DCRA News | Technology Drives Transformation

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October 2021 Edition

A Message from the Director

Director Ernest Chrappah Head Shot

Earlier this month, we celebrated Customer Service Week. Serving the citizens of the District of Columbia is both a privilege and a responsibility – one we take very seriously. Over the last two years, we have been working hard to provide better, faster and more convenient service to our customers. Our improvement shows, not just in the transformation of the agency, but in the transformation of our customer satisfaction scores rising from 31% shortly after I joined DCRA to 86% this week.

While we credit our customers for your flexibility as we have worked to improve our products and platforms, we also credit our internal team who has undergone a culture shift and learned how to better serve you. We also understand the role that technology and innovation have played as part of what has helped us achieve higher customer satisfaction. As an agency, we’ve brought new platforms online to increase our product offerings, expedite service, help customers navigate previously complex tasks by implementing intuitive systems to guide them. We’ve created a seamless online journey – from permit application, to identifying high-performing contractors, to creating more options for construction inspections, and we have much more in store for you in this next fiscal year. DCRA has shown that thinking differently, and acting proactively is a combination that keeps us working towards a better DCRA for you.

Stay safe,

DCRA Director Ernest Chrappah Signature

Ernest Chrappah, Director

Digital Transformation & Operational Excellence Awards

DCRA Has Been Selected As a Finalist in the 2021 Digital Transformation & Operational Excellence Industry Awards

As a testament to the hard work and dedication that we bring to work every day in service to the residents and business of the District of Columbia, we are proud to let you know that DCRA has been selected as a finalist in the 2021 Digital Transformation & Operational Excellence Industry Awards in two categories:

  • Best Achievement in Operational Excellence to Deliver Digital Transformation
  • Most Outstanding Digital Transformation Workplace Program

The Digital Transformation & Operational Excellence Awards have been established to showcase globally the most outstanding achievements and real results, which organizations achieve through the successful implementation of Business & Digital Transformation, Operational Excellence & Innovation Excellence programs. 

"DCRA is a leader, not only within the District, but across jurisdictions," said DCRA Director Ernest Chrappah. “These nominations solidify our transformation as an agency that uses innovation and technology to better serve our customers and deliver government services efficiently and effectively.”

The awards are judged by an independent panel of leading thinkers and practitioners within the Business & Digital Transformation, Operational Excellence & Innovation Excellence community. 

DCRA’s entry highlighted the many innovations and strides it made as an agency in pivoting from cumbersome paper processes to customer-centric technology. It also stressed the result of this transformation – a threefold improvement in customer satisfaction to a current 86%. DCRA was more than ready to provide online services during the pandemic and continues to lead in the development of online platforms that create a seamless customer journey.

Learn About the Awards

DCRA Participates in Smart Cities Connect Conference Keynote Panel

Smart Cities Connect

This month, National Harbor was the scene of the 2021 Smart Cities Connect Annual Conference where DCRA Director Ernest Chrappah participated with other distinguished guests in a keynote panel exploring digital transformation in cities and issues of digital trust. The panel looked at how more and more city service providers like DCRA embraced the digital realm during the pandemic to continue delivering services. While all agreed transitioning to online solutions helped enhance service delivery, increase communication, and boost goodwill among customers, the panel explored the many questions this new realm presents. For example, will new online services offered during the pandemic continue? If so, then how do digital equity issues affect the playing field? The panelists explored what’s required to establish digital trust including data ethics and government protocols

Director Chrappah highlighted the digital transformation DCRA has made with innovative platform development to create a better customer experience. He explained that most DCRA services can be done online from the comfort of one’s home including getting a permit, finding a contractor, connecting with inspection agencies, and scheduling inspections. Director Chrappah says "The evidence that these innovations are working and building the digital trust is in DCRA’s latest customer satisfaction scores- trending at 86%." 

This was the fifth Annual Smart Cities Connect Conference and Expo and was held in-person over three days featuring local, national, and international participants.

Advice for Homebuyers Who Waive Inspections

For Sale Sign

The hot real estate market has left many buyers out in the cold. Unable to compete in the multiple-offer environment, many have waived the inspection contingency to make their offers more attractive to sellers. In July, the National Association of Realtors revealed that 27 percent of buyers waived inspections. In our market, that percentage is higher at 30% according to Redfin.

