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Contractor License Rules: The Ultimate Guide to Licensing in Every State


Last Updated Feb 20, 2024

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Contractor licensing is one of the most important initial steps in becoming a legitimate construction business. Holding the proper license lets your customers know that you’re a professional with a certain level of expertise, and helps protect your payment rights. Most states require contractors to hold a license by law. Working without a contractor license is illegal in some cases.

But which license do you need? What are the contractor license requirements in your state? What do you need to do to operate your construction business above board?

This guide provides the answers to questions about state contractor license requirements. Learn the different licenses and requirements for each state, where to get licensed, and the penalties for unlicensed contracting.

Table of contents

Why contractors need a license

On the surface, a contractor license might seem like just another hurdle in starting a business. But the truth is, there are plenty of reasons to be properly licensed. Most of these reasons are to ensure that the contractor is capable and responsible on several different levels.

Consumer protection

Building isn’t the only aspect of running a contracting company. Contractors also need to run fair and ethical businesses, and states need to ensure they do so to protect consumers.

Most states that offer contractor licensing exams have at least two main sections: trade knowledge and business law. Trade knowledge ensures that contractor applicants know how to do the job properly. The business law section typically covers best practices, tax rules, business ethics, and other vital aspects of fair business. 

Between the trade and business sections, contractors have to prove their worthiness to carry a license and contract with the public. 


One of the most important reasons contractors have to carry licenses is for safety’s sake. The state regulatory boards want to ensure that a contractor knows the proper header thicknesses, how to wire an electrical panel, how to ensure a gas-fired water heater is running properly, and how to handle many other potentially dangerous situations.

The state gains a baseline on the contractor's industry know-how by testing the contractor’s trade knowledge. Contractors that don’t carry licenses may very well know what they’re doing, but there isn’t any proof of that at the state level.

For that reason, states will track down unlicensed contractors, shut down their jobs, and force them to pay fines before pursuing licensing.

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Contracting is highly regulated, and one of the best ways for states to keep track of individual contractors is through licensing. 

States want contractors to carry certain insurances, such as liability insurance and workers' compensation. Some states and cities require contractors to secure bonds as well.

Read moreContractor License Bonds: Everything You Need to Know

By making these regulations part of carrying a license, the state can ensure all new contractors are on the up-and-up. And, by requiring contractors to renew their licenses every one, two, or three years, the state can also ensure they maintain those compliances.

Payment rights

From a contractor’s point of view, the another good reason to carry a license is to protect their lien rights. Some states that require contractors to carry licenses won’t grant lien rights to unlicensed contractors. An unlicensed contractor could potentially do an excellent job and treat their customer like gold, but they could be totally out of luck if the customer doesn’t pay.

And, even if unlicensed contractors are able to file a mechanics lien, it could be problematic if they need to collect on their lien or enforce it. If they have to take the customer to court and they aren't carrying the license that the state requires, the court might not look so fondly upon their claim. 

Types of state contractor licenses

When it comes to licensing, each state has different requirements and rules. Certain projects don’t require a license in some states, while other states take a much firmer stance. The types of licenses are fairly consistent from state to state, with some exceptions. The two basic types:

  • General contractor license
  • Specialty contractor license

States often have different subcontractor license types for particular trades.

General contractors license

A general contractor license is a requirement in many states for anyone taking the prime contract on a construction project. In some cases, it depends on the project’s value, and this threshold determines whether or not a general contractor needs a license. 

Some states also require separate licenses for commercial and residential work. In those states, general contractors will have to take tests and maintain eligibility for both licenses if they wish to take both types of contracts. General contractors may also need to hold a license bond.

Specialty contractor license

The requirements around a specialty contractor or subcontractor license vary quite a bit from state to state. Some states, like California, require almost all speciaty and subcontractors to carry and maintain a license to operate within the state.

Other states are far more relaxed, leaving licensing up to individual municipalities.

