I'm helping a friend who lives in the District of Columbia
replace a back porch that was damaged in a storm. She is being
hassled by the building permit issuing agency.
Are there people on this group who have experience with this
agency and can give some tips on how to deal with them?
have her contact them and play by the rules... its real simple.. its
funny when people dont get their way with others or departments they
claim they are hassled... they just dont want to follow the rules.. have
her understand this and she will not have any trouble... its as simple
as that.. hope this helps....
She has been playing by the rules. She submitted all the
proper forms, all the proper drawings, all the necessary paperwork.
The plan meets code. There is nothing the matter with the plan.
The agency asks for irrelevant information that has nothing to
do with the soundness of the structure. Instead of asking for all
information at once, they ask for one more piece every time she goes.
She has been there 20 times already.
This is obviously harrassment.
Unfortunately, Peter, this is normal in a lot of jurisdictions. Your
friend is dealing with a government bureaucracy and is banging her head
against a well-ingrained good-old-boy system.
We have the same problem out here on the left coast. Specifically, the
county of Santa Barbara. Any time an owner/builder comes in with a
permit application, the county nitpicks him to death, and they do it
much the same way they're doing to your friend in D.C. They'll
grudgingly give your application but not take the time to explain how
to fill it out properly. Naturally, most weekend do-it-yourselfers will
make a few minor errors or not understand a section completely. So,
back they go with the application and a few hundred dollars. The county
will read it until they come to the first thing you did wrong, and send
you home to fix it. You come back days or weeks later and resubmit the
application, which they read a little further until they find something
else you did wrong. Bam. Back home you go. Over and over again.
It's not uncommon to visit their little fiefdom, as you say, 20 or more
times over the course of weeks or months before they start the process
all over again.
I personally know one guy, a professional cabinet-maker and carpenter,
who's been trying to add a 10-foot extention to his master bedroom for
well over a year. He knows what he's doing but the county keeps coming
back with one more thing he's got to fix. He still doesn't have a
permit. Last I heard, he had to send the drawings to an independent
engineer to fix a sheer problem on one corner of the bedroom. It's
gotten so bad out here that the county grand jury has been called in to
fix the broken system. I hope they nail a few government scumbags by
the balls but chances are nothing substantial will improve.
There is basically only one sure way to deal with the county building
department around here, and that is to use architects, engineers and
general contractors that already have ten or twenty years dealing with
the system and know how to slide a project through with relatively few
delays. An owner/builder doesn't have a prayer.
Those of you who live in jurisdictions where all you have to do is draw
your plans on a napkin and pay some suit ten dollars to get a permit
don't know what you're talking about. In my area (and in Peter's),
getting a permit is the biggest hurdle to jump; WAY more stressful than
wiring a 3-way switch, in the dark, with the power on.
Guess I'm glad I live in Arizona. Needed to plumb a gas pool heater.
Went to the permits department in Scottsdale with only pictures of my
meter. Fellow behind the counter drew the proper diagram on the back
of the application including type of fitting to use in each location,
and then issued the permit. Even told me what to rent and how to set
up the pressure test for the inspector. How's that for service?
| James E.Thompson, P.E. | mens |
| Analog Innovations, Inc. | et |
You may also be getting the "old boy's treatment" because she is a woman. If
a man went in, in work clothes, and chatted with the "boys" about problems
in the trade, and sucked up to them with a few coffees or something, often
things go faster, but with a woman, they want to impress her with their
precise knowledge and ability to find problems that may not exist.
IME, that's 15 times too much. When I got a permit from Arlington County I had
to go back a second time for an "undocumented requirement." which, though
undocumented, was valid. My engineer drew up the footing replacement plans on
3 sheets of 8 1/2 x11" paper. The permitting office is used to dealing with
architectural-size paper and, as the clerk pointed out to me, my plans would
quickly be lost. Solution was to go to Kinkos, get a sheet of architectural
paper and staple the plans to it. Problem solved.
No - just usual DC government practice I'm afraid.
The mayor's office has a consumer complaint hotline, and he's on WTOP radio
once or twice a month with a call-in show, you might try either of those. Or
have your friend talk to her Council representative to see if there's some
expediting can be done.
One thing - make up a checklist of all documentation submitted and each trip's
excuse for not issuing the permit on the spot for ammo.
Some of my pals do construction in the District - usually the upscale sections,
since the poorer neighborhoods aren't worth the hassle of dealing DCRA.
How is she being "hassled"? Was the damage insured? Got a contractor,
bids? The place to start would be to get at least two bids from
reputable contractors, with references from people you know, licensed,
insured, etc. Not that difficult. Then let them get the permit. If it
is a DIY job, the city may have design standards you can use. Our city
has them online, as well as instructions for the permit process and the
DC? Nice place to visit :o)
1) It's a structural repair. Even if it wasn't required it's prudent to get a
professional review of structural work.
2) It's D.C. Anything not expressly allowed is controlled.
3) It's a structural repair. Almost any jurisdiction which issues construction
permits for *anything* requires a permit for structural, electrical, or
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