Have you had work done on your house in Prince George’s County?

This is a new wrinkle. My own house was built c. 1941–smaller rooms than a California-style great-room-type space but fairly high ceilings, brick rather than brick facing, fireplace and some of the original plaster walls. It came from a patriotic period in U. S. history; the style is usually dubbed ‘Washington colonial’, but I call it ‘Federal Revival Revival’.

Thus, several significant construction jobs over the years, including some electrical work and enclosing the back porch with glass. So permits were pulled.

There is no indication of same in the pertinent County website, however.

The County Department of Permitting, Inspections, and Enforcement (DPIE) publishes a pamphlet titled Homeowner’s Guide to Permits. Some jobs require a permit in renovation and/or remodeling; others do not. Electrical work that involves installing new outlets requires a permit; so does a patio above grade. Installing a new kitchen counter does not. And so forth. The brochure gives a pretty comprehensive list.

DPIE photo

According to DPIE, the County website can show you the record of your work, that is, through the track of the permits pulled. Web page here, headed “Permit search.” (Type in the ‘code’ below the search boxes.)

Testing the page with my own address and clicking the “Search Permit” box, I was a bit surprised to get a “No Permit Record/s Found !” message.

I had better luck clicking the link for “History By Address” in the drop-down menu. Up top, beneath the “Permit” tab. This time a page turned up with twelve links, all to my address in different jurisdiction names.

They were all for the same permit–pulled in 1986. So County records include nothing on my property since 1986, the year I bought the house? Or nothing online, where they would be accessible?

You could run this simple check on your own residential address. Again, the “Permit Search” page is found here:

https://dpiestatus.princegeorgescountymd.gov/Site/Public/Citizens/CaseSearch.aspx

The more successful “Permit History By Street Address” page is found here:

https://dpiestatus.princegeorgescountymd.gov/Site/Public/Citizens/ActivitySearch.aspx

Some quick checks on other addresses turn up mixed results. The mayor of my town suggested I check his address, so I did; the permit records on his recent jobs actually turned up. (Someone was careful.) One next-door neighbor not; the other some. Other addresses tend to fall into the no-results or no-recent-results categories.

Looking up for example the residential address of the head of DPIE, Haitham Hijazi, turns up multiple links to the address, but all links again are copies of the same record, and no work indicated since 2004.

Looking up the addresses of houses flipped by Integrity Professional Contracting and Secured Improvements LLC, the business entities headed by Mr. Hijazi’s son Abdullah Hijazi, very few show any indication of DPIE permitting. Thus far I have found no records of DPIE permits for renovation work on any of the bought-and-sold houses, except for one property where a fire broke out. There are some records of rental permits applied for and granted.

Over-all, a preliminary check suggests that, for any residential property in P. G., records for rental licenses and in-home business (commercial) licenses are more likely to turn up than are records for construction permits. The permitting website gives no such record for the Hijazi residence, the mailing address for at least two family-owned businesses.

Further calls to Mr. Hijazi’s office have not been returned.

It would be helpful to know how much of this gap in the public record is a website issue. By all accounts, the County website has serious problems. Citizens in the County have a fairly hard time reaching the relevant agency or individual by looking up contact information on the website. People working in County government themselves, including people in the Ethics and Accountability office, are frustrated by the problems. The unreliability and obsolescence of department website information and other web pages stymies anyone’s effort to look up anything and get accurate results. The gaps are the more galling in that P. G. residents have paid for the creation and maintenance of the websites, with the stated aim of improving transparency and accountability and responsiveness in government. I dialed the number for permitting issues given in the pamphlet linked above today–and was re-routed by recorded message to the County’s new 3-1-1 automated line.

Problematic as all this is, there are also other issues beyond technology.

Looks as though the former longtime County worker who called DPIE “the laughingstock of the state” had a point.

More to come.

 

 

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