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Why all home improvement contractors need to be licensed:
License requirements are often overlooked and can result in the contractor’s or subcontractor’s inability to obtain compensation for its work, as well as the imposition of severe civil penalties and criminal liability.
Caution: A license number on a bid or contract does not necessarily mean the license is valid. Before you sign anything, call your state licensing board to make sure the contractor is properly licensed in the class of work to be performed, and that the license is in good standing.
Know The Requirements of Your state’s contractor license:
- All states that license contractors and tradesmen keep lists of license holders.
- Contact your state licensing board for licensing requirements specific to your state.
- Except for plumbers and electricians, tradesmen paid by the hour usually don’t need a license.
- Contractors bidding on any significant work (more than a few hundred dollars) need a license in most states.
- If you have a problem with a licensed contractor or tradesman, the state licensing board can be a powerful ally in resolving issues.
***Legal action against an unlicensed contractor or tradesman in a legal nightmare beware!***
Learn more about your state’s requirements – select an option below:
The state of Alabama requires any general contractor working on a commercial or industrial project costing $50,000 or more to get a license.
General contractors working on a residential project that costs $10,000 or more need a license.
Alaska law requires that contractors be registered with the Department of Community and Economic Development.
Basically, you need a license to bid on any job over $750 in Arizona.
To bid and work on construction projects in Arkansas that cost $20,000 or more, you must get a contractor’s license.
All businesses or individuals who work on any building, highway, road, parking facility, railroad, excavation, or other structure in California must be licensed by the California Contractors State License Board (CSLB) if the total cost of one or more contracts on the project is $500 or more.
General construction contractors in Colorado are not licensed by the state. You should check for license requirements at the local level. You will need a license to do electrical or plumbing work in the state, however.
Home improvement and new home construction contractors must be certified. Anyone working on major projects must be registered.
Contractors bidding on jobs over $50,000 must apply for a license.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA
Electrical, plumbing, and home improvement contractors must be licensed to work in the District of Columbia.
You need to be registered or certified to do construction work in Florida. You can get a “registered” contractor’s license at the local level, unless a certified license is required by the county in which you want to perform the work. Contractors with a “certified” license are allowed to work anywhere in the state.
Most contractors don’t need a license in Georgia. The exception is asbestos abatement and the mechanical trades.
Hawaii requires general engineering, general building and specialty contractors to be licensed.
The state of Idaho doesn’t license general contractors working on private sector residential or commercial projects. That’s done at the local level. However the state does license plumbers, electricians, well drillers, fire protection sprinkler contractors, and public works contractors.
Most construction contractors don’t need to be licensed in Illinois. Roofing and plumbing contractors are the exception.
Only plumbing contractors need to be licensed in Indiana. Public Works and Department of Transportation work must be done by certified or pre-qualified contractors. Before beginning work, you should check for license requirements at the local level.
Plumbers and electricians must be registered with the state but are licensed at the local level. Asbestos workers, contractors and supervisors must obtain licenses for all asbestos projects.
Kansas doesn’t license construction contractors at the state level. But you should check for licensing requirements at the local level.
Electrical, plumbing and HVAC contractors have to be licensed in Kentucky.
To do construction work in Louisiana you need to be licensed by the State Licensing Board for Contractors.
General building contractors do not need a license in Maine. You’ll need to be licensed to do asbestos abatement work, or electrical or plumbing contracting.
General construction contractors don’t need a license to work in Maryland. You will need a license to do electrical, plumbing or HVACR contracting, or work on home improvement projects.
Anyone who supervises construction work or demolition (even a crew of one) needs a license.
Contractors working on residential or a combination of residential and commercial buildings must be licensed. Electricians, plumbers and HVAC contractors also have to be licensed.
The Minnesota Department of Commerce licenses residential builders and remodelers.
A certificate or license is required for all but the smallest construction and remodeling projects.
The state of Missouri doesn’t license construction contractors.
All construction contractors and subcontractors must register with the Department of Labor and Industry if they have employees. Those contractors without employees may register, but are not required to do so.
All contractors doing business in counties with a population of 100,000 or more need a license to do business. Nonresident contractors doing business in Nebraska must register with the Nebraska Secretary of State and the Nebraska Department of Revenue. All electricians have to be licensed.
You must be licensed to bid or work on construction jobs in Nevada.
Only certain types of specialty contractors are licensed: asbestos and lead abatement contractors, electrical contractors and plumbing contractors.
You must register to be in the business of building new homes in New Jersey. You must also warrant each new home you build and provide warranty follow-up services. Plumbers and electricians are licensed in New Jersey.
Construction contractors must be licensed in New Mexico.
Except for asbestos abatement work, all construction work in New York is regulated at the local level.
To work as a general contractor on projects costing more than $30,000 in North Carolina, you must get a license from the North Carolina Licensing Board for General Contractors. Electrical, plumbing, heating and fire sprinkler contractors must be licensed.
You must have a license in North Dakota to work on any job costing $2,000 or more.
The state of Ohio doesn’t license contractors. The municipality where work is done does that. However the Ohio Construction Industry Examining Board issues Qualification Certificates for plumbing, electrical, HVAC, hydronics, and refrigeration contractors. Landscapers need to be licensed if they plant trees or shrubs.
