What is DCRA and why you need to process a permit

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What is the DCRA and how to process a permit

The Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) ensures the safety standards for construction projects, including buildings. The agency issues permits after reviews of documents to make sure they comply with local zoning regulations as well as building codes – which protect consumers from harmful substances being used in these facilities or businesses that have been opened without permission on someone else’s land; but also protects natural resources by making sure developers aren’t putting up too many roadways through protected areas such as parks.

A building permit is an important document that ensures safety, uniformity in design and compliance with local regulations. It’s only released once all legal requirements are met but before any construction begins. The applicant must submit their plans to government representatives who can inspect architectural drawings as well as check for earthquakes or other tremors within the area where they plan on doing work; this prevents accidents from happening during development stage which could lead up costly lawsuits if something goes wrong later down-line because there were not adequate precautions taken beforehand.

The DCRA is responsible for ensuring that construction and business activity complies with building codes, zoning regulations as well as consumer protection laws. The agency issues permits after reviewing documents to ensure compliance whereupon they are inspected by staff members who look out if any violations exist before issuing them accordingly; this helps maintain public health.

Obtaining a permit before any construction will protect you from any building or zoning violations that may result in the demolition of your builds. This is the main reason why you would want to make sure that all of the DCRA regulations have been met.

It sets the minimum standards for the construction of an improvement. Among them are:


  • the materials used
  • its location
  • size
  • installations
  • Design


What about renovations?

A permit is definitely required for renovations as it has to conform to the same standards as the initial construction. The inspection of the plans shall apply to the design, location, sitting, construction, alteration, repair, conversion, use, occupancy, maintenance, moving, demolition of resources, and how it would affect the property.


Main Reasons for Getting Permits:

  • Helps Protect Property Value
    Construction and renovations in your home is an investment. If you don’t follow the rules of thumb for construction projects, then it can compromise how much money that project will make and reduce its value over time
  • Saves Money
    You might think that all work done on your property without a permit and inspection will be covered by property insurers, but you could end up paying for the damages yourself.
  • Improves Safety
    As mentioned earlier the issuance of a permit ensures that building standards are met, and the main concern of these standards is safety.

How to apply for a permit.
In the District of Columbia, it is required by law that the Department for Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) provide building plans to residents without requiring a Freedom of Information Act request. DCRAs’ office has been working on developing a system online capable of meeting this requirement where they will be able to obtain copies electronically. Although we are excited about the progress made so far, completing this project involves several steps and may take more than one year before completion.

Until the new system is available, the DCRA will make building plans available in a few different ways. The way to obtain plans in each scenario is outlined below.


1.      Plans that DCRA has available electronically:  If DCRA has an available electronic copy of the plans, the agency can provide them to you in the following ways:

  •  On a flash drive, if the customer provides it;
  •  On a CD for no charge;
  • In hard copy on 8.5 x 11 or 11 x 17 paper; or
  • Provide the plans to an approved supplier, which can provide larger copies to you for a fee.*

  1.       Plans that are onsite but are not available electronically:  If the requested plans are not available electronically, the agency will provide a list of approved companies, who can provide copies of the plans for a fee.* 


  1.       Plans that are no longer on site:  If the requested plans are no longer on site, DCRA will need to request that they are located and sent from off-site archives.  That process can take a few weeks.  Once the plans arrive at the agency, DCRA will provide a list of approved companies, who can provide copies of the plans for a fee.*

To request building permits and blue prints or technical drawings, you must visit the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs, at 1100 4th Street, SW, or submit a request online (note that if you are looking for assistance with “building permits and plans” and to put the address of the property in the box for more information). DCRA staff will route your request to the DC Archives if appropriate. DC Archives staff will process your request and contact you to schedule an appointment to review or pick up documents.

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