In general, specialty contractors requiring licenses include:

  • Water, sewer, and gas plumbers
  • Electricians
  • HVAC technicians
  • Mold, asbestos, and hazardous waste contractors

Like with general contractor’s licenses, some states set project value thresholds to determine whether a license is a requirement.

Also important to note: Having contractor liability insurance is an absolute requirement for getting licensed in many states, no matter the license.

Reciprocal contractor licenses

Many states have contractor license reciprocal agreements with other states, giving contractors an easier pathway to licensure in another state. Sometimes a state will recognize a contractor's existing license without requiring additional steps. More commonly, though, the license reciprocity only exempts the contractor from taking a written exam, but still requires an application or review. Every state has its own rules.

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Licensing, registration, and certification: What’s the difference?

The terms “licensed,” “registered,” and “certified” are all used in the contracting world, but they’re not entirely interchangeable. Depending on where you live and work, you might need to carry a license and certification for certain projects, while other states may only require you to register your business.

The definition for each of these terms changes on a state-by-state basis, but here’s the basic rundown.


The process of getting a license is usually pretty stringent. You need to meet certain requirements, including experience, insurance, and education. You may also need another tradesperson to vouch for you. Most importantly, getting a license usually requires you to take and pass a test or prove your work history.

Like all things in this guide, testing requirements vary from state to state. They generally require you to show you’re knowledgeable in your specific trade’s practices, codes, and regulations. They sometimes require you to pass a section based on business practices. 


Registering your business is usually the bare minimum requirement you might need to meet to operate in your state. It usually requires little more than filling out paperwork at your local county clerk’s office or state office and paying a small fee.

This is a general process to register any type of business, but does not provide proof that you’re qualified to complete a construction project. A business registration doesn’t prove expertise or knowledge. Some states have more stringent requirements for registration — like proving your work history or taking a course — but in others, it’s not even a requirement. 


Certifications aren’t typically required in most states unless a certain aspect of your trade has environmental, health, or safety impacts, like asbestos or mold removal.

While environmental agencies and trade organizations will hold certification courses, many contractors’ certifications come from private businesses.

For instance, a particular window manufacturer may certify that your contracting business can install their windows and products. In this case, it brings some legitimacy to your business and certifies that you know how to install those products — but it doesn’t speak to your overall capabilities the way a license does. 

Business licenses and insurance

It’s important to understand that this guide will point out the requirements for professional licensing only. Your state may require you to register your business with your county clerk’s office, obtain a business license, or carry a contractor license — and in some cases, all three.

Most states require contractors to carry worker’s compensation and liability insurance, as well as particular bonds while holding a contractor license. Always check with your state’s licensing body to determine what you’ll need to carry. 


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State-by-state: Contractor licensing rules & penalties

Below are the requirements for contractor licensing in each particular state. You’ll find the requirements for general contractors and specialty contractors, and the penalties for working without the appropriate license.


Alabama defines a "general contractor" as one who works on commercial or public contracts over $50,000, or on swimming pool construction worth over $5,000. This definition includes specialty or trade contractors who perform work on these types of projects.

Non-residential General Contractor Licenses are handled by The Alabama Licensing Board for General Contractors (LBGC).

he general contractor licensing board has six license classifications:

  1. Building Construction
  2. Building Construction Under Four Stories (BCU4)
  3. Highways & Streets
  4. Municipal & Utility
  5. Heavy & Railroad Construction
  6. Specialty Construction

Read the full breakdown of contractor classifications on the licensing board's website.

Residential contractors have a separate type of license, handled by the Home Builders Licensure Board (HBLB). There are also three types of Home Builder License to look into depending on the type and scale of residential project you're working on, which you can read more about on the Licensure Board site.

Read the full guide to contractor license rules in Alabama


Working without a license — or with an expired or revoked license — is a Class A Misdemeanor, according to Alabama Code §34-8-6

Worse yet, unlicensed contractors working on a project that requires a license have no recourse for non-payment. They aren’t eligible to file a claim under Alabama's mechanics lien laws.


In Alaska, the Department of Commerce, Community, and Economic Development’s Division of Corporations, Business, and Professional Licensing oversees contractor licensing. 

