Washington, DC


Photo by PoPville flickr user nevermindtheend

“Dear PoPville,

Following up on your post about wet bars in basements, the requirements of the Zoning Administrator at DCRA continues to evolve.

We are renovating the unfinished basement of our one-bathroom rowhouse to add a full bath and living room with a wet bar. In order to approve the building permit, the Zoning Administrator is requiring us to submit a covenant prohibiting the use of the space as a separate dwelling unit. The covenant would be attached to be our property in perpetuity.

The Zoning Administrator staff sent a template for the covenant to be submitted. If we do not complete the covenant, they will only approve a powder room (no shower or tub), and the bar sink must be removed from the plans.

In correspondence with the Zoning Administrator staff, they noted that this a not an amendment to the Zoning Regulations, but instead a decision by the Board of Zoning Adjustment on May 30 upholding the Zoning Administrator’s decision to request a covenant in this type of scenario to enforce the number of dwelling units allowed.

We are concerned that the covenant could be a red flag or bargaining chip that works against us if we decide to sell our house. Additionally, the covenant provided by the staff includes requirements that would prohibit the use of the space by anyone who is not a household member (“Space shall be used solely by members of the household occupying the Principal Dwelling Unit”), which could preclude us or any future owner from legally listing a room on Airbnb, or perhaps even having friends or family stay with us.

We would appreciate any insights from any others who have recently encountered this scenario. We are frustrated by the delay in the permitting process and legal hurdles to add a second bathroom to our home. We plan to contact our Councilmember about this.”

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