You may request records by U.S. Mail, fax, email, in person or over the telephone. FOIA does not require that your request be in writing nor do you need to specifically state that you are requesting records under FOIA. From a practical perspective, it may be helpful to both you and the person receiving your request to put your request in writing. This allows you to create a record of your request. It also gives us a clear statement of what records you are requesting, so that there is no misunderstanding over a verbal request. However, we cannot refuse to respond to your FOIA request if you elect to not put it in writing.
Your request must identify the records you are seeking with "reasonable specificity." It does not refer to or limit the volume or number of records that you are requesting; instead, it requires that you be specific enough so that we can identify and locate the records that you are seeking.
Your request must ask for existing records or documents. FOIA gives you a right to inspect or copy records; it does not apply to a situation where you are asking general questions about the work of DHCD, nor does it require DHCD to create a record that does not exist.
You may choose to receive electronic records in any format used by DHCD in the regular course of business. For example, if you are requesting records maintained in a database or spreadsheet, you may elect to receive those records electronically, via e-mail or on a computer disk, or to receive a printed copy of those records.
If we have questions about your request, please cooperate with staff's efforts to clarify the type of records that you are seeking, or to attempt to reach a reasonable agreement about a response to a large request. Making a FOIA request is not an adversarial process, but we may need to discuss your request with you to ensure that we understand what records you are seeking.
To request records from DHCD, please call (804) 371-7000. You may also send requests by mail to 600 East Main Street, Suite 300, Richmond, Virginia 23219, or by fax to (804) 371-7090.
In addition, the Freedom of Information Advisory Council is available to answer any questions you may have about FOIA. The Council may be contacted by email at or by telephone at (804) 225-3056 or (toll free) at (866) 448-4100.
DHCD must respond to your request within five working days of receiving it. "Day One" is considered the day after your request is received. The five-day period does not include weekends or holidays.
The reason behind your request for public records from DHCD is irrelevant, and we cannot ask you why you want the records before we respond to your request. FOIA does, however, allow DHCD to ask you to provide your name and legal address.
FOIA requires that DHCD make one of the following responses to your request within the five-day time period:
We provide you with the records that you have requested in their entirety.
We withhold all of the records that you have requested, because all of the records are subject to a specific statutory exemption. If all of the records are being withheld, we must send you a response in writing. That writing must identify the volume and subject matter of the records being withheld, and state the specific section of the Code of Virginia that allows us to withhold the records. We provide some of the records that you have requested, but withhold other records.
We cannot withhold an entire record if only a portion of it is subject to an exemption. In that instance, we may redact the portion of the record that may be withheld, and must provide you with the remainder of the record. We must provide you with a written response stating the specific section of the Code of Virginia that allows portions of the requested records to be withheld.
If it is practically impossible for DHCD to respond to your request within the five-day period, we must state this in writing, explaining the conditions that make the response impossible. This will allow us seven additional working days to respond to your request, giving us a total of 12 working days to respond to your request.
If you make a request for large number of records, and we feel that we cannot provide the records to you within 12 days without disrupting our other organizational responsibilities, we may petition the court for additional time to respond to your request. However, FOIA requires that we make a reasonable effort to reach an agreement with you concerning the production or the records before we go to court to ask for more time.