Rules and Regulations for Real Estate Signs

Montgomery County Sign Regulations

Facts to Know Before You Erect a Sign

This is designed to provide general information about Chapter 59-F of the Montgomery County Code. The sign regulations are intended to encourage the effective use of signs, to maintain and enhance the appearance of our communities, and to improve the safety of both pedestrians and motorists.

What Signs Are Regulated?

Any sign which can be viewed from beyond the property lines of the property where the sign is located. As a general rule, signs on private property (i.e. for sale signs) do not require a sign permit. However, signs in the public right of way (i.e. directional signs to an open house) do require a sign permit. See below for more detailed information on the different types of signs and permits required.

How Are Signs Regulated?

Signs must comply with the sign regulations, Chapter 59-F of the Montgomery County Code. They are regulated by their type, the general zoning classification where they are located, and their size and placement on property.

Are Some Signs Prohibited?

Certain signs are not permitted by the sign regulations to be erected or retained. Examples of prohibited signs include: Roof signs, obstructive signs, unsafe signs, signs which move (banners, pennants, streamers, balloons, etc.), signs attached to public structures, such as traffic devices or utility poles, and signs placed unlawfully in public right-of-way.

Are Any Signs Exempt?

Certain signs are exempt from the sign regulations. Examples of exempt signs include signs on private property 2 square feet or less in an area associated with lawful residential activities, warning signs, official signs and seasonal decorations.

How Do I Obtain A Sign Permit?

An application must be completed and submitted with required support documentation to the Department of Permitting Services (DPS), which is located at 255 Rockville Pike, Rockville, MD 20850. Information is available by visiting DPS or calling 311 within Montgomery County, or 240-777-0311 outside of the county.

What Does A Sign Permit Cost?

The fee for a permanent sign permit is $245. The fee for a limited duration sign permit is $31.

Who Is Responsible For Complying With The Sign Regulations?

The property owner, agent of the owner, lessee or sign installer are jointly responsible for compliance with the sign regulations and obtaining any required permits.

What Is The Penalty For Violating The Sign Regulations?

A $500 civil citation and/or removal of any sign that violates the sign regulations.

What Are the Three Different Types Of Signs?

Signs are separated into three types:

  • Permanent
  • Temporary
  • Limited Duration

Each type has specific requirements and limitation.

PERMANENT SIGN

A sign intended to be displayed for an indefinite period of time. A permanent sign requires a sign permit. An illuminated permanent sign requires a separate electrical permit.

TEMPORARY SIGN

(to be located on private property ONLY)

A temporary sign does not require a permit provided the sign is displayed for no more than 30 days. The date of installation must be written on the sign.

  • A temporary sign must be displayed only on private property with the permission of the property owner.
  • The size, height and location of the sign is determined by the general zoning category in which the sign is placed (i.e., residential, commercial/industrial, agricultural).
Temporary Sign in a Residential Zone
  • The number of signs is not limited, however the total sign area must not exceed 10 square feet. (Example: 3' x 3' sign = 9 square feet)
  • A temporary sign must not exceed 5 feet in height (measured from ground to top edge of the sign) for a freestanding or wall sign.
  • A temporary sign must be set back at least 5 feet from the property line.
  • No illumination is allowed.
Temporary Sign in a Commercial Zone
  • The number of signs is not limited, however the total sign area must not exceed 100 square feet.
  • The maximum sign area of each sign must not exceed 50 square feet.
  • The sign must not exceed 26 feet in height for a freestanding or wall sign. A freestanding or wall sign. A freestanding sign must not exceed the height of the tallest building on the property.
  • The sign must be set back at least ¼ of the distance required for the building restriction setback. Generally, the setback for a sign in a commercial zone is a minimum 2 ½ feet from the property line.
  • No illumination is allowed.

LIMITED DURATION SIGN

(to be located either on private property or the public right of way)

A non-permanent sign displayed on either private property for more than 30 days or in the public right-of-way on weekends only or for a 14-day period. (As of February 13, 2006 a limited duration sign on private property does not require a sign permit. That means that a "for sale" sign could be on private property for any length of time as long as it meets the size and placement restrictions in the zoning ordinance). **NOTE: The size, height, and location standards are the same as those for a temporary sign.

Limited Duration Sign in the Public Right of Way
  • Signs in the right of way, like "For Sale" or Open House advertisements, require limited duration permits.
  • An applicant is limited to 4 signs per business location. Limited duration signs must not be used in place of permanent signs.
  • The sign must be displayed only on weekends or for 14 consecutive days.
  • The sign area for each sign must not exceed 5 square feet. (Example: 2 ½ ' x 2' sign = 5 square feet)
  • The sign must not exceed 30 inches in height and must be affixed to the ground (holding or waving a sign is not allowed).
  • The sign must be placed at least 100 feet from any intersection, and 50 feet from any driveway.
  • The sign must be set back at least 2 feet from a curb or if no curb exists, then at least 6 feet from edge of the roadway.
  • No signs are allowed in a highway median.
  • NOTE: State law does not allow signs in the state right-of-way. A state road is identified by a number (Example: Route 355).

INSTALLERS AND PERMITS

What Is A Limited Duration Sign Installer?

A business or person who installs limited duration signs for others. A limited duration sign installer will be trained by the Department of Permitting Services and must pass an examination. A training class normally lasts about 4 hours and is held upon request. The cost of a limited duration sign installer license is $210. Once licensed, the installer can direct others in the installation of limited duration signs in accordance with the sign regulations, but the installer is responsible for any signs installed under his license. There is no charge for a limited duration sign permit erected by a licensed sign installer.

How Do I Register For The Training Class Or Obtain More Information About Temporary or Limited Duration Signs?

In Montgomery County:  Call 311 and ask for the Department of Permiting Services.  Outside of Montgomery County:  Call 240-777-0311.

  • ALL limited duration signs must have the sign installer's license number or the permit number printed or affixed to the sign.
  • A limited duration sign installer may represent one office, one firm or multiple firms. But they are responsible for all limited duration signs installed by the firm(s).
  • Real estate agents can be licensed sign installers. The real estate agent/sign installers who delegate the responsibility to other agents in the office are responsible for providing training to all the firm's members.
  • There is NO FEE for individual limited duration signs as long as the signs are installed under the auspices of the limited duration sign installer.
  • There is NO APPLICATION TO COMPLETE for limited duration signs as long as the signs installed are under the auspices of the limited duration sign installer.

For more information, contact: Department of Permitting Services
255 Rockville Pike, 2nd Floor
Rockville, MD 20850-4166
Phone: 311 (inside Montgomery County) or 240.777.0311 (outside Montgomery County)