DCRA News | Protecting District Residents as a Regulatory Agency

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September 2021 Edition

A Message from the Director

Director Ernest Chrappah Head Shot

Recovery, by definition, is returning to a normal state. In many ways, our city is on its way to recovery from the global pandemic even with many uncertainties still in play. Our schools are open, new businesses are being launched, the housing market is robust, and new construction hasn’t slowed. We’ve continued to serve our customers online, and most recently, in-person when needed. In fact, we served more than 536,000 customers since April 2021 including completing:

  • 36,151 housing inspections,
  • 38,093 construction inspections,
  • 8,654 illegal construction inspections,
  • 11,049 vacant property inspections, and issuing
  • 10,635 new business licenses,
  • 3,583 solar permits,
  • 75,368 total permits

This summer, the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) reopened our headquarters with the safety of our employees and customers in mind, and with a bigger and more urgent mission – helping our city continue its economic recovery. It’s no secret that the pandemic put a financial burden on businesses – especially small businesses – in our city. We know that empowering current and future entrepreneurs is important to our community moving forward. With that in mind, as a part of Mayor Muriel Bowser’s Economic Toolkit to Ensure a Strong Recovery in the District, we are now implementing widespread fee reductions that will amount to substantial savings for our businesses – most license fees are now $99.00.

Forward progress at the agency means leveraging technology to make it easier to provide  more services, faster and easier, to our customers. DCRA will soon launch our latest innovation, Tertius. Tertius is a new online marketplace that connects customers to DCRA-approved inspectors. When launched, customers can choose from a list of inspection agencies that meet their needs, review bids, book a project and pay – all online. This will empower customers, but also levels the playing field for inspection agencies, giving smaller firms or individuals equal access to projects and creating a revenue stream for all that is currently not being realized.

Tertius will be the latest in a series of innovative projects launched by DCRA to improve responsiveness, extend greater access to services, and increase transparency to our customers. Other products that are transforming the way DCRA provides government services include the recently launched Permit Wizard construction permitting application, which will soon expand and get new enhancements, and the Contractor Rating System launched earlier this year.

As always, we are striving for perpetual improvement, and we look forward to continuing to serve our customers. We invite you to stay tuned as more good things come your way.

Stay safe,

DCRA Director Ernest Chrappah Signature

Ernest Chrappah, Director

Increased Safety Enhancements Measures

This summer, Mayor Bowser and DCRA announced the seven actions DCRA is taking to enhance safety reviews of multifamily and commercial properties in the District. These actions include mandating proactive reporting of unsafe structural conditions, increasing the scrutiny of engineering, and implementing real-time reporting of required inspections, and are in response to the recent increase in concerns over structural integrity of buildings.


Read the Press Release

What Happens When There Is A Structural Concern

When an inquiry is received by DCRA regarding an existing building, it is assigned to our Inspections and Compliance Administration to schedule a property maintenance inspection. If there is concern of imminent danger, it should be reported to 911. Otherwise, please report structural concerns to DCRA by submitting a Property Maintenance Inspection Form, via email, or during normal business hours by calling 202-442-4400. Calls may also be directed to 311 at any time.

Once an inquiry is received by DCRA, we will investigate as appropriate for the issue.

If an inspection finds potential structural issues, depending on the severity, the following outcomes will result:

  • If imminent danger is found, the inspector will order an immediate evacuation of the property, and placard it as a dangerous property barring entry of any persons.
  • For less severe findings, e.g. settlement cracks, minor water issues, etc., DCRA will issue a Correction Order requiring the property owner to obtain the services of a professional engineer to assess the structure and areas of concern. If a property owner fails to do so, DCRA will take further enforcement steps including, but not limited to, escalating fines, special assessments, referral to the Office of Tax and Revenue for a tax sale, or referral to the Office of the Attorney General.
  • Based on the engineer’s reports, a course of corrective action will be identified specific to the property and the violations, if applicable, to render the property safe.

Building owners are also encouraged to maintain their properties and be responsive to resident and tenant concerns.

