FAQ's for Covenant Information
- Why do I need approval to alter the exterior of my house and property? The Village of Oakland Mills, in Columbia, MD, is a covenant protected community. These covenants require, among other things, that all permanent changes to a lot be approved by the Village Architecture Committee. (See #2 below) For assistance with an exterior alteration consult the Oakland Mills Architectural Guidelines.
- What are the Oakland Mills architectural guidelines? The architectural guidelines are based on the covenants of Oakland Mills, and help residents understand what types of exterior alterations and In-Home Businesses are most likely to be approved. Copies are available, free of charge, at the village office, or can be viewed/printed from this site.
- How do I get approval for a change I want to make to the exterior of my house? You should submit an exterior alteration application to the village covenant advisor. Your application will be reviewed by the Resident Architecture Committee (RAC), a committee of volunteers who reside in Oakland Mills, and makes recommendations to the Architecture Committee (AC), members of the Oakland Mills Board of Directors, who are elected and also serve as the AC. The AC will decide whether to approve, approve with provisions, or disapprove an application. If the AC chair agrees with the RAC's decision, the AC Chair will sign the application, granting final approval. If the application has been approved, the resident may proceed with the project, assuming the resident has approvals from all applicable agencies. (See #22 below, regarding permits)
- Do I need to have approval from the village for an In- Home Business that I would like to have in my home? Some In-Home Businesses require architectural approval while others do not. Please refer to the OM guidelines, for the requirements to receive approval of an In-Home Business, or the conditions under which you do not need approval. Contact the covenant advisor for more information or if you have questions. The review process is the same as for an exterior alteration. The In-Home Business application is available at the village office or on this site.
- Where can I get an exterior alteration or In-Home Business application? Exterior alteration and In-Home Business applications are available at the Oakland Mills Community Association office at the Other Barn, or can be downloaded from this site.
- What typical changes require an exterior alteration application? Applications are generally required when installing new windows, doors, siding, etc, with style or color changes, as well as decks, fences, sheds, gazeboes, and porches. An application is also required when building a new home on the lot, or an addition, such as a new room, carport, garage, or sunroom. Replacements of these structures, with the exception of new home construction, if previously approved, may be done without an application, provided that the item is restored or rebuilt exactly as it was when it was originally approved. Any changes to the original approval will require a new application. Always check with the covenant advisor, or submit an application, if you are not sure if approval is required.
- How do I know what information may be required to be submitted with the application for an alteration that I want to make? The simplest way to determine what information may be needed for an application is to look at the application itself, which features a box on the front page, typed in bold, stating what is needed. Many applications will require a "plat", (drawing of the property with property lines and structures) elevation drawings, (pictures or drawings of what each side of the house will look like) color samples, materials, and dimensions. Alterations, like doors, windows, siding, etc, that do not change the actual footprint of the house or lot do not require a plat, but additions, fences, sheds, or any other structure that will change the footprint do. All applications require the owners' signature and the signature of at least 2 neighbors. You can also refer to the OM guidelines, or contact the covenant advisor, who will let you know what should be submitted with your application.
- Why do I need neighbors' signatures? Neighbors' signatures should be obtained to show that they are aware of your intent to make changes to your property, and does not indicate approval or disapproval.
- How many signatures do I need? The application states that at least 2 signatures are required. For additions, fences, and new construction, please obtain signatures of all properties immediately surrounding your property.
- If I do not know whether or not an exterior alteration application is needed, how can I find out? The covenants state that anything which materially changes the exterior appearance of any lot, or any use other than the originally intended use of any lot or structure in Oakland Mills is subject to the review of the Oakland Mills Architecture Committee. If you are not sure if your change requires approval, contact the village covenant advisor, or, to assure that you have approval when needed, submit an application. The covenant advisor will be able to tell you if an application is needed or not, and will be able to withdraw an application that is not needed so that you may start your project with peace of mind.
- Do I have to submit an application if I want to replace the windows or doors on my house and I want to keep the same style? When replacing anything on your property that currently exists, with the same or closest similar replacement, an application is usually not required. To be sure you do not need an application, contact the covenant advisor who will discuss your change with you and determine that what you are replacing has been approved previously by the architecture committee, either at the time your house was built, or through an existing exterior alteration approval.
