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From the Forum – What can I do about my neighbor’s illegal pop-back??

by Prince Of Petworth January 21, 2016 at 2:05 pm 13 Comments

Photo by PoPville flickr user Mr.TinDC

What can I do about my neighbor’s illegal pop-back??

“My next door neighbors just sold their house (a rowhouse in an R4 zone, no historic district) to a developer who plans to do a complete renovation. He told me that he plans to build up the rear of the house. They haven’t closed but the deal is going through this week, supposedly.

Here’s the thing – there are two illegal one-story additions on the back of the house that already violate the maximum 60% occupancy and the 20′ rear offset restrictions in the R4 zone. One is an “enclosed porch” that is really an added room, and jutting further out from that is another open porch with a roof. Both are on a foundation the old owner added. Now the developer wants to bring the height of these additions up to the full height of the house and add it to the square footage.

The illegal additions (which were put in years ago) are bad enough but making them 3 stories tall will significantly air and light in my backyard. My questions – can they actually do this? And what kind of recourse do I have?

Thanks for the advice.”

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  • anonymous

    Follow the permits? I mean it’s up to DCRA to approve the plans. If you see that they were approved– but is not being followed accordingly then report them? There are exceptions that people can file for.

  • anon

    How do you report the construction that happened years ago without a permit to DCRA? Do they ever do anything about it?

    • Cas

      They do nothing. Even if you have old satellite maps.

      • AnonV2

        But if the old work was illegal and never approved it may not be grandfathered in to allow for the multistory pop-up. Bring it up to your ANC rep if they are any good. You can formally file notice with the DCRA regarding proposed construction if you feel the plans are non-conforming. You will have to wait until they actually submit the paperwork though.

    • jumpingjack
  • Make sure to follow the plans and construction very closely. They will need to get permits to do all of the work that you outlined – and as you described it, their plans do not sound like they would meet current building codes. Many developers/contractors will get permits for “Interior work Only”, but then their scope of work includes building an entire addition and lots of other things that they didn’t get permits for. Watch and then report to DCRA as necessary. There is so much illegal construction going on in DC so you have to be a squeaky wheel at DCRA to get them to come out and inspect, etc.

  • anon

    Yes, follow the permits. I know some things are grandfathered in, but I don’t know about specific cases like this. If you’ve already spoken to the developer, did you voice your concerns? They are supposed to get signatures from the neighboring property owners as a part of the permit process.. Also I would encourage you to document the condition of your house for evidence in case they end up doing damage.

  • Mike

    Wait, how does this affect you at all? Everyone knows the building permitting here is a pretty terrible NIMBY process meant to basically strangle the urban poor and keep prices up.

    • anon


  • alex

    Hey OP – if the illegal additions you allege have resulted in the property exceeding 60% lot occupancy the structure will now be considered “non-conforming”. One cannot add any additions or major structural alterations without going to BZA because the structure is non-conforming. The Developer who purchased the property should have done some due diligence about the existing lot occupancy.

  • Shenanigans

    You might want to contact your local ANC commissioner. A colleague of mine is an ANC commissioner and has been working a lot with a homeowner who has had similar concerns about the impact of a developer’s renovation/expansion on their lot.

  • navyard

    Paint it purple and call it a treehouse? That should get a lot of attention.

    • Brightwooding



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