The Inspection Process: Keeping You Safe

Safe construction takes a team of building professionals in partnership with government. The information below will help customers understand how both private sector and government agency inspections are critical to the process.

The Inspection Process

The Resident Inspector Program | Two Years Later

The Problem: A rapidly growing population in the District, and a rising need for inspections

The Solution: Train and ensure certification of residents to perform inspections

The Result: Increasing DCRA’s inspection capacity further ensuring that residents and businesses are safe

It’s been two years since DCRA launched its Resident Inspector Program, and the innovative approach has helped meet an urgent need to complete inspections. Since the inception of the program in July of 2019, DCRA has trained and certified 200 residents to perform three of the agency’s most frequently requested inspections-housing or property maintenance, illegal construction, and vacant building inspections.

As a result of the program, DCRA has more than doubled its inspection capacity, allowing the agency to respond to inspection requests faster, sometimes the same day.  The program has also contributed positively to the jobs picture in the city.  Of the two hundred inspectors trained, over a third are women – a progressive fact in the largely male-dominated industry.

Business Licensing Fee Reductions

The global pandemic has been tough on the city’s businesses with reduced revenues and increased costs for equipment and employee/customer safety.  As a part of new legislation, DCRA cut fees beginning August 25, 2021 to ease the financial burden and help fuel the city’s economic recovery. 

It’s now $99 Dollars for: Business Organizations Filing Fees; Limited Liability Partnership Filing Fees; Limited Partnerships Filing Fees; Limited Liabilities Companies Filing Fees; Statutory Trusts Filing Fees.

DCRA is waiving the basic business license fee of $70 dollars and the additional fee of $25 dollars for each application and renewal for General Business Licenses and Employment Services Licenses.

The reduction results in $99 dollars for the following license types: General Business endorsement and Employment Services endorsement (employment agency,  employment paid personnel services, and employment counseling).

Through the end of September 2021, for the Biennial Report Forgiveness Program (for entities with 50 or fewer employees) no late fees will be charged.

Through the end of Fiscal Year 2022, which ends September 30, 2022, DCRA will not be charging for application and examination fees for occupational and professional licenses. All occupational and professional license and renewal fees are reduced to $99 dollars (unless fees are lower already).

Taken together, these fee reductions will result in major savings for small business owners in the District of Columbia. Putting it in perspective, DCRA Director Ernest Chrappah recently gave the example of a barber who wanted to open a shop in the District of Columbia. Normal licensing fees would run over $900 for that barber. With the fee reductions, the barber would save $400 that he could put toward expenses and products. Director Chrappah believes the fee cuts will empower more entrepreneurs of color to pursue their small business dreams. 

New Leaf Blower Regulations To Take Effect Soon

New leaf blower regulations will take effect on January 1, 2022, which prohibit the use of gasoline-powered leaf blowers in the District of Columbia. DCRA has notified landscapers who do business in the District to plan ahead and prepare for equipment changes that comply with the new law. Companies that continue to use gasoline-powered leaf blowers after this date will be subject to fines of up to $500 for each offense issued by DCRA. If you own a landscaping company and have any questions, please contact us, we will be happy to provide guidance to comply with the new law.

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:

Navigating Government Contracting with the District of Columbia Procurement Technical Assistance Center (DCPTAC)
Thursday, October 7, 2021 at 10:00 am

Introduction to Government Contracting
Wednesday, October 13, 2021 at 2:00 pm

Steps to Obtaining a Business License
Thursday, October 21, 2021 at 6:00 pm

SBRC One-On-One Call Session: Steps to Obtaining a Business License
Mondays through Fridays, by appointment between 10 am – 4 pm

SBRC One-on-One Call Session: Talk Business After Hours
Mondays and Wednesdays, by appointment between 4 – 6 pm 

Stay DC

Are you struggling with paying rental expenses? Request financial help today. STAYDC is here to help.

Through STAYDC, renters and housing providers can apply for funding to cover rental payments (either delinquent or upcoming), in addition to utilities like water, electricity, and gas. Learn more at stay.dc.gov.