- Do I need an application if I am replacing my siding? I am replacing the vertical wood with vinyl horizontal siding, but am keeping the same color. Yes, you will need to submit an exterior alteration application for this because the look of your house will be changing. Include a drawing or photograph of your house that shows the change to the siding. It is acceptable to photograph a house similar to your own that has the style of siding you are seeking approval for. Also be sure to include a color sample. If you are replacing your siding with the same style and color, no application is needed.
- If I want to change the color of something I already have on my house, do I need to submit an application? Yes. You will need to submit an application if you change the color of an existing item or structure on your house, such as doors, windows, siding, gutters, shutters, etc., even if you are keeping the same style. If you replace or repaint the item and keep the same color and style, no application is needed.
- Do I need architectural approval to cut down a tree on my property in Oakland Mills? Yes, the Oakland Mills guidelines state that no tree, having a diameter of six inches or more measured from a point two feet above ground level, shall be removed from any Lot without approval. Your application should include a property plat showing the location of the tree or trees, and a picture of the trees if possible. The tree should not be removed until approval is received from the architecture committee and the Columbia Association, who also reviews the trees, as stated in the covenants. For trees that have fallen, or are in immediate danger of falling, please contact the covenant advisor.
- Do I need approval from the village's Architecture Committee if I live in a town house community and want to put up a fence? Yes. The Village of Oakland Mills has architectural control over all townhouses as well as single family homes. Additionally, check with your townhouse association, as they may require a separate approval of your alteration. Approval by the village Architecture Committee does not mean that your townhouse association will approve your change, so please check with and receive approval from your townhouse association as well as the village before beginning an alteration.
- I rent a house in Oakland Mills and would like to make a change on the property. How do I get approval? If you are a renter and would like to make changes to the property you are renting, you may only do so with permission from the owner. All applications must be signed by the owner of the property, and applications from renters will not be reviewed without the owner's signature.
- Where do I submit my application? Applications may be turned in at the village office at The Other Barn, or may be mailed to the covenant advisor at our office at 5851 Robert Oliver Place, Columbia, MD 21045.
- How long will it take for me to get approval of my application once it is submitted to the covenant advisor? An application must be turned in by the deadline date for the meeting that the resident would like to have their review. If received by the deadline date, it will take approximately 16 days for the review to take place. Approval of an exterior alteration or In-Home Business application can take up to 60 days if the application has to be tabled for missing or incomplete information. A tabled application is one that did not have enough information in it for the RAC to be able to make a recommendation. Residents whose applications are tabled will receive a letter in the mail requesting the information needed to complete the review. The new information will be reviewed at the next RAC meeting.
- How can I find out if my application has been approved by the Resident Architecture Committee (RAC)? The best way to find out the status of your exterior alteration or In-Home Business application is to attend the Resident Architecture Committee (RAC) meeting on the night your application is reviewed. The committee will be able to ask any questions they may have about your application, thus helping to ensure a more expedient decision. By attending the meeting you will know right away what the RAC has recommended to the Architecture Committee Chair. If you are not able to attend the meeting, you may call the covenant advisor any time after the meeting and the covenant advisor can let you know the status of your application. If you wish to wait to hear of the decision, a letter will be mailed out to you, along with a copy of your application, usually within one week of the RAC meeting. The RAC will recommend to approve, approve with provisions, disapprove, or table. A tabled application is one that did not have enough information in it for the RAC to be able to make a recommendation. Residents whose applications are tabled will receive a letter in the mail requesting the information needed to complete the review. The new information will be reviewed at the next RAC meeting.
- When are the Resident Architecture Committee (RAC) meetings? The RAC meets every first and third Thursday of each month at 7:30pm in the Smithy Tack Room at The Other Barn. Residents wishing to attend may sign in beginning at 7:00pm on the night of the meeting. Applications will be reviewed in the order in which residents sign in.
- What happens if my application is disapproved? If your exterior alteration or In-Home business application is disapproved, or approved with provisions that you do not agree with, you may request a review of the decision of the RAC committee by submitting, in writing, within 10 days of the original decision to the covenant advisor, a request for an appeal. The covenant advisor will contact you with the time and date the appeal will take place, and you are encouraged to attend. The appeal is carried out by the full Architecture Committee, and their decision is final and binding.
