Protection of Adjoining Property During Construction
The District of Columbia has laws and regulations that protect you and your property when a neighbor is doing construction.
The Neighbor Notification Program operates pursuant to 2017 District of Columbia Municipal Regulations (DCMR) 12A Sections 105, 106.2.18, 112.7,3307, and other applicable codes.
Although the requirement to provide Neighbor Notification gives notice of construction to adjoining properties, this is not a tool to reject, hold, or delay a private property owner from legally performing work on their property.
When Neighbor Notification Is Required
The District of Columbia Building Code (12A DCMR Sections 220.127.116.11 and 18.104.22.168) requires that notification be provided to neighboring property owners for projects where the proposed construction activity involves any of the following:
- Where excavation requiring a permit will occur on the construction site. (Unless the code official determines that the excavation work will not have any adverse impact on the adjoining premises.)
- Where there is a need to install permanent or temporary structural support for an adjoining premises or portion thereof, including but not limited to underpinning.
- Where the proposed work will change the imposed loads on a party wall or any load-bearing member of an adjoining premises.
- Where access to an adjoining premises is required to install protective measures or undertake other work required by Section 3307 of the Building Code.
- Where the proposed work will render or potentially render adjoining or adjacent premises noncompliant with the Chimney Provisions or with the snow load requirements of the Construction Codes.
- Raze Permits where the work is within 3 feet of an adjoining lot line or excavation work more than 3 feet below existing grade.
*Note: A “party wall” is defined as “a wall that straddles, or is in close proximity to, a lot line, and which is used for structural support by two or more adjoining buildings or structures.”
The Process of Neighbor Notification
When the notification is required, the owner performing the work must perform the following notification steps:
- Required posting - A notice of the filing of a permit application shall be posted by the applicant on the premises upon which the permit application seeks authorization to perform work that matches one or more of the items above. The applicant must:
- Post the notice for a continuous period of at least 30 days,
- Post the notice on a form approved by the code official and shall be legible from the public way that provides the main entrance to the premises. The form must be at least 11”x17” in size
- Promptly replace the posted notice if the notice is destroyed, damaged, or removed during the posting period
- Submit photographic evidence of the required posting to the code official in order to have the associated permit(s) issued.
- The applicant shall submit a notarized affidavit attesting that the required posting will be continuously maintained for the requisite 30-day period.
- Required written notice - Before submitting a permit application seeking authorization to perform work that matches one or more of the items above, the applicant must provide written notice on an approved form to the owner or owners of the neighboring premise.
- The form should be sent by US postal service registered or certified mail or an approved private delivery service (such as Federal Express, UPS, or DHL)
- Acceptable evidence of delivery of written notice shall consist of: (1) proof of proper use of registered or certified mail (registered or certified mail sender’s receipt); or (2) proof of proper use of an approved private delivery service. Copies of the evidence of delivery may be requested by the code official, prior to permit issuance.
- The notice must be sent to the address of the neighboring owner as maintained in the Real Property Tax Database maintained by the DC Office of Tax and Revenue.
Access to Adjoining Premises
The Construction Code requires that neighboring property shall be protected from damage during construction, alteration, repair, demolition or raze of a premises at the expense of the person causing the work. Protection must be provided for lots, and for all elements of a building or other structure. This includes, but is not limited to:
- party walls
- roof outlets
- roof structures
Steps must be taken to control water runoff and erosion during construction, demolition or raze activities.
Whenever the proposed construction will cause operable chimneys or vents on adjoining premises to become noncompliant or the work will cause the live load of the roof of a neighboring premises to exceed the design capacity as a result of the increased snow drift load, it shall be the responsibility of the owner of the original work site to ensure these items conform with the applicable provisions of the construction codes.
The Request for Access to Perform Protective Work Form contains provisions for requesting access to perform protective work.
Limited Access Authorization
There are some special circumstances where a limited or temporary right of access is expressly granted to perform Protective Work and a separate Request for Access to Perform Protective Work Form is not required. These situations still require proper notification.
Underpinning (12A DCMR Section 3307.2.2)
Where a party wall requires underpinning as a result of the proposed work, a limited right of access to adjoining premises is authorized where all of the following conditions are met:
- The underpinning can be provided by the owner undertaking the work from said owner’s premises, even if the footing extends onto the adjoining owner’s premises.
