Handyman License Requirements in California

Apr 14, 2023 · 5 minutes to read

Bricklayer holding construction tools

Skilled handymen are well positioned in the Golden State. As California’s housing market continues to boom, homeowners might be looking for help repairing, remodeling, and maintaining their investments. Your talents will likely be in high demand with those who lack the time, skill, or drive to complete jobs around the house.

If you are starting a small business to capitalize on this trend, you may wonder if you need a handyman license in California. Being licensed is an essential part of running many businesses. As a handyman, this step helps you abide by the law and could help you expand your company over time.

Here we discuss how to get a handyman license in California, from deciding if licensing is necessary for your business to proving that you are a licensed handyman.

Is there a handyman license in California?

California does not have a specific license option for handymen. A license may not be necessary if you only complete minor repairs or projects that will not become a finished part of the structure.

Examples of handyman jobs that likely do not require a license:

  • Hanging photo frames and artwork
  • Cleaning gutters
  • Replacing a leaky faucet
  • Patching drywall
  • Paint touch-ups

However, handymen may need a general contractor license to work on larger projects. A general contractor license is required for projects that cost $500 or more (including labor and materials) and will become a finished part of the structure.

Examples of handyman jobs that likely require a general contractor license:

  • Replacing the flooring in an entire room
  • Installing new kitchen cabinets
  • Building a deck

Even if you don’t need a contractor license, you might consider getting one anyway. A license allows you to offer more services and accept projects that cost more than $500. Becoming a licensed contractor in California could be an easy way to grow your small business.

Am I eligible for a California general contractor license?

If you decide that you need or want a contractor license to work in California, the first step is to check that you are eligible to apply for one. As an applicant, you must:

  • Be 18 years of age or older
  • Have a valid Social Security number or individual taxpayer identification number
  • Have four or more years of relevant work experience

There are ways around the work experience requirement if you are a new handyman. Relevant education and training can count towards this prerequisite, including apprenticeships, technical instruction, and trade skill training completed after high school. Military service and training can also substitute for work experience in some cases.

Step-by-step: Getting a California Contractor License

General contractor licenses are issued by the Contractors State License Board (CSLB) in California. To get a license, you need to complete the following steps:

  1. Submit an application – There is currently a $450 fee to process your application. (Fees are subject to change. Please check the CSLB website for up-to-date pricing.)
  2. Submit your fingerprints – You must pass a background check to be licensed. The CSLB will tell you how to do this after reviewing your application.
  3. Pass the required business exams – You must pass a law & business exam and a trade exam. (You may be able to skip these tests if you qualify for a waiver.)
  4. Pass the asbestos exam – All applicants must take an open book exam on asbestos safety. The exam is available through the CSLB website.
  5. Receive your license – You will need to meet additional licensing requirements to keep your license active and comply with the law.

Contractor licenses must be renewed every two years. An unlicensed handyman could be fined and/or face jail time for their first offence. Fines and penalties increase for each violation after that.

Contractor Bond and Insurance Requirements

California contractors, including handymen, must have a surety bond and certain types of insurance to receive and keep their license.

All applicants must file a $15,000 bond with the CSLB. The bond must be purchased from a surety company licensed by the California Department of Insurance. (Please check the CSLB website for more information on surety bond requirements.)

Applicants must also show proof of General Liability insurance and, in some cases, Workers’ Compensation coverage. A handyman operating as a sole proprietor needs a General Liability policy with an aggregate limit of $1 million. If your business has one or more employees (besides yourself), you will also need Workers’ Compensation insurance.

How can I prove I am licensed in California?

The CSLB will send you two documents to prove you are licensed: a wall certificate and a pocket license. State law requires that you display your license and provide proof of your license when asked.

Your wall certificate must be displayed in your office or primary place of business. You should carry your pocket license with you when you work or in situations where you might speak to potential customers. Consumers are encouraged to ask handymen for their license information before hiring them for large jobs.

Boosting Your Handyman Business

While a handyman license in California is not always required, it could help you grow your small business and find new customers. Handymen can accept larger projects when licensed, and potential clients could be impressed by the professionalism that a license provides. A handyman license in California is an investment in your business’ future.

Learn more about insurance for a handyman and compare policies online with BizInsure.

* This information is a general guide only and does not take into account your objectives, financial situation or needs. Always check with your local licensing board when getting or renewing your handyman/general contractor license to ensure you are meeting their current licensing requirements.

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