DPIE's Under Construction Newsletter - November 2020

DPIE Under Construction masthead with Permitting, Plan Review, Licensing, Inspections and Enforcement visuals, and DPIE logo

November 2020

DPIE offers sincerest thanks to our nation's veterans words with flags in 2 diagonal corners

Some flippers add rooms to existing homes to increase the space to lure buyers, shoddy framework started on outside wall of house

Buyer Beware!

Unpermitted Construction Hammers Unsuspecting Home Purchasers

It’s the biggest purchase most of us will ever make. We save for years, search for months, secure financing, eagerly await closing and finally move into our dream house.

Then the basement floods after it rains, electrical outlets spark when cords are plugged in and a deck collapses when you invite family over for a socially-distanced housewarming party.

You have been victimized by an unscrupulous flipper.

Each year, untold numbers of unsuspecting home buyers are ripped off by these crooked real estate speculators. They purchase properties cheap, make repairs and/or cosmetic changes without the appropriate permits and inspections, then sell the properties, sometimes at prices below market rates, to unknowing buyers. The unpermitted work is often performed by unqualified unlicensed workers using substandard materials. Common unpermitted projects are illegal renovations of kitchens and bathrooms and installations of structures such as decks and fences. Flippers may finish a basement or add a room to make the house larger. They may remove a weight-bearing wall or column to create a more modern, open floor plan.

Photo - A telltale sign that this porch was unpermitted is the crumbling walkway at the base of the new stairs.

By the time the unpermitted construction is discovered by DPIE, the sale has been completed and the flipper/unscrupulous seller has absconded, leaving the home buyer responsible for making expensive repairs to fix the shoddy unpermitted work. More painfully, the new buyer is also responsible for any penalties associated with the unpermitted construction when the work comes to the attention of DPIE inspectors.

“Unfortunately, flippers take advantage of unknowing buyers every day,” said DPIE Director Melinda Bolling. “Buyers must do their due diligence to ensure they don’t become a victim of these scofflaws. Once the sale is done, it is very difficult to help the buyer. They are stuck going to court to try to recoup what they spent on repairs or what they lost because of problems in the house.”

This waterline was left exposed and uninsulated. Photo of pipe crossing a room corner (exiting and inserting) at a diagonal into cinderblock wall.

To protect yourself from being victimized by a flipper, take the following steps before you buy:

• Hire a certified independent inspector to evaluate the home, inside and out, and notify you in writing of any problems related to shoddy or illegal construction.

• Visit the DPIE website and check for any permits that have been pulled for work on the property. If the house has a deck, but no deck permit, you know it was constructed illegally. If a screened-in porch has been erected at the back of the house with no permits, take heed. 

• Don’t be so enamored of having extra space or additional features in the home that you allow yourself to be taken advantage of by the flipper.

• If a problem exists, walk away from the deal or make the seller secure the appropriate permits and inspections before you sign on the dotted line. 

• Notify DPIE so the seller can be held accountable and a less informed buyer may be saved from making a bad purchase down the line.

photo - This gas water heater was placed so that the top was located near a vent, which could lead to carbon monoxide being carried through the house.

The Prince George’s County Council recently passed legislation proposed by DPIE to take unscrupulous flippers to task. The legislation strengthens stop work orders, which are imposed by DPIE to force anyone caught doing unpermitted construction to stop work on the projects until the appropriate permits have been obtained and the inspections completed. It imposes additional fines for those caught doing unpermitted construction. 

The legislation also makes each day unpermitted construction is not corrected a separate violation day allowing fines to be imposed over consecutive days. It allows liens to be placed on such properties pending adjudicated appeals. In other words, the bad actors responsible for attempting to palm shoddy construction off on sellers will have to face a judge to plead their case against penalties.


The law is only enforceable before the property is sold. It does not empower DPIE to pursue flippers after a sale has been finalized, so it is imperative that home buyers take action.

In summary, do your due diligence before you buy. Note any features on the home that appear to be new or renovated during your tour. Get an independent inspection. Ask the seller for a list of any improvements and a record of permits and inspections. Tell the seller you are investigating to ensure the veracity of their claims about the property. If you detect any inconsistencies, consider walking or require the seller to make things right.

“Protect yourself,” Director Bolling said. “Ask questions, do your research and make sure you don’t end up victimized in a bad deal that will end up costing you money and your piece of mind.”

