Washington, DC

Photo by PoPville flickr user mmphillippi

“Dear PoP,

I live in a 90 year old semi-detached row house on Capitol Hill. The lot next door to my row house is currently under construction and the permits disclose that the owner intends to built a duplex that will be about 5′ from my house. Last week they tore down most of the 1890’s duplex that had been there previously leaving large piles of rubble. Today I woke up to my entire house shaking, as a bobcat and font end loader were pushing large piles of the rubble (mostly brick) against the party wall between the properties to fill the buckets. This cannot be good for the brick party wall or my house. I now have a few small cracks in my ceiling (mostly at the dry wall tape) that are new.

I stopped them from doing this and the site manager and he promised to be more careful, but I am usually working during the day and not home to stop damage from occurring. I called 311 to try to figure out who should be monitoring to make sure that the construction company is not doing harm to my property. I spoke with someone at DCRA and they told me that no one can do anything as long as there are valid permits. Apparently once a company has valid permits, the district has no authority and does not monitor work in progress.

Next week they start excavating the basement and we will be out of town. How can I make sure that they don’t damage our house? Who can I call if I see them doing something unsafe or that might put my property in danger — the police? Are they really allowed to do whatever they want if they have a construction permit? I really don’t want this to be a repeat of Morgan Street or a long legal battle if they damage our house or foundation.”

Specifically the reader wants to know what are his/her rights? Is the company doing the work responsible to fix any damage they cause to the neighboring house? What should the owner of this do before going on vacation? Take photos of the entire property? What else?


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