Opting out of the inspection can be risky for buyers so there are things you can do to protect yourself. DCRA recommends using Scout, its online consolidated database to research the status of your would-be property.

Using Scout, you can determine if there are any red flags by checking a property's history for code violations, and view the status or permits (or lack thereof) for renovations and repairs. Equally important, is researching the home’s property tax classification in case the current owner is receiving a vacant building exemption. Once an exemption expires, the property tax bill may balloon if the classification  is not changed to an occupied status, which must be verified through an inspection by the property owner.

Using eRecords, buyers can pull plats, drawings, and plans submitted in the past for the property. Also, through its Consumer Protection Unit, DCRA allows buyers to file for a remedy if there is a construction defect or warranty claim the builder or seller fails to honor.

In most jurisdictions, it is caveat emptor or “let the buyer beware." In other words, if an inspection is not done, the seller is not responsible for the disclosure of potential issues or for repair of those issues after the home is sold. Some buyers bring a knowledgeable expert with them when they first visit a property, but another alternative is for buyers to request a pre-offer inspection – making it clear anything identified in the inspection will not be the seller’s responsibility. It could provide a buyer peace of mind by ruling out suspected issues, or at least let you know what you are getting into before buying so that you can plan. It usually covers a structural glance at the house, the plumbing, electricity and evaluation of the age of the appliances and systems. While DCRA doesn’t recommend waiving the inspection as a practice, buyers should understand that a little research can save homeowner headaches later-on.

And when the time comes to take on a project to make that new home yours, we invite you to inquire before you hire and use the DCRA Contract Rating System to identify a highly-rated building professional. The Contractor Rating System, arms residents with information to hire contractors who possess a proven track record of proper licensing, construction and inspections. 

Contractor Rating System

Biennial Amnesty Program Yields More Than 800 Reinstatements of Small Businesses

As evidence that small businesses are building back in the District of Columbia after being hit hard by the pandemic, DCRA has logged more than 800 corporate registration reinstatements this year compared to last year - that’s nearly 1000 entities that not only want to keep their businesses going but want their operations to continue in the District.

The improvement is due to Mayor Muriel Bowser’s commitment to help small businesses stand firm during the public health emergency, and the implementation of special legislation that enabled DCRA to create the Biennial Report Forgiveness Program. This amnesty program was implemented in September and allowed entities with fewer than 50 employees, who had been terminated or administratively dissolved due to failure to file or pay for the Biennial Reports, to be reinstated without being charged a fee for these past due reports (only the reinstatement fee was required to be paid, which was $300 for for-profits and $80 for nonprofits). 

As a reminder, biennial reports are required to be filed by all domestic (District) or foreign (non-District) filing entities that conduct business in the District. The Biennial Report Forgiveness Program instituted a welcome grace period as the city moves forward with recovery.

DCRA's Small Business Resource Center | Free Small Business Workshops Designed With You In Mind

DCRA's Small Business Resource Center (SBRC) is the go to source for information on how to get your business established and up and running. For existing and aspiring businesses, the SBRC is here for you, and we welcome you to join us for these upcoming workshops and events:

Webinar: Learn How to Become a Certified Business Enterprise

Thursday, November 4, 2021 · 10:00 am

Register: dcrasbrc.ecenterdirect.com/events/55925


Webinar: DCRA At Your Neighborhood Library – Learn The Process of Starting A Business

Tuesday, November 9, 2021· 5:00 pm

Register: dcrasbrc.ecenterdirect.com/events/55577


Webinar: Foundations for a Successful Business: Module 3, The Business Plan

Wednesday, November 10, 2021· 2:00 pm

Register: dcrasbrc.ecenterdirect.com/events/52557


Webinar: Mobile Vending Regulations

Thursday, November 18, 2021· 6:00 pm

Register: dcrasbrc.ecenterdirect.com/events/55924


Webinar: Department of Insurance, Securities and Banking

Thursday, November 18, 2021 · 10:00 am

Register: dcrasbrc.ecenterdirect.com/events/55957


SBRC One-On-One Call Session: Steps to Obtaining a Business License

Mondays through Fridays, by appointment between 10:00 am – 4:00 pm

Register: dcrasbrc.ecenterdirect.com/events 


SBRC One-on-One Call Session: "Talk Business After Hours"

Mondays and Wednesdays, by appointment between 4:00 pm - 6:00 pm 

Register: dcrasbrc.ecenterdirect.com/events