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Enforcement's Bejarano Honored During Hispanic Heritage Month

DPIE celebrated Hispanic Heritage Month in October by recognizing Enforcement staffer Gabriel “Gabe” Bejarano for excellence. Bejarano is currently assigned as an Inspector II with the Zoning unit.

In his role as an Inspector II, Bejarano works with other members of the unit to enforce codes related to commercial and industrial property maintenance. He frequently interacts with the public and is described by colleagues as a team player and leader who is highly valued by his supervisors.

Enforcement Division Associate Director Val Cary said Bejarano works diligently to address his enforcement tasks, always striving to ensure the best possible outcomes, whether he is working with a restaurateur operating outside of her Use and Occupancy Permit or a nail technician illegally running a salon in his basement.

Enforcement’s Inspector Gabe Bejarano honored during Hispanic Heritage Month, sitting at desk with computer and electronics.

“Gabe is a solid, dependable inspector who takes pride in his work and does it very well,” Cary said. “He is committed to the work that the Zoning Unit does and that’s not easy work, especially under the conditions they are working in during COVID-19. Despite the hardships, he attacks his tasks day after day and gets it done. He’s a pleasure to have on the team.”

Bejarano, 36, began his career in Prince George’s County government in 2012 as a special operations compliance officer at the Revenue Authority. He moved to DPIE in 2016.

He said he is proud to be recognized for hard work, a trait he learned from his mother, Blanca Rodriguez. He was born in Honduras and his father, a U.S. citizen, moved his family to the United States in 1991 when Bejarano was 7. He and his four siblings – he’s the youngest boy and second youngest child – were taught from the time he was a youngster to strive for excellence. He encourages his own four children to do the same.

“My mother taught us to work our butts off and instilled in us the importance of loving your work,” he said. “Watching her work hard made me understand the importance of doing well and exceeding expectations in everything you do.”

Bejarano's direct manager, Inspector Supervisor Larry Long, credited his enthusiasm for his work. “He constantly demonstrates professionalism and dedication to the Enforcement Division, DPIE and the citizens of Prince George’s County,” Long said.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic led to social distancing mandates, Bejarano worked part-time as a self-defense instructor. His favorite hobby is playing pool.

He is among several Hispanic staffers who were honored by the County during Hispanic Heritage Month.

Customer Survey mock dashboard in unhappy, flat expression and happy faces with arrow pointing to happy

DPIE Wants to Know How We’re Doing!

Agency’s Customer Satisfaction Survey Updated for FY 2021

DPIE has updated its online Customer Satisfaction Survey, which asks customers to rate the service they received from agency staff in 11 areas of performance. The survey, which can be completed anonymously, also allows customers to offer comments and make suggestions for improvement. It is part of a continuing effort to enhance customer service at the agency.

DPIE Deputy Director Gary Cunningham said, "Exceptional customer service is mandatory in the agency's effort to satisfy the needs of residential and business customers."

Customer Satisfaction Survey card with url to take survey

“Even during the pandemic,
when we’ve had to alter the way we deliver services to abide by social distancing mandates, Director Bolling has charged the staff with continuing to perform the functions people require from us expeditiously and courteously,” Deputy Director Cunningham said. "The survey gives us the opportunity to find out how our customers think we are doing and gives managers a tool for improvement."

The DPIE Customer Satisfaction Survey can be completed online in only a few minutes.

Survey author Dan Dornan, Special Assistant to Director Bolling, evaluates each survey and produces a bi-monthly report which is disseminated throughout the agency. Supervisors use the information to reinforce policy and program requirements with their staff and for training purposes.

Functions to be evaluated include: permit issuance; cashier; building plan review; site/road plan review; homeowners and mega projects suite; residential/commercial inspection; property standards enforcement; business/health licensing; and DPIE overall.

Categories to be evaluated include: time waiting to be served; time to complete service; staff accuracy, staff courtesy/helpfulness; staff knowledge/competency; staff professionalism; service consistency; ease of using ePlan for plan review; ease of obtaining information by phone; ease of obtaining information from the DPIE website; and overall satisfaction with DPIE’s customer service.

In his report outlining the findings for September/October 2020, Dornan noted that customer service ratings improved in 10 of the 11 categories. Customers listed making DPIE processes and systems more user friendly and upgrading communication regarding project and permit status as areas in need of improvement.

