WASHINGTON D.C., DC — Any D.C. homeowner who’s attempted a home renovation knows the headache of the inspection process. Now, the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs says they’ve streamlined that process, rolling out a new portal they call a one-stop-shop.
But WUSA9 discovered that convenience could cost you.
DCRA Director Ernest Chrappah walked out to applause after the big unveil at MLK library Tuesday. A new portal called TERTIUS – the Latin word for third – connects customers to third-party inspectors.
“You create an account, identify the project, create a bid so you can get competitive prices and that’s one benefit of competition," Chrappah said. "Competition drives prices down."
However, homeowners or developers are charged a 10% processing fee for using the service, whereas the old way of finding an inspector for your home renovation project didn’t cost you anything extra.
WUSA9 attended the unveiling and asked the director numerous times about the additional charge. Chrappah never gave a straight answer at the news conference to our questions, but he did a month ago during a zoom meeting with subcontractors obtained by WUSA9.
“We are going to mandate a 10% fee,” he said directly during the meeting.
“It's not just the large projects, but also the single-family person who's going to have increased fees, because they're using a new system that has additional fees,” said Liz DeBarros, interim CEO of the DC Building Industry Association.
WUSA9 wasn't the only one with questions after the rollout. DCBIA wrote Chrappah a letter dated Oct. 18 urging him to pause the rollout until he can assure the portal works for everyone.
“It needs more time, more input from us,” explained DeBarros. "So he can understand how these complex projects, these multiple inspections and multiple permitting for large projects happen.”
“Change is something we have to deal with as individuals, as a community, as a society,” replied Chrappah when WUSA9 asked about DCBIA’s concerns. "If there’s one thing the building industry and construction industry is very good at is adapting to change.”
When WUSA9 continued to ask his staff questions after the press conference, we learned there is a way to avoid the extra fee. Homeowners can skip TERTIUS and the 3rd party inspectors and go directly to DCRA’s website to find an agency-approved inspector. But that process will take a little longer to get the job done.
DCRA said they’ve done the work to improve the agency. They report the satisfaction rate is up 50% and they guarantee to answer homeowners’ questions within three business days.
Still, the DC Council maintains the only way the agency can get better is with new leadership, not just new technology.