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Licenses and Residential Permits
Answers to Frequently Asked Questions
Who is responsible for obtaining a permit to do home improvement projects?
Maryland State law requires home improvement contractors to be licensed by the Maryland Home Improvement Commission (MHIC). Contractors are required to obtain all the necessary permits in advance of starting construction projects. A list of all MHIC licensed contractors can be found by visiting the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation web site at www.dllr.state.md.us.
If a homeowner applies for a permit(s), then the homeowner assumes responsibility for the work being in compliance with all applicable codes.
Building Permit: General Requirements
Homeowners and contractors are advised to contact the Rockville Inspection Services Division in advance to verify which projects require permits. The information below is intended to serve only as a guide.
Does the City require an approval letter from a condominium or homeowners association?
The City does not require an approval letter from all of the condominium or homeowners associations in Rockville. Some exceptions include King Farm, Rose Hill, and Fallsgrove, typically for projects that involve new fences, decks, and additions. A letter of approval is required at the time of permit submittal. Property owners are advised to check with their condominium or homeowners association to see if their approval is required.
What types of exterior projects require a permit?
Permits are required for exterior projects, such as a new addition, swimming pools, fences, decks, bay windows, screened porches/stoops, and hot tubs. All exterior construction projects that require the issuance of a building permit must also meet certain zoning requirements related to height and setback distance. A sediment control permit may also be required if the area under construction exceeds the disturbed land limits established under the City of Rockville Department of Public Works Codes. For additional information contact the Department of Public Works at 240-314-8500
What types of interior projects require a building permit?
Permits are required for interior projects including, but not limited to, new interior walls, removal of interior structural bearing walls, finished basements, finished attics, and new bathrooms.
NOTICE: Condominium units are required by the building and fire codes to be separated from adjacent units by walls and ceilings that have a fire designated and resistance rating. Do not remove drywall or plaster from these
walls and ceilings. This is intended to prevent the spread of fire from one unit to another. Creating openings in these assemblies is a violation of the codes.
Does a home improvement contractor need to be licensed to perform work in Rockville?
In general, the answer is “yes.” The City requires a copy of the contractors MHIC license at the time of permit submittal. All licenses are subject to verification by the State. Homeowners should be wary if a contractor prefers not to obtain a permit(s). This can be an indication that the person does not hold the required license.
Below is a list of frequently asked questions that pertain to mechanical, electrical, and plumbing work in residential structures.
Is a permit required to install a heat pump or air-conditioning unit?
A mechanical permit is required to erect, install, enlarge alter, repair, remove, convert, or replace a mechanical heating, ventilating and air-conditioning system. This includes, but is not limited to, furnaces, heat pumps, and ductwork. Homeowners cannot obtain permits associated with natural or propane gas or fuel oil piping and associated installation of fuel oil tanks. All gas work must be performed by a licensed Master Plumber or Gasfitter.
Is a permit required to install a new outlet, ceiling fan, or lighting fixture?
An electrical permit must be obtained prior to commencement of any electrical work. Homeowners cannot obtain permits for work associated with the replacement of service distribution panels, swimming pools, and hot tubs. City licensed Master Electricians are required to secure permits for these projects.
Homeowners desiring to do his/her own minor electrical work must provide proof that they reside in the home. Also, homeowners desiring to obtain an electrical permit must first pass the required homeowners electrical test. Owners of multiple properties cannot obtain permits for homes that are not their primary residence.
NOTICE: All work allowed under a homeowner permit must be completed by the homeowner. Failure to comply with this requirement can result in legal action against the homeowner. All electrical work performed by a licensed Master Electrician must be performed by the company that the permit is issued to. Electrical companies are prohibited by the City code from obtaining a permit for another company or individual. Electricians who obtain permits for persons who do not hold a City license(s) will face legal action and suspension or revocation of their masters license.
Is a permit required to install a new sink, toilet, bathtub, or hot water heater?
A plumbing permit must be obtained prior to commencement of all new plumbing work and most replacement projects. Replacement of an existing sink or toilet, for example, does not require a permit providing that no modification to the water or sewer connections is made.
Homeowners desiring to do his/her own minor plumbing work must provide proof of residences. Owners of multiple properties cannot obtain permits for homes that are not their primary residences. Persons renting a home cannot obtain permits for work in the rental property.
NOTICE: Homeowners cannot obtain permits for the replacement of water and sewer lines, including the replacement or upgrade of the City water meter setting. Also, if additional fixtures are added to a residence, the City will require plumbing demand calculations as prescribed in the City plumbing code. The installation of additional fixtures may require the upgrade of the incoming water supply and meter. A licensed Master Plumber or design professional must perform all plumbing calculations. Calculations using criteria established by WSSC will not be accepted.
Is a permit required to do emergency plumbing work?
A licensed Master Plumber may undertake emergency work to rectify an immediate health or hazardous condition without obtaining prior approval. However, the City must be notified of the situation by faxing a completed application to the Rockville Inspection Services Division at 240-314-8265. The contractor must follow up with a formal permit submittal the following business day. All work requiring permits must not be covered or concealed from the inspector’s view.
What happens if work is done without first obtaining the required permit?
The City will immediately assess an investigation fee ranging from $100 to $200 for each permit not obtained. Also, failure to obtain a permit can result in the issuance of a State of Maryland Uniform Civil Citation with fines up to $1,000. If the fine is not paid within the timeframe prescribed by law, the City will send the citation to the District Court for prosecution.
The State addresses building codes in the Maryland Building Performance Standards. The State can modify the International Building Code and the International Residential Code to coincide with other Maryland laws. All jurisdictions in Maryland refer to these documents. However, each jurisdiction may modify these codes to suit local conditions.
Additional information can be found by visiting the Maryland Codes Administration web link on the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development web site at www.dhcd.state.md.us.