Capitol Hill Restoration Society

Getting Building Permits


Building Permits

If you want to install a fence, make any changes to the porch, garage, or exterior of your building, or even install sculpture in your front yard, you must get a building permit.

Getting the building permit is the owner’s responsibility, not the contractor’s; you are the one liable for a $500 fine for doing work without it. Without warning, a building inspector may walk up to your premises and issue you a civil infractions ticket.

All proposed work to building exteriors within the Historic District must be reviewed by the D.C. Historic Preservation Review Board. The process requires submission of design drawings and photographs of the property and surrounding area. The review process can take four to eight weeks, since the Review Board meets only once a month.

Your building permit must be displayed in a window or another clearly visible place while the work is going on.


Familiarize yourself with the zoning regulations in effect for your property. Zoning regulations control lot coverage, setbacks, and allowed uses.

Study the neighborhood carefully, looking at original features and motifs, before considering any modifications or replacements to your building.
Understand the style and period of your house and plan modifications that are appropriate to that style and period.

The Homeowners Center in the Department of Consumer & Regulatory Affairs provides prompt and expert help to DC homeowners who need building permits for their home improvement projects. See Government Resources.