Home Business Forging Bonds: Analyzing Unauthorized Building Structures

Forging Bonds: Analyzing Unauthorized Building Structures


Today, we delve into the crucial realm of illegal construction enforcement, a cornerstone of the Department of Buildings’ (DOB) efforts to uphold city safety standards. Co-authored with Chief Building Official Nicole Rogers, this column aims to shed light on one of DOB’s paramount enforcement functions during Building Safety Month. Join us as we guide you through understanding, verifying, reviewing, and reporting illegal construction.

When you hear the distinct sound of construction, it’s natural to wonder about its legality. To verify if construction is authorized, identifying the property under construction is essential. While street addresses provide some guidance, locating the square suffix and lot number (SSL) offers precise identification in District land and tax records. PropertyQuest serves as a handy resource for finding SSLs, ensuring accurate reporting to DOB if needed.

Understanding the permit review process is crucial before scrutinizing permits. While minor tasks like hanging a picture may not require permits, substantial construction endeavors demand regulatory approval. Permitting involves detailing construction plans to DOB, ensuring compliance with building and zoning regulations. Valid permits authorize construction according to specified plans and operational guidelines.

However, unauthorized construction, such as building without a permit or deviating from approved plans, poses significant risks and is subject to hefty fines starting at $4,000 per offense. Notably, illegal construction can jeopardize lives and property, as evidenced by incidents like destabilized foundations due to neighboring illegal construction.

For concerned citizens seeking to review permits, options include using SCOUT or checking publicly posted permits at construction sites. Any observed construction without visible permits should be reported to DOB promptly. Public reports are instrumental in initiating illegal construction inspections, leading to the issuance of Stop Work Orders (SWOs) if violations are confirmed.

Enforcement against illegal construction relies on ongoing public vigilance and follow-up reporting. SWOs prohibit all construction activity on the site until compliance is ensured. Repeat violations may result in fines, corrective orders, or police intervention to halt illegal activities. By collaborating with the public, DOB endeavors to maintain community safety and uphold building standards year-round.

For inquiries or further discussion on this topic, feel free to reach out to keith.parsons@dc.gov. We anticipate engaging with you on another pertinent topic in the coming weeks.