The D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs says it will increase inspections against illegal construction on weekends “effective immediately” in an effort to better enforce laws designed to prevent disruptions for residents.
DCRA inspectors will work from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays, and residents who call 202-442-STOP(7867) can leave messages for them reporting observed or suspected illegal construction (when contractors perform certain types of work without permits). Generally, construction is legal only from Monday through Saturday, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., without any special issuances given by D.C. DCRA may issue “stop-work” orders and fines.
“Illegal construction affects safety and quality of life for residents and businesses,” the agency’s director, Melinda Bolling, says in a statement. “With weekend inspections, we need to stop more illegal construction while it’s in progress and strengthen the deterrent against doing it in the first place.” (City Desk has asked for more details about the number inspectors on weekends and how the department will conduct enforcement outside of the hours listed.)
ANC 6C04 Commissoner Mark Eckenwiler says the addition of inspections on top of normal weekday hours is a “positive development.” Still, the Capitol Hill resident believes DCRA needs to be more transparent about the permits it gives out so locals can be aware of which construction projects are illegal. Last month, ANC 6C sent a letter to At-Large D.C. Councilmember Vincent Orange, the chair of the Committee on Consumer and Regulatory Affairs, asking for the committee to “hold a public roundtable on DCRA’s practices” for issuing building permits and making them public.
“There would be less need for enforcement in the first place if DCRA did a better job of supervising people, if they instilled a little more respect, if not fear, in the people who are now the ones that require a lot of inspectors to come out,” Eckenwiler says. “All the contractors, especially the unscrupulous ones, know they can get away with murder with DCRA, even if they get a permit.” Eckenwiler runs a Twitter account called @unsuckDCRA.
The department has an online database called the Property Information Verification System to track permit issuances.
Photo by Darrow Montgomery