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Permit requirements are specified in the Construction Code. A link to the current code is here: http://dcra.dc.gov/DC/DCRA/About+DCRA/DCMR+12+Building+Code+Regulations+(2008)
If it’s a plumbing permit that’s needed, DCRA will only issue permits to a licensed plumber (so, a homeowner could not pull his/her own plumbing permit). Had some huge headaches with our renovations on this. We ended up pulling permits for our renovations, but I have friends who did not.