More than 13 million people live in Pennsylvania, creating business opportunities for motivated contractors. Thousands, if not millions, of residents may be looking for talented handymen, plumbers, electricians, and other skilled tradespeople to help them transform or maintain their living spaces. If you have the right skills and drive to succeed, you might be able to build a successful business in the Keystone State!
Before you start working, you may be curious about how to get a contractor license in Pennsylvania. Being properly licensed, permitted, and registered is vital for any contractor business. Here we’ll discuss Pennsylvania contractor license requirements and which trades are regulated under current law.
Who needs a Pennsylvania contractor license?
General contractors in Pennsylvania do not need a state license to work. However, there might be local license requirements in your area that you will need to meet. You may also need to apply for a permit to do specific types of work.
Even though there is no required Pennsylvania contractor license, general contractors might need to register with the state Attorney General’s Office. The Home Improvement Consumer Protection Act (HICPA) requires general contractors who make more than $5,000 per year doing home improvement work to register.
HICPA includes many consumer protections to prevent unfair business practices in the home improvement field. This includes laws against abandoning projects, regulating fraud, mandates for written contracts, and limits on deposits. You can learn more about your obligations under HICPA on the Attorney General’s website.
How Pennsylvania Defines Home Improvement
So how is “home improvement” defined in HICPA? Under the act, home improvement covers work done to existing residential properties that total more than $500. This includes, but is not limited to:
- Repairs, replacements, renovations, and remodeling
- Demolition and removal
- Conversions, modernizations, and improvements
Home improvement work can be done to any part of a property. This includes interior work, such as installing lights in a kitchen or replacing flooring, and exterior work, such as repairing a retaining wall or building a deck.
Because the definition of home improvement is broad, many tradespeople may need to register under HICPA. Depending on the projects they accept and how often they work, carpenters, plumbers, painters, electricians, and HVAC contractors could fall under this requirement. If you are unsure if your business needs to register, refer to the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s website.
How do I register as a contractor?
Home improvement contractors must submit a completed application that includes information such as:
- Contact details
- Description of your business
- Information on any previous home improvement business you operated
- Other contractor licenses and registrations you hold
- Certificate of insurance
- A $50 application fee
Applications can be submitted online or by printing and mailing a hard copy. Your registration must be renewed every two years.
How do I prove that I’m registered?
After you have registered, you will receive a certificate with your registration number. This number must be displayed in your advertising, estimates, proposals, and contracts.
The definition of advertising is quite broad in this case. For example, if you drive a vehicle with your work details displayed on it (such as your business name, logo, and phone number), this is considered advertising. To follow the law, you will also need to include your home improvement contractor registration number on the vehicle.
What happens if I don’t register?
Contractors who do not register under HICPA when required may face legal action, including fines of $1,000 or more. You will also be banned from providing home improvement services.
Beyond following the law, registering your business could help you find customers and clients. People want to hire someone professional and trustworthy. Following the law can help build that trust by showing that you value your business and customers.
Do Pennsylvania contractors need insurance?
Contractors registering under HICPA must have General Liability insurance. The act specifies that you need a minimum of $50,000 in personal injury coverage and a minimum of $50,000 in property damage coverage.
While it is not a requirement for the HICPA registration, Pennsylvania contractor businesses may also need Workers’ Compensation insurance. If you have one or more employees (including part-time, full-time, and seasonal staff), you will likely need Workers’ Compensation coverage to obey the law. Sole proprietors might also consider getting a policy to protect themselves if they are injured on the job.
Getting Pennsylvania Contractors to Work
A statewide Pennsylvania contractor license may not exist, but many contractors may need to register their businesses under the Home Improvement Consumer Protection Act. You might also need to get local licenses and permits to work in the Keystone State legally.
You may also need business insurance to fulfill your legal obligation and protect your company. Learn more about insurance for Pennsylvania contractors now, and compare policies with BizInsure today!