Capitol Hill Restoration Society

Reporting Illegal Construction

Posted on May 20th, 2023

The Department of Buildings (formerly DCRA, now DOB) regulates construction in the District. Any construction in the District of Columbia without required building permits is illegal. DOB’s website (dob. states that generally, the following are types of work require building permits: new construction; additions; demolition; construction of retaining walls, decks, fences, sheds, garages, and vaults; erection of signs and awnings.

Illegal construction is a public danger; it can hurt people and property. If you see illegal construction activity in the District of Columbia, please report it by submitting an Illegal Construction Inspection Request or call 311. Give the address and describe the illegal construction, and DOB will schedule an inspection to investigate.

DOB’s website ( states:
Generally, the following are types of work require building permits:

  • New construction
  • Additions
  • Demolition
  • Construction of retaining walls, decks, fences, sheds, garages, and vaults
  • Erection of signs and awnings

More information on reporting illegal construction and what work requires a permit can be found here.

To easily check the status of building permits, customers are encouraged to use the Scout database. Scout is a DOB online resource that allows users to research real property, licensing, permit, regulatory, and enforcement information on specific properties and businesses across the District of Columbia.

Note: work in public space is regulated by DDOT.  

For the definition of public space, see DDOT’s Public Realm Design Manual on   Public space includes all the publicly-owned property between the property lines on a street, park, or other public property, as such property lines are shown on the records of the District, and includes any roadway, tree space, sidewalk, or parking between such property lines.

Public Parking Area: “Public Parking” means that area of public space devoted to open space, greenery, parks, or parking that lies between the property line, which may or may not coincide with the building restriction line, and the edge of the actual or planned sidewalk that is nearer to the property line, as the property line and sidewalk are shown on the records of the District. This area often includes spaces that appear to be front yards with private landscaping that create park-like settings on residential streets.

 A public space permit is needed for the following:

  • Dumpsters in public space
  • Sidewalk construction and repair
  • Flag poles, planter boxes, retaining walls and fences in public space