- Are there any other approvals that are needed, such as a building permit, for the addition I am adding to my house? Yes, in addition to receiving architectural approval, many alterations to your property require a building permit, which is granted by Howard County. The Architecture Committee approval of any application does not absolve residents from receiving a building permit when needed, nor does it authorize violation of any provisions of the Howard County building and zoning codes. Likewise, if the county requires changes to your alteration that have not been approved by the Architecture Committee, an application should be submitted for these changes. Contact the county Licensing and Permits division at 410-313-2455 for more information on a building permit.
- If I do not approve of the exterior alteration application my neighbor brought me to sign what should I do? First and foremost, even though Oakland Mills has architectural covenants requiring approval for changes, residents are permitted, and encouraged to make alterations to their properties That being said, residents who are in potential disagreement with an application that is brought to them by their neighbor should, ideally, sign the application and discuss the project fully with that neighbor. Signatures obtained on the application indicate the neighbors' awareness of the alteration that is intended, and are not indicators of approval or disapproval. Since neighbor's signatures are required to be on the application, your refusal to sign will only cause the resident to seek another signature, but will not end the process or keep the project from moving forward. Residents may contact the covenant advisor to discuss the application in question, and may attend the RAC meeting at which the application in question will be reviewed. Concerns may also be put in writing to the covenant advisor, who will forward these concerns to the RAC committee and the Architecture Committee Chair for consideration. Please note: Applications that meet the current guidelines and that are complete cannot be disapproved based solely on a neighbor's dissatisfaction of an application.
- I am selling my house. Do I need to provide any information to my agent or a potential buyer? Yes. When property is sold in the state of Maryland, it is required that sellers provide buyers with any and all information regarding the property, including the fact that Columbia and the Village of Oakland Mills are covenant protected communities. You may also have documents from your townhouse association if you are selling a town house. This information is most fully disclosed when the Oakland Mills, Columbia Association, and townhouse association resale documents, if applicable, are purchased by the seller, and passed on to the buyer for their review. This information also becomes part of the deed of each property owner, and all are required to have and to hold these documents, and to abide by them, affording each resident all the rights and responsibilities of owning property in Columbia, MD. Oakland Mills Village documents and Columbia Association documents are available for purchase at our office at a combined cost of $20.00.
- My neighbor told me I have to have a Letter of Compliance from the village before I can sell my property. Is this true? The answer to this question is YES, and NO. If you are selling property in Columbia please request a Letter of Compliance. This letter provides written documentation from the Village of Oakland Mills that your property is free of covenant violations, and therefore compliant with the Oakland Mills covenants. If violations exist, a letter will be sent stating what needs to be done to bring the property into compliance. If violations cannot be corrected for any reason, however, simply disclose this information to a buyer, and the property may be sold in a non compliant condition. Please note however, all non compliant, uncorrected violations will thereafter become the responsibility of the buyer when they purchase the property. A request form is available on this website.
- I am buying a home in Oakland Mills. What information should the seller provide? When property is sold in the state of Maryland, it is required that sellers provide buyers with any and all information regarding the property, including the fact that Columbia and the Village of Oakland Mills are covenant protected communities. This information is most fully disclosed when the Oakland Mills and Columbia Association resale documents are purchased by the seller, and passed on to the buyer for their review. This information also becomes part of the deed of each new property owner, and all are required to have and to hold these documents, and to abide by them, affording each resident all the rights and responsibilities of owning property in Columbia, MD. The resale packet for Oakland Mills and Columbia contain each of their respective documents, and include a copy of the covenants. Please note: If you are buying a townhouse in Oakland Mills, please be sure to ask for the homeowners' documents for the townhouse association, which are separate from Oakland Mills and Columbia, but which are part of the required documents you should be provided with. If you are purchasing property in Columbia; we also suggest that you ask the seller to provide you with a Letter of Compliance. This letter provides written documentation from the Village of Oakland Mills that a property is free of covenant violations, and therefore compliant with the Oakland Mills covenants. If violations exist, a letter will be provided stating what needs to be done to bring the property into compliance. If violations cannot be corrected for any reason before the property is purchased, the property may be sold in a non compliant condition, if buyers agree to accept the non compliant issues. Non compliant, uncorrected violations will thereafter become the responsibility of the buyer when they purchase the property.