Winterize Your Property

Fall has arrived and winter will be here in no time.  Take the following steps to keep your property clean and code compliant through the winter months by doing the following:

• Remove outdated holiday-related decorations and neatly display any that are appropriate to the season.

• Put away or cover and secure outdoor furniture, grills and large children’s yard toys.

• Repair peeling paint, loose siding, ragged gutters and sagging downspouts.

• Fix broken windows and doors.

• Clear away leaves, fallen branches, trash and debris, and open storage.

• Remove old appliances, building materials, furniture, garbage, untagged vehicles and vehicle parts.

• Clean and secure your vacant property.

Fall mums on stairs, door needs paint and house needs cleaning up

Business Development Section (BDS) Turns 1!

Nicole Reece and Tanya Hedgepeth assist business owners after a training presentation

The DPIE Business Development Section (BDS) is celebrating its first anniversary of assisting entrepreneurs and owners of established businesses to navigate the agency’s permitting and licensing requirements. During their first year, BDS Officers Nicole Reece and Tanya Hedgepeth worked with dozens of customers whose businesses included everything from bike shops to grocery stores to restaurants. Reece and Hedgepeth coordinate with DPIE personnel to facilitate the completion of paperwork and document review, educate entrepreneurs about processes through presentations and a monthly newsletter and liaise with agencies outside DPIE on behalf of customers. Contact Reece and Hedgepeth at dpiebizdev@co.pg.md.us.

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New Hires

DPIE welcomes the following new hires and congratulates them on joining the team!  Each new staffer has shared some information to help us get to know them and their start date.

April Buchanan

April Buchanan, Enforcement Division – Property Standards Inspector I/II, 9/14/2020

I was born in Washington, D.C. and raised in Prince George’s County. I am a dedicated hard worker. Integrity, honesty, consideration of others and self-assurance are my guiding principles. While an undergrad, I attained two bachelor’s degrees simultaneously from different institutions while maintaining steady employment. I am inspired by my husband and daughter.

Joaquin Martinez

Joaquin Martinez, Permitting and Licensing Division – Engineering Technician I/II, 9/28/2020

I graduated in 2019 from the University of Delaware with a bachelor's degree in Electrical Engineering with a concentration in sustainable energy technology.  I was previously employed in private industry as an electro-mechanical technician. I am interested in renewable energy. I am a proud Eagle Scout and a native Spanish speaker. I am excited to join the DPIE team!


Krishan Thakkar

Krishan Thakkar, Building Plan Review Division – Engineer I/II, 10/26/2020

I graduated from the University of Kansas in 2020 with a master’s degree in Civil Engineering. I am a motivated, focused and enthusiastic individual, and I am really excited to be part of the DPIE team. My motto is to never stop learning and always help others in need. I like to spend my free time reading books, playing tennis, listening to music or playing video games.


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DPIE promoted the following employees in September and October 2020.  We would like to recognize and congratulate these employees for their hard work and commitment!

Queenis Hutchins

Queenis Hutchins was promoted from Property Standards Inspector II to Property Standards Inspector III in the Enforcement Division on 9/13/2020. Hutchins has worked for Prince George's County for three years.

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Jerry Green

Donald “Jerry” Green was promoted from Property Standards Inspector IV to Property Standards Code Enforcement Officer in the Enforcement Division on 10/25/2020. He has worked for Prince George’s County for 27 years.

Employees of the Month

Chonnie Harper

DPIE Congratulates Chonnie Harper
Employee of the Month for September 2020

Chonnie Harper is the Administrative Aide IV in the Inspections Division and is being recognized for her dedication and hard work. She is credited with helping the Inspections Division provide quality service to DPIE customers during the pandemic. Harper has assisted with efforts to ensure appropriate social distancing and other safety practices for the protection of staff.


Wakia Grimes

DPIE Congratulates Wakia Grimes
Employee of the Month
for October 2020

Wakia Grimes is an Administrative Aide II in the Permitting and Licensing Division and is being recognized for her outstanding customer service, dedication and professionalism. She always goes the extra mile to ensure her customers are treated with the utmost respect. Grimes provides the same excellent service to her coworkers.

DPIE commends both of you for your exceptional performance!

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