Oklahoma doesn’t license resident construction contractors, except in the electrical, mechanical and plumbing trades. But there are some special requirements for nonresident contractors.
If you’re paid for any construction activity, you need to register with the Oregon Construction Contractors Board.
Contractors are not licensed in Pennsylvania. However the Department of Transportation has certain requirements for public works contractors.
If you build, repair, or remodel one- to four-family dwellings in Rhode Island, you must register with the Contractors’ Registration Board. Some specialty trades must be licensed in Rhode Island.
To do residential building over $200 and commercial building over $5,000 in South Carolina you must be licensed.
South Dakota certifies or licenses only asbestos abatement, electrical and plumbing contractors.
You must have a license to do construction work in Tennessee.
Only specialty contractors, including HVAC, fire sprinkler systems, plumbing, and well drilling/pump installation specialists, need to be licensed in Texas.
To do construction work in Utah you need a license from the Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing. Electricians and plumbers have to be licensed.
Contractors need to be certified to do asbestos or lead abatement and licensed to do electrical or plumbing work.
Some construction contractors must be licensed in Virginia. Trade licenses are required for electrical, plumbing, HVAC, gas fitting, asbestos abatement and lead abatement work.
To do construction work in Washington you must register with the Washington Department of Labor and Industries. Electricians and plumbers must be licensed.
Construction contractors have to be licensed in West Virginia.
Most residential builders must have a state credential. Electricians, plumbers and some specialty trades must have a state credential.
All contractors, except electrical, are licensed at the local (city or county) level. However, the state requires everyone doing electrical work in Wyoming to be licensed.
Inquire before you hire:
Never assume that a contractor has business insurance.
As you shop around, ask about each prospect’s insurance coverage. Contractors can prove that they’re covered by showing you a Certificate of Liability Insurance, but be forewarned: A certificate does not equal coverage.
Do not rely on your homeowner’s insurance:
Your homeowner’s insurance policy will not cover damage caused by a contractor.
Bottom line: Homeowner’s insurance will most likely not cover damage done by a contractor working on your house. If you’re having renovations done, be sure that your contractor carries his or her own insurance.
Do not assume a single insurance policy protects against all risks:
Just as flood insurance policies are typically separate from standard homeowner’s insurance policies, the types of insurance contractors carry vary significantly and protect against a variety of risks. When checking potential contractors’ insurance coverage, look for the following policies.
Since contractors’ “products” are indistinguishable from their “work,” GLI for contractors is unique. For example, there is no difference insurance-wise between the physical roof and the work being done to the roof. In addition to offering standard protections, GLI for contractors acts like professional liability (errors and omissions) coverage, offering protection against allegations of faulty workmanship.License bond (a.k.a. permit bond): License bonds are a kind of insurance specific to those in the building trades. Many states require contractors to have these bonds in order to become licensed to work.
Licensed and bonded contractors enjoy a guarantee from an insurance company that, if any of the contractor’s work is not up to state code, does not meet safety regulations or proves faulty, the insurance company will pay related damages. In order to obtain a permit bond, a contractor must demonstrate to an insurance provider that he or she follows certain safety practices and protocol.
Inland marine insurance: This type of property coverage offers protection for business assets that aren’t kept in a fixed location — for contractors, this usually means work tools and other gear they haul from one location to another. Contractors typically carry special classes of inland marine insurance called contractor’s equipment and builder’s risk, which offer protection specific to their work equipment.
Bottom line: Knowing a contractor “has insurance” is not enough. Homeowners should verify that anyone they hire has adequate protection for the work they plan to do and the things that might go wrong.
Difference between Insured and Bonded:
Liability insurance covers such situations as contractor-caused damage to your property, although it doesn’t typically pay for repairing or replacing shoddy work. That is the reason for the bond.
Workers’ compensation provides payment to injured workers for lost wages and medical services, regardless of who was at fault. Workers’ compensation coverage will also provide benefits to the contractor’s family in the event of a work-related death.
Making sure a company is appropriately insured is equally important to ensuring that you will be satisfied with your project in the long run.
In many states, contractors are required to be “bonded” to obtain a license. Traditionally, this means the contractor must purchase a surety bond, which serves as a form of insurance to protect the contractor’s customers if he or she fails to complete the job properly or fails to pay for permits, subcontractors or other financial obligations.
Bonding requirements vary from state to state and even city to city, so it’s in your best interests to know the rules where you live.
Ensure that both the bond and the license are up to date.
Why insurance matters?:
Most states require that contractors demonstrate proof of insurance as part of obtaining a trade license or registering.
- Liability — Covers property damage and injuries caused by the contractor’s work. It will not normally pay the cost of repairing or replacing bad work; that’s the purpose of the bond.
- Workers’ compensation — Provides payments to injured workers, without regard to who was at fault in the accident, for lost wages and medical services. It also provides benefits to the contractor’s family in the event of death. If the owner is the only employee, workers’ comp may or may not be required, depending on the state.
Without these types of contractor insurance, consumers could end up paying out of their own pocket if their homeowner’s policy is insufficient to cover the bills should a contractor become injured or an accident occurs on the consumer’s property.
Any contractor you hire should be insured. When interviewing a prospective company, ask to see a current Certificate of Insurance then call the insurance company to verify that the policy is current and the coverage is sufficient for your project.