Read the full guide to Alaska's contractor license rules

Alaska considers General Contractors as regulated professionals, meaning they must hold a license. They’re able to perform new construction, commercial work, and residential remodeling projects. If they oversee new home construction or take residential remodeling projects in excess of 25% of the home’s value, they must also obtain a Residential Contractor Endorsement. They can keep someone on their staff with the endorsement. 

Specialty contractors are also considered regulated professionals, so licensing is a requirement by state law. Essentially, subcontractors need to carry a specialty license with endorsements for their trades

Some examples of trade classifications are acoustical and insulation contractor, masonry contractor, plaster contractor, painting contractor, and welding contractor. If a contractor’s performance requires three or more of these trades, they must have a General Contractor or Residential Contractor License. Electrical and Mechanical contractors must also have Administrator Licenses.

A General Contractor-Handyman License is a requirement for projects with a total value of less than $10,000. 


In Alaska, fines for working unlicensed where required can add up quickly. The civil fine is $1,000 for a first offense, and then $1,500 for each subsequent offense. Additionally, each day counts as a separate violation, so two days without a license could cost between $2,000 and $3,000.


The Arizona Registrar of Contractors (ROC) handles licensing, examination, and trade requirements in Arizona. The ROC administers examinations, sets trade standards, and handles complaints and investigations for contractors in the state.

Learn more about Arizona contractor licensing requirements

Arizona requires all contractors working in the state on a project in excess of $1,000 to carry a contractor license. The state offers separate licenses for residential and commercial work, as well as dual licenses that cover both.

License classifications include:

  • General Commercial Contractors (B-1): Can work on any commercial or residential project
  • General Small Contractors (B-2): Can work on any project that does not $750,000 for labor and costs
  • General Residential Contractors: Can only work on residential jobs, regardless of if it's construction, remodeling, or repair. This type of license also covers specialized licenses:
    • General remodeling/repair
    • Residential engineering
    • General swimming pool

Read AROC's breakdown of license classifications.

There is one exemption for projects less than $1,000, as long as there are no building permits required.


As far as penalties go, the state of Arizona considers unlicensed contracting a Class 1 Misdemeanor, punishable by up to six months in jail, a maximum fine of $2,500, and an 83 percent surcharge. The minimum penalty for a first offense is a $1,000 fine, plus that 83 percent surcharge. 

In addition, unlicensed contractors performing work where a license is a requirement have no rights under mechanics lien laws in Arizona


There are many different licenses for which Arkansas contractors can apply, but luckily they all go through the Arkansas Contractors Licensing Board (ACLB), which has a contractor licensing application page with links to forms for all types of licenses.

Read the full guide to Arkansas contractor licensing

General contractors in Arkansas need to carry a state license for work on any project worth more than $2,000. If you’ll be taking the prime contract on a commercial project in excess of $50,000, you’ll have to carry a Commercial License. You’ll need a Residential Builders License to build a single-family home. For work on an addition or other structural changes to an existing single-family home, you’ll need a Residential Remodelers License.

As a subcontractor, you can work for a licensed contractor without carrying a license of your own. However, you will have to register. If the prime contractor does not hold an Arkansas contracting license, you’ll have to apply for a Home Improvement License for your specific trade.

Again, all the necessary license and registration applications and forms can be found at the ACLB's contractor licensing application page.


In Arkansas, working unlicensed where a license is required is a misdemeanor, according to § 17-25-103. It’s punishable by a fine between $100 and $200 for each offense, and each day constitutes a new offense. 

As of July 1, 2020, the state elevated this offense to a class A misdemeanor, but the fines and punishments aren’t clearly defined yet.

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Licensing for contractors in California falls under the scope of the Contractor State Licensing Board (CSLB). Since 1929, the CSLB has had the authority to establish trade standards, issue licenses, review complaints, and investigate unlicensed contractors and bad business practices.

