Permits? Really?

By Jonathan McGowan

Springtime is just around the corner. If you are trying to get things done around the home or yard with repairs, renovations or new additions, and questioning whether a building permit is required can be problematic.  

Homeowners making improvements to current dwellings should be aware of the permit process and when a building or trade permit may be necessary.  A good rule of thumb is when you are altering and or changing the existing structure, electrical, gas, mechanical or plumbing systems, you will probably need a permit. It is advised you check the Anne Arundel County (AACO) web site for permit requirements for specific tasks. The major issue here is safety, for the current and maybe future residents.  The function of the AACO -Permit Center is to process the permits and inspect all building, grading and infrastructure projects to ensure compliance with building codes, laws, regulations and to protect public health and safety.  There are also environmental factors to be considered.

The county web site is easy to follow and states the required information needed for different permits. Log onto and click “Inspections and Permits.” then select under the heading In the Spotlight, “Do I need a permit?”  Scroll down through the different permit tasks and understand what fits your current project.  Processing a permit can be completed on line; again check the web site for instructions.

To save a trip to the Permit Center located on 2664 Riva Road in Annapolis, call (410-222-7720) and speak with the permit advisor about your potential project. This allows you to establish a checklist of any and all materials necessary for applying for a permit application.  Also, plan ahead because certain permits may require a longer review period by the county.  Once again, call and ask the questions about timing, materials, applications, permit fees, and the payment methods.  Be sure to have the property information, tax account number, property address, and land plat if available.  This is mainly used for exterior work and building additions.  Having a description of your project and plans detailing the work is helpful in expediting the permit.  Photographs can be helpful to the reviewer for a better understanding of the scope of work and the necessary permits and inspections for your project. Plan ahead. The springtime can get busy for the Permit Center; therefore, processing building permits can get backed up. 

This website will help with the property tax account number and other property references needed for the permit application. Enter the county (Anne Arundel), and then select the type of search- the address of the property will work. Go to next screen and follow the prompts to find your property information. Print a copy and use this as reference in filling out the permit application.

Here are a few common improvements to the dwellings that do not require permits; replacing light fixture in kind, window replacement (note-if the window and frame size are not altered), exterior siding replacement, wood deck board replacement for the same shape and material (note-railings, steps and framing would require a permit), roof shingle replacement (note- if the roof decking or roof framing needs replacement then a permit is required), and landscaping which includes hardscaping pavers, plantings, and tree trimming.

Contact your local authority to find out if you need an alarm permit. There are Self-installed alarm systems on market for security and fire.

If the alarm is not permitted properly, failure to do so can result in no police or fire response.  Check with the your alarm company for further information.


Current home owners and future home purchasers should be aware. Outstanding building or trade permits can cause problems. First, the county permit and inspection office maintain electronic records of work that is permitted on your property. If for example you had heating or gas line work to your furnace and the contractor obtained a building or trade permit, the contractor is responsible for having the work completed and inspected by the county. Once completed and approved by the inspector, this permit is then required to be “closed out” by the contractor and inspection office.  If the permit is not closed properly, it can stay on file for years as an inactive or delinquent permit.  This can cause problems for the home owner and or prospective purchaser at settlement time.  Closing the permit would require opening an expired permit and having the inspector visit the property.

You can check this permit history as it relates to your property on this county website, Click ‘Inspections and Permits’, on the right side, select “view inspection results/history” and enter your street name letter and follow the prompts.  

Property owners that live close to waterways and tributaries that feed into the Chesapeake Bay need to be aware of restrictive environmental codes.  Anne Arundel County closely supervises the “Critical Areas” around these waterways. Numerous County agencies are watchful in monitoring and protecting the land use and runoff from neighboring properties to our waterways.  If your property is within the “Critical Area”, the permit process will require additional time for the review for home owners planning exterior additions and improvements to their property. The county will flag these properties and will require additional engineering and environmental agency reviews.

Home repair may require the need to hire professionals, such as contractors, electricians, plumbers, engineers and architects.  Do your homework and check out the references for individuals or companies planning to do work on your property. Use Angie’s List, Better Business Bureau, and other trades to research the contractor.

There are too many stories of poor construction practices that can cause the homeowner problems for years. There is no reason to take the risks when hiring unqualified contractors. Some homeowners will pull their own permits so that they can hire low ball priced contractors who cannot or will not pull the permit for one reason or another.

Here is a list of reasons given:

1.            To save money

2.            Is not licensed.

3.            Is uninsured, not carrying workmen’s compensation.

4.            Is working for cash without a contract to avoid paying taxes.

5.            Hires help and pays them under the table avoiding workmen’s compensation, unemployment insurance, social security and other employment taxes.

6.            Owes taxes. 

Be safe and be informed.

LSIA has contacted the Anne Arundel-Permit Center and is planning a speaker to come to our monthly general meeting early in 2018. Check out the LSIA website Calendar for future speakers and to learn more about your neighborhood and area services.