Getting work done on your home or business can be an anxious road to travel. How can you be sure the contractor is dependable? How much experience do they have navigating the District’s inspection and permitting systems?
The Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) is well aware of those concerns.
“DCRA frequently hears the real life nightmares of District residents, often senior citizens, who pay for renovations and repairs, but don’t receive the work for which they have paid,” said a spokesperson. “Unfortunately, the options for recourse after the fact are sometimes limited, and always a headache.”
Enter the DCRA Contractor Rating System, which arms residents with information so they can hire contractors who possess a proven track record of proper licensing, construction and inspections.
While ratings from customers are available on platforms such as Yelp, Angie’s List and Google, DCRA says their Contractor Rating System is both different from and complementary to those systems.
“As a licensing and enforcement agency, we are in a unique position to objectively provide public information regarding a building professional’s actual performance, both on a single project and overall,” the agency writes. “DCRA does not provide recommendations, but empowers you, the customer, with information so that you can make a better-informed decision.” The information in the DCRA rating system can be paired with customer reviews from other sites to help prospective clients make better choices based on their needs.
Ratings are based on DCRA’s past experience with professionals, taking into account quality of plans at intake, caliber at review and the pass/fail rate for inspections. Projects are categorized, and professionals given percentile scores, with different weights assigned to categories for differing professionals. Each star is worth 20 percent, meaning a 4.5 star rating indicates a 80-89 percent score.
Some contractors won’t be found in the system. In order to be listed, they must be licensed in the District and have worked on a project in the past three years. They may also be listed under a different name; for instance, an architect may be listed as part of a firm.
The system was launched March 9. It will expand in phases, to facilitate improvements and feedback. It started out with architects and interior designers, general contractors and home improvement contractors. Phase two will include electricians, plumbers, gasfitters as well as professionals in sprinkler systems, refrigeration and air-conditioning. The final phase will add permit expediters and professional engineers.
When fully launched, there will be 4,731 professionals in the Contractor Rating System. If you know which contractor you are interested in, you can use the system to see how seamlessly a project was guided through planning and inspection. However, you can also use the system to find a professional for your project.
Select the type of business professional you are looking for, and then sort them by either their name, overall score or star rating. Selecting their name gives you a list of recent projects and their overall scores.
Check out the Contractor Rating System for yourself at https://govservices.dcra.dc.gov/contractorratingsystem.
6 Permitting Tips
Perhaps you want to get a read on what kind of permits and documentation are required for your project.
Most new residential and commercial construction require a building permit as well as building plans during submission. The building plans must be designed to the current building code and local design criteria. A site plan may also be necessary based on the land disturbance activity of the property construction.
If you are starting a project and want help determining what kind of permits will be required, use the new DCRA Permit Wizard (https://dcra.dc.gov/permitwizard). Customers are guided through a series of questions, and the Permit Wizard will identify the permits needed for the entire project – customers no longer have to know permit types in advance. It also identifies any additional required documentation and anticipated inspections.
Here are six things that everybody should be aware of before coming to DCRA for any type of permit:
- Many permits for small home improvements can be obtained online through the DCRA Permit Wizard.
- Any time construction work involves occupying the public space (sidewalk, public street and alley), you must get a public space permit from the DC Department of Transportation (DDOT) (https://ddot.dc.gov/) before a DCRA permit can be issued.
- Any construction that takes place beyond the authorized construction hours of 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. requires an After-Hours permit (https://dcra.dc.gov/afterhourspermit) that must be approved by DCRA.
- Anyone can check any property restrictions on an address prior to applying for a permit by using the SCOUT program from the DCRA website (https://scout.dcra.dc.gov/login). The Online Resources page (https://dcra.dc.gov/service/view-online-resources) also gives District residents information about permits issued, illegal construction, violations, inspections and vacant building data.
- Anyone can check eRecords (https://dcra.dc.gov/erecords) for construction permit documents involving structural support or an adjoining property (land, building or structure) requiring Neighbor Notification (https://dcra.dc.gov/neighborhood-notification-program).
- Scout allows residents the option to track their permit applications by providing the Application ID or property address. You can also see how other government agencies are involved in permitting process by using the DCRA Agency Dashboard at https://eservices.dcra.dc.gov/DCRAAgencyDashboard/index. This will allow you to see how each agency and the customer contributes to the timeline for issuing a permit.
The Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) issues business licenses and building permits; conducts inspections; enforces building, housing, and safety codes and regulates land use and development.
Questions? Use the live chat feature on the website, call (202) 442-4400 Monday-Friday 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., or email [email protected]
To learn more about DCRA, visit the website at DCRA.dc.gov.