All contractors working on projects valued at more than $500 require licenses, with just a handful of exceptions. There are four main classes:

Read more: How to get a California contractors license


You can incur several penalties for unlicensed work in California. The CSLB can issue civil fines and penalties between $200 and $5,000. It’s illegal to contract without a license in California, so you could see a misdemeanor charge punishable by up to six months in jail and a $5,000 fine for a first offense. A second offense is a mandatory 90-day stay in jail and a fine of up to 20% of the contract price up to $5,000. 

On top of that, working in California on a project valued in excess of $500 without a license means you’re forfeiting your rights under California's mechanics lien rules. You’ll have no fallback if a payment issue arises.


In the State of Colorado, only plumbing and electrical contractors must carry state-issued licenses, while general contractors have no statewide licensing requirements.

That said, it doesn’t absolve general contractors from licensing altogether — many Colorado municipalities have their own licencing requirements. For instance, Denver contractors need to go through the Community Planning and Development department for their licenses. Plus, all businesses need to register with the state.

Read the full guide to Colorado's contractor licensing requirements


A first offense for performing plumbing or electrical work without a license is a Class 2 misdemeanor, according to CRS 12-58-116. That means it’s punishable by 3–12 months in jail and a fine between $250 and $1,000. A subsequent offense is a Class 6 felony, punishable by 12–18 months in jail or a fine between $1,000 and $10,000.

Fines and penalties may also apply to unlicensed contractors working in municipalities that do require licenses.


In Connecticut, there is no requirement to carry a license as a general gontractor. However, Connecticut classifies contractors as either major or minor contractors. Major contractors can work on commercial and public projects. Minor contractors, also known as home improvement contractors in CT, work on private homes and small multi-family units.

Read the full guide to contractor licensing in Connecticut

Both major and minor contractors need to register their business with the state’s Department of Consumer Protection

Specialty contractors like electricians, plumbers, home inspectors, and sheet metal workers do need specific licenses.


The Department of Consumer Protection can enforce penalties for contracting without the appropriate license in Connecticut. The first violation can earn a $1,000 fine, and the second and third violations can be up to $1,500 and $3,000, respectively. 

Connecticut mechanics lien laws do not specifically require a contractor to have a license to file a lien. But, on residential projects, the contractor must register with the Department of Consumer Protection and comply with the Home Improvement Act or New Home Construction Contractors Act.


Delaware does not have a specific trade license for General Contractors. However, they will have to register the business with the Division of Revenue before contracting. Certain municipalities may have their own rules regarding licenses. Additionally, some specialty contractors require trade licenses.

For general contractors looking to get set up in Delaware, the state has streamlined the process online. Contractors can access for all information and resources on registering their business and getting all the forms necessary. You can also view One Stop's dedicated Delaware Construction Contractors Registration information page.

Learn more about the licensing rules in Delaware

Specialty trades like electrical, plumbing, and HVAC-refrigeration do require specific licenses to operate in Delaware. Licensing for these trades goes through the Delaware Department of Professional Regulation. You’ll have to apply and pass an exam for a license. 


Because licensing generally is a matter of each municipality, fines and penalties for contracting without a license are also a local matter in Delaware. However, lien claimants do not have to hold a contractors license to file under mechanics lien rules in Delaware


Contractor licensing in Florida falls under the Construction Industry Licensing Board (CILB). It oversees the licensing and regulation of the construction industry. The CILB accepts and reviews applications, reviews disciplinary cases, and conducts hearings and investigations.

In the state of Florida, almost all contractors need to carry a license. Licensing falls under two categories: registered and certified. Registered contractors can work in specific, local jurisdictions. Certified contractors can work through the state.

Florida offers Division I certifications for general contractors. Division II certification is for trade-specific contractors and subs. Both require an application process and a written exam. Registered contractors can skirt the exam by getting a Certificate of Competency from the local licensing office.

Read the full guide to Florida's licensing requirements

There is an exception for handyman services: As long as you’re not working on a foundation, structural walls, plumbing, electrical, asbestos abatement, or other tasks that require licensing, you might not need one — regardless of the project value.

