Frequenty Asked Questions (FAQs)

When do I need a rental License?

Every dwelling or dwelling unit in Howard County which is not occupied solely by the owner or owner's immediate family must be licensed. A license is also required if more than one boarder, roomer or renter occupies the dwelling with the owner. This requirement applies whether or not rent money changes hands. Rental Licenses ensure that the Howard County Property Maintenance Code standards are met. The requirement applies to apartments, individually owned condominiums, duplexes, mobile homes, townhomes, hotels, motels, assisted living unit and facilities.

What are the minimum requirements for smoke detectors in my single-family home or townhome which I intend to rent?

The smoke detector requirements are determined by the date the house was originally built. See this chart for specifications on the type of smoke detector and location of smoke detector based on the date of construction. Smoke detectors can be no more than 10 years old. Every 10 years they must be replaced. AC electrically wired (hard-wired) detectors must be replaced at 10 years with new AC wired detectors. In addition to the requirements listed in the chart there must also be a smoke detector INSIDE EVERY BEDROOM. Those inside the bedrooms must be 10 year sealed in Lithium battery detectors (non -removable battery).

What are the days and times for ''walk-through'' permits? 

Walk through is on Wednesday and Thursday from 1 00 to 3 00 PM. In the winter there is one walk through day Thursday.  There are restrictions on what types of permits can be walked through on those days. Please call the Permits Office at 410 313 2455 Option #4 

How close to my neighbor's property line can I place my new shed?
Setbacks vary according to where the person's home is located. Contact the Department of Planning and Zoning at 410-313-2350.

What time does the Front Counter close at the Permits Office at 3430 Courthouse Drive?
The office closes at 5 00 PM but try to be there by 4 30 PM to allow time for processing.

What is the earliest date I can post a grading surety bond due to weather conditions?
Winter sureties may be posted between December 1st and April 30th. Exemptions are granted only under extreme weather conditions.

How do I get a copy of my house plat?
A location survey and or plat was provided at the time of settlement. Check your settlement documentation for a copy. If you cannot locate the settlement papers your Lending Institution should also have a copy.

Do my deck support columns have to go into the ground?
No. The building code requires that a deck attached to the house have frost protection 30 inches in the ground and there are several ways that this can be done.  See Deck Guide

Do I need a plumbing permit to replace an electric or gas water heater?
A plumbing permit must be pulled by a master plumber and an inspection is required for gas water heaters only.

Do I need a permit to replace my handrails or guardrails with the same product?
Yes. This is a code issue that must be maintained at all times and they are considered a structural element. If you want to replace your old handrails or guardrails with new ones a permit is required.

Do I need a permit to replace just my deck boards with the same thing or the new plastic wood products?
No. This is considered ordinary repair and a permit is not required. If you just replace the decking boards and not the structural under carriage then a permit would not be required to do this type of work.

Do I need a permit to build a shed in my back yard? What if the shed is built on skids and delivered to my house?
Building permits are required for sheds when the total square footage is greater than 200 square feet and for sheds larger than 400 square feet that will require a frost footing that will be at least 30 inches below grade.

Do I need a permit for my deck?
Yes. ONLY decks less than 25 square feet do not require footings or permits. All other decks require permits. Footings must be a minimum size 18" in diameter or 16" x 16" at least 30" deep.

Do I need a building permit for a barn?
Barns constructed in Residential Zoning areas greater than 200 square feet will require a building permit. Barns barns larger than 400 square feet will require frost footings that will be at least 30 inches below finished grade.

Do I have to be home for the inspection of my deck?
No. If the yard is fenced locked it should be left open on the day of the inspection. Pets should also be restrained from the deck area. The permit should be posted.

Can I put water in my swimming pool now that I got my electrical permit final inspection and am waiting on the final inspection of the fence?
No. Only after approval of the fence and verification that the door alarms, if required, are operable, can the pool be filled. There must be request for a final inspection by the pool contractor.