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New Interpretive Zoning Guidance Available

Tuesday, May 7, 2019
Defining a Separate Dwelling Unit

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The Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs' Office of the Zoning Administrator (OZA) has published Interpretation of Zoning Regulations Guidance Documents 2019-003.

2019-003 clarifies what elements constitute a separate dwelling unit. This guidance builds upon previous Zoning Administrator directions and reflects current practice. 

The use of a single household dwelling as a two unit dwelling, or the creation of additional dwelling units more generally, must be reviewed under required Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) permit processes. The Zoning Administrator (ZA) has encountered the following issues: 1) building permit plans showing an uncertain number of dwelling units; 2) the detection of illegal dwelling units that lack appropriate zoning and building code reviews; and 3) the need to provide future home buyers and tenants with clarity regarding the permitted number of dwelling units on a property.

The Guidance describes the key characteristics of a separate dwelling unit –“independence”, “sanitation”, and “eating” and “cooking facilities”. It also specifically highlights the circumstance where these key characteristics are present in a building permit application – except that there is a reduced eating and cooking facility (such as a wetbar rather than a full kitchen).

Since the Guidance reflects current ZA Interpretive practice, it will take effect and apply to pending and future building permit applications beginning May 7, 2019, the date of publication.

Questions related to the interpretation guidance document can be emailed to DCRA’s Office of the Zoning Administrator at [email protected].