The Isaacs Team | Compass

Obtaining raze and building permits in the District of Columbia is a multi-step process, and may involve other agencies besides the Department of Buildings.


1313 14th St NW
DC 20005


Susan Isaacs
Call Direct



















Your Washington DC Real Estate Development Compass

Developer’s Guide To DC Permitting

Due Diligence

Due diligence is ideally performed prior to making a property purchase in order to avoid costly time delays and project revisions. The ideal project is ‘by right,’ however most profitable development in the District requires at least some variance or compliance revision due to historic district, overlay district and other regulatory requirements. Click on each module to activate the corresponding reference link.

Construction Code

Begin with Title 12 of the District of Columbia Municipal Regulations (DCMR) and Amendments. These codes regulate land use, building height and size restrictions, lot sizes, provision of yards, parking requirements, and many other aspects of your planned project. Check to make sure it is in compliance.

Historic Preservation

Consult DC Historic Preservation Guidelines for the neighborhood in which your planned project is located. Ensure that your design and components conform to HPRB requirements to avoid costly delays, rebuilds and replacements.

Zoning Overlays

Identify the zoning district for your planned project and determine if it is located in a zoning overlay. Overlay districts require additional zoning regulations on top of underlying zoning district regulations. These are administered by agencies such as Historic Preservation, the National Capital Planning Commission, the US Commission of Fine Arts or other preliminary reviewing organizations. Projects located in overlay districts must comply with these requirements to be viable.

Plats & Surveys

Does your project require plats, subdivisions or street and alley closing forms? You’ll need to provide Office of the Surveyor documents to submit with your permit application. Certified plats are required for all exterior work, showing all existing structures drawn to scale. To place a building plat order, the Square, Suffix and Lot (SSL) number must be provided for each property.


Pre-Application Steps

Other Agencies

Schedule meetings with other key DC agencies to expedite the permitting process. Include DC Water, DC Department of Transportation (DDOT) and the Department of Health (DOH) if applicable to your project.

Design Review

Schedule a Preliminary Design Review Meeting via DC’s Permit Wizard for large-scale projects such as construction of a new residential or office building. The meeting provides applicants with a preliminary review of their building plans prior to filing.

Environmental Review

The Environmental Policy Act of 1989 (Public Law 8-36) requires all DC agencies to consider environmental impact of all proposed major actions before issuing approvals.

Building permit applicants must submit an Environmental Intake Form (EIF) to determine if an Environmental Impact Screening (EIS) is required and, if so, an interagency review team reviews the EISF to make a determination. It’s roughly a 30 day process, so factor that into your timeline and cost projections.

This module links to the Environmental Imapct Screening form.

DC Development

Application And Approval

Permit Applications

When preparing your permit application:

  • Be sure to complete the form in full, providing all required information and checking applicable boxes
  • Make sure you include a valid address
  • Attach any required supporting documentation
ProjectDox Steps

Successfully ompleted and submitted applicationa trigger an email providing a link to the Dept. of Building’s ProjectDox ePlan review system. Upload all plans and supporting documents. A Plan Review Coordinator will review the application and plans to determine if they meet the minimum requirement for plan review (based on the complexity of the project scope). When pre-screening is completed, the project is assigned to the required plan review disciplines for full review by all of the relevant disciplines. Each discipline, including external agencies, will either approve and stamp the plans, or place a hold on the application for corrections.

All disciplines must issue approval before Final building permit approval is granted.

Typical routing path includes:

  • Zoning review
  • Mechanical/Plumbing review
  • Electrical review
  • Fire review
  • Structural review
  • Green
  • Energy

Projects such as restaurants, excavation, work in historic districts, or work in public space may require additional agency participation:

  • Office of Planning (Historic Preservation)
  • District Department of Transportation (Public Space)
  • Department of Health (Community Hygiene)
  • Department of the Environment (Soil Erosion and Storm Water Management)
  • Water and Sewer Authority
Permit Issuance

Once final permitting is granted, a notification to pay permit fees is generated. During issuance, if you have not entered the contractor’s information or indicated as the property owner that you will be acting as the contractor, the Dept. of Buildings will notify you that this information is missing. Update this information by selecting the permit record under your citizens access account and edit. The contractor’s information (license number and mailing address) is required for issuance of the permit.

DC Building Permit

What’s Next?

Certificates of Occupancy

“Certifi,” the District of Columbia Department of Building’s new online platform, will process all Certificate of Occupancy permits.

All new applications for C of Os are now routed through Certifi.  On October 23, 2023, Certifi, began submission and tracking of C of O applications, and issuance of related permits.

Certifi allows users to see which documents are required for various DOB reviews, clarifies and simplifies the application process by allowing users to move through a step-by-step path based on their project’s needs, and increases transparency and efficiency of the review process for applicants and DOB reviewers.

The process is as follows:

  • Apply by searching property address, validate identity, then select application type. Complete the generated application form, upload the required documents, and select a date for required CofO inspection(s).
  • DOB reviews the application, may request additional information, or, if no additional input or changes are required, generates a draft CofO for the applicant’s approval.
  • Once the draft is approved, payment is required, then a download of the final CofO version is made available for download.

Dept. of Buildinsgs inspections are categorized for permits as follows:

  • Building inspections: Includes plumbing, electrical, fire and construction to assure the building has been constructed in accordance with the building code and approved plans;
  • Certificate of Occupancy : Required for occupancy of all buildings except single-family dwellings.


For plumbing, electrical, fire, construction, elevator or boiler inspection, call the Building Inspections Scheduling unit at (202) 671-3500.

If you plan to employ a Third Party Inspection agency, refer to our page linked below.

error: This content is copyrighted and protected