manager (electrical, fire, mechanical, etc.) pertaining to the review in question so that the manager is aware of the problem and so that he/she can coordinate a meeting with the reviewer to get your project back on track. If it is beyond the agency’s SLA, please contact your Account Manager to assist.
Department of Consumer & Regulatory Affairs ǀ1100 4th Street, SW, Washington, DC 20024 ǀ202.442.4400 ǀdcra.dc.gov

If I have problems getting my project through prescreening, what can I do?
Please contact the Permit Center Manager so that he/she can ensure that our SLA is being met and to provide you with a date in which your project will be prescreened. For information about how to submit projects in ProjectDox, please refer to the following link (https://dcra.dc.gov/service/file-your-permit-drawings-online-projectdox).

Can someone else from my company be added to my account?
Yes.  Please provide the Customer Service Department or your Account Manager (if assigned) with the contact information of the individual(s) to be added to your account profile. For more information, please visit dcra.dc.gov/crm.


Illegal Construction

What is neighbor notification?
Neighbor notification  is  a  form  designed  by  the  Department  of  Consumer  and Regulatory  Affairs  (DCRA)  to  ensure  neighbors  are  duly  aware  of  the  scope  of construction  that  may  impact  their  property.    Neighbors are allowed to view only those pages that pertain to structural support or impact of the design.

Why is neighbor notification required prior to starting construction?
According  to  District  law  12  DCMR  3307.2,  neighbor  notification  must  occur,  prior  to beginning    construction,    when    there    is    a    need    to    install   structural    support, underpinning, support adjacent premises and excavation.

How many days in advance should neighbors receive notice?
A 30-day notice is typical in most cases.

When is notification received?
Neighbor   notification should   be received   by   registered or   certified   mail   to   the registered owner (Office of Tax and Revenue Database) or by courier.

What actions do you need to consider taking?
Consult  available  resources  (other  than  the  immediate  builder  or  contractor)  like  the DCRA  website  (dcra.dc.gov)and  learn  about  complaints,  codes,  forms,  guidance and inquiries.  Make an appointment or simply stop by DCRA offices.  Consult with an independent architect or engineer.

What do neighbors need to know?

  • Neighbors need to know about a request for access. The refusal is your right, but you must be prepared to protect your own property.
  • Neighbors  need  to  know  what  permits  have  been  issued  or  are  under  review (i.e. DCRA, Property Information Verification System {PIVS}).
  • Neighbors  need  to  be  notified  of  plans that  mention  or  show  underpinning, vertical additions (pop-up), excavations or party-wall work.

What if you did not receive neighbor notification?

  • You still could check your neighbor’s permits by using PIVS.
  • If  no  permits  have  been  issued,  you  can  contact  DCRA  Illegal  Construction Enforcement (ICE) at 311or (202) 442-STOP (7867).
  • If  no  permits  have  been  issued,  you  can  contact  DCRA’s  Permit  Operations Division (POD) at (202) 442-4589.
  • If construction has started and you did not receive notification, contact 311.

What if you did not receive neighbor notification?

  • You still could check your neighbor’s permits by using PIVS.
  • If  no  permits  have  been  issued,  you  can  contact  DCRA  Illegal  Construction Enforcement (ICE) at 311or (202) 442-STOP (7867).
  • If  no  permits  have  been  issued,  you  can  contact  DCRA’s  Permit  Operations Division (POD) at (202) 442-4589.
  • If construction has started and you did not receive notification, contact 311.

When is neighbor notification not required?
Neighbor notification is not required when the scope of the work occurs entirely in the interior of a building or when the work is pursuant to a postcard permit.

What are the contractor’s responsibilities?

  • According to District law 12 DCMR 3307.1, the contractor’s responsibilities include having the adjoining public and private property being protected from damage during construction at the expense of the person causing the work.
  • The contractor’s responsibilities   include   predicting   damage   and   providing safeguards.
  • The contractor’s responsibilities includes securing the party-walls (and blocking water intrusion) and installing chimneys and gas vents (natural draft) in a 3-2-10 rule.
  • The contractor’s responsibilities include having footers (areas of influence) and fences for protection versus restoration.
  • The contractor’s responsibilities finally includes maintaining property lines versus face-on-line wall, a pier foundation or safeguarding from site hazards

What are the additional responsibilities of the contractor?

  • The  contractor  must  cover  the  entire  scope  of  work  in  the  permits  and  that scope must me posted in PIVS.
  • The contractor must only work between the hours of 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays and never on Sundays or holidays. Residents can call 311 if the contractor is out of compliance.
  • The  contractor  must  be  onsite  and  not  work  remotely  while  construction  is ongoing.

How does DCRA suggest you work with your own contractor?

  • Always maintain detailed plans.
  • Exact scope of work and defined materials.
  • Plans and permits are a contractor’s marching orders.
  • Level the playing field for accurate bids.
  • Planned versus spontaneous construction.
  • Simplify neighbor notification.
  • Inspection quality and success.

Furthermore, DCRA suggests that you:

  • Obtain multiple bids.
  • Research the contractor (experience versus scope of work).•License, insurance and bonding (get copies).
  • Bid versus contract versus licensing.
  • Use DCRA’s enforcement leverage.
  • Always  read  the  contract  thoroughly  and  determine who  is  responsible  for acquiring the permits and who is actually contracted to do the work.

Finally, DCRA suggests that you:

  • Remember to check the business transaction and deposits.
  • Remember to check your rights on hiring and firing the contractor.
  • Remember to check for mechanic liens.
  • Remember to check for possession of building materials.
  • Remember to use the permitting system to your advantage.
  • Remember to draw based upon approved DCRA inspections.

What are other things you should know?

  • If there is an issue with trespassing on private property contact 911(Metropolitan Police Department {MPD}).
  • If  there  is  an  issue  with  parking  enforcement  near  the  property,  contact  the Department of Public Works (DPW)or 311.
  • If there is an issue with an alley being blocked, contact the District of Columbia Department of Transportation’s Public Space division.
  • If  there  is  an  issue  with  noise  resulting  from  construction  or  issues  with  permits, contact  DCRA.    

If the construction disturbance occurs after the regular office hours, contact MPD.