- Extension of the footing is required to stabilize and support the adjoining owner’s building or structure, and to avoid unreasonable delay in excavation and development of the permitted project.
- The owner undertaking the work has provided notice to the owner of the adjoining premises in accordance with Section 106.2.18 where required.
Where the conditions set forth in Section 3307.2.2 are met, the person doing the work is not required to obtain a right of access to the adjoining or adjacent premises, as required by Section 3307.1.3.
Roof Flashing (12A DCMR Section 3307.4.1)
Where a new building or structure is being constructed, or a demolition or raze of an existing building or structure is being conducted, the roof, roof outlets and roof structures of adjoining buildings or other structures shall be protected against damage. The owner undertaking the work shall repair and restore all flashing on any adjoining building or structure which has been broken or damaged during any construction, demolition or raze operations. The owner undertaking the repairs shall also install such new flashing as may be required to protect any joints exposed or created by such owner’s operations. The owner of the adjoining premises shall be deemed to have authorized temporary access to his, her or its property to effectuate repairs to the extent that repairs are required under this section.
Obligations of a Neighboring Property Owner
Once notified by an owner/permit applicant undertaking construction work, adjoining property owner(s) can view the construction documents pertaining to the permit application using eRecords, our electronic records management system.
If the owner/permit applicant requests access to the adjoining property to perform Protective Work, the adjoining property owner shall indicate on their response by sending their response using a copy of the Request for Access to Perform Protective Work Form within 30 days, whether or not access to their property is authorized to protect their property. If the answer is yes, then the adjoining owner may attach conditions to the response. If the adjoining owner denies access to their property, then they are assuming the responsibility to undertake any protective work to make their property safe and for obtaining any necessary permits to do so, without delay, so as to delay the proposed construction.
View Construction Documents Online
Plans and construction documents are available online using eRecords. Construction documents submitted at the time of permit application will be available to view online and download as of the next business day after the permit applicant has uploaded permit documents and will be available for up to 60 days after permit issuance. Upon request, plans and approved construction documents will be available for three years.
Once an adjoining neighbor has been notified of a permit application by an adjoining property owner, neighbors may view the construction documents associated with the project online in eRecords.
Failure to Respond by the Adjoining Property Owner
If the adjoining property owner does not respond within the 30-day period following issuance of a Request for Access to Perform Protective Work Form, such inaction does not relieve the owner/permit applicant undertaking construction work from the safeguards and protections of the adjoining properties. The Construction Code requires the adjoining property owner to provide either:
- A written agreement granting access to perform the Protective Work.
- A written agreement denying access and acknowledges the obligation of the owner of the neighboring premises to be responsible for the Protective Work
- An order from the court granting the applicant access to the neighboring premises to perform the Protective Work.
- A revision to the construction plans that eliminate the need to perform Protective Work.
Limited Right of Reconsideration (Technical Objections)
Where notification of the owner of adjoining premises is required by Section 22.214.171.124 of the DC Construction Code, the owner entitled to such notification by a permit applicant shall have ten business days from the date that the permit is issued to seek reconsideration by the Code Official, based on the grounds that:
- the permit authorizes one or more construction activities identified in Section 126.96.36.199.
- the work authorized by the permit will not protect the adjoining premises of the objecting owner from structural damage.
A copy of the technical objection, with supporting technical documentation, shall be provided to the Code Official at [email protected] and to the property owner seeking to undertake the work. The objection shall include:
- technical support for the objecting owner’s conclusions that the work authorized by the permit will not protect the adjoining premises of the objecting owner from structural damage.
- any proposed changes to the work plan that the claimant asserts are necessary to protect the claimant's premises from structural damage.
The Code Official shall complete the full review of the objection and determine whether the specific measures requested by the owner of the adjoining premises are supported by technical documentation within fifteen business days. If the review finds the technical documentation submitted by the claimant to be persuasive, the Code Official is authorized to take action they deem necessary to protect the adjoining premises.
Additional Resources and Information
- Neighbor Notification Updates - 11.22.22 Webinar
- Affidavit of Maintenance – Evidence of Notification and Posting
- Neighbor Notification - Permit Applicant
- Neighbor Notification Checklist
- Neighbor Notification Form
- Neighbor Notification Guide for Adjoining Neighbor
- Notice of Filing of a Building Permit Application (Print at 11 x 17)
- 2017 District of Columbia Municipal Regulations 12A