Signage Permit: Guidance For Businesses

What’s in a sign? Well, for your business, a sign can be one of your most important branding or marketing tools. Businesses use signs to help people find where they are, as well as potentially bring in drive-by or street traffic. While an element of secrecy may be a part of your business strategy, for most people, signage is key.

But did you know that in Maryland, Virginia, and DC, signage often requires a permit to allow its installation? If you want to do things by the book and avoid an unwelcome visit from an inspector, you’re going to need to make sure you have the right permissions in place.

Learn more about securing signage permits for your business in this handy guide.

What is a signage permit?

A signage permit is a type of special license granted to businesses governing the erection, hanging, placing, painting, display, and maintenance of outdoor display signs and other forms of exterior advertising. This applies to almost all outdoor advertising, including billboards, store signs, etc. Businesses must make a permit application, and the decision over whether to grant the permit will depend on the reasoning for the sign and its content.

Why is a signage permit required?

Signage permits are required to ensure that any signs or outdoor advertising are in keeping with the community. There are several factors that can impact the suitability of a sign, including placement, zoning laws, and, of course, its wording and imagery. Historic buildings, for example, may come with some restrictions for signage that could either damage the building or affect its reputation. Having a signage permit can protect your business, ensuring you have the right permissions to display your sign. Temporary signs or banners may also need to secure a signage permit.

How to secure a permit for your business sign

The process of getting a signage permit will vary across different states, cities, and towns. However, for the majority of locations, you will need to work with your local building or zoning department to obtain your permit. In some instances, you may also need cooperation and approval from the local Commission of Fine Arts or the Historical Preservation Agency to secure your permit.

The first step is to submit an application for a signage permit in accordance with the local code. During this stage, you will need to provide relevant details about your signage, including its size, where it will be located, and what it is made from.

Depending on your jurisdiction, a compliant signage application may require architectural plans of the sign, drawn to scale and showing details like construction dimensions, lettering, and the sign’s attachment method. Some jurisdictions, like Washington, DC, also require other information, such as business licenses, building permits, or a Certificate of Occupancy confirming the use of the space, business, or association referenced on the sign.

It’s important to understand the information required for your sign permit and supply all of the requested details.

Other signage considerations

In addition to securing a signage permit, you will also need to consider other requirements that could prevent you from installing your sign, or render it ineffective. Some considerations to think about include:

Your landlord or building manager

If your office or business space is rented, it’s likely you will need to seek permission from your landlord or building manager before you install your sign. Without their permission, you may not get your sign approved by the building or zoning department.


Is your sign readable? Your sign should be visible from a distance, which is why it’s important to keep it simple and avoid having too much detail or text on your sign.


The design of your sign is important, which is why it helps to work with a graphic designer or signage specialist to help create the ideal design for your business. Experienced designers may even have some knowledge of local planning laws, helping to ensure your signage is compliant to help make your application easier.

Secure your signage permit with DFM Development Services

Obtaining a signage permit isn’t always easy. It can also be time-consuming and requires an understanding of the process to help produce an effective application. At DFM, we specialize in helping businesses obtain all kinds of permits, including signage permits. We understand the permit processes for the areas we cover, including Washington, D.C., Northern Virginia, and Maryland. With our help, you can quickly navigate the permitting process and rest easy knowing your sign complies with all local requirements.

For expert help and advice on expediting your signage permit, contact DFM Development Services today.

About DFM

DFM Development Services is the leading Red Tape Consultancy in the DC Metro Region, specializing in navigating complex and time-consuming regulatory processes for Real Estate Development and AEC Industry Professionals.

From expediting complex building permits and the bond release process to ensuring environmental compliance and precise dry utility design, our tailor-made approach empowers you to confidently move forward with your project, knowing you’ve successfully met all compliance requirements.

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