Florida also has a unique contractor license reciprocity situation: Out-of-state contractors who have been licensed in other states for at least 10 years may qualify to apply for reciprocity without taking an exam. Because this is still a new statute, Florida has only entered into reciprocity agreements with a few states, including California, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, and Georgia. Florida is expected to enter into reciprocal agreements with more states in the coming years.

Learn more – Florida License Reciprocity: Rules for Out-of-State Contractors


Unlicensed contracting is no joke in Florida. The first offense is a first-degree misdemeanor punishable with up to a year of jail or probation. Subsequent offenses could result in a third-degree felony, with a maximum jail sentence of five years and civil penalties of up to $10,000.

On top of the civil and legal penalties, working without a license on a project where one is a requirement will also forfeit your Florida mechanics lien rights. In some cases, you might even owe the customer three times the contract value if your work was defective.

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Licenses for Georgia contractors are a matter handled by The Georgia State Construction Industry Licensing Board. Established in 2004, it regulates the construction contracting industry within the state. It administers testing and sets the requirements for licensing.

Learn more about Georgia's licensing requirements

Any contractor working on a project valued more than $2,500 needs to have a license in Georgia. This applies to general contractors (Georgia has four levels of license classifications for general contractor licenses that could apply based on the work performed) and specialty trades

Under Georgia's Veterans Preference Points program, veterans applying for a contractor license may qualify for point credits on their exams as well as an expedited application process.

Georgia also has license reciprocity with multiple states.

General contractors have reciprocity if licensed in Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina and Tennessee. Residential Contractors are given reciprocity if they hold a license in Mississippi or South Carolina.


While Georgia prohibits anyone from performing residential or commercial contracting work in excess of $2,500 without a license, the legal and civil penalties aren’t entirely clear.

However, unlicensed contracting in excess of $2,500 will deem the contract unenforceable. None of the terms or payments outlined in the contract are valid, which means no lawsuits — and you’ll be forfeiting your rights under Georgia mechanics lien laws


The Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs Professional and Vocational Licensing Board oversees contractor licensing in Hawaii. It accepts and reviews licensing applications, administers testing, and investigates complaints.

Read the full guide to contractor licensing in Hawaii

Hawaii requires contractors performing work valued over $1,000, or a project that requires a building permit, to hold a license. The board offers three license types: General Engineering Contractor, General Building Contractor, and Specialty Contractor, which includes plumbers, electricians, roofers, glaziers, and more.


Unlicensed contracting is a misdemeanor in Hawaii. The fines, fees, and sentences can vary by location and situation, but understand contracting without a license can be an arrestable offense that may result in fines or jail time.


Idaho does not have a state licensing requirement for general contractors. They require contractors working on projects valued more than $2,000 to register their business with the Idaho Contractors Board

Read the guide to Idaho contractor licensing 

However, anyone performing electrical, HVAC, or plumbing contracting work does require a state-issued license. Additionally, contractors and construction managers who want to work on public work projects costing over $10,000 need to be licensed through the Division of Building Safety.


According to the Division of Building, anyone who performs electrical, HVAC, or plumbing work without a license is subject to civil penalties. The same goes for public works projects and construction management. 

Contractors need to be licensed in order to qualify for mechanics lien rights in Idaho. If a contractor starts a project unlicensed and gets licensed in the middle of the project, the work they did before getting licensed is unprotected. They only have a right to file a lien for work done after getting licensed.

Subcontractors working under general contractors need to be licensed to qualify for lien rights. However, if the subcontractor is knowingly working under an unlicensed general contractor, the subcontractor may not have lien rights. If the subcontractor did not know that the GC was unlicensed, they may still be able to file a lien.


Illinois leaves much of its licensing requirements up to the individual municipalities. General contractors have no statewide requirements; each city or county sets its own licensing rules. However, GC's do need to register their business with the Illinois Department of Revenue. Also, contractors that plan to work on plumbing systems will likely need to secure a plumbing license through the Department of Health.

Licensing in the city of Chicago falls under the scope of their building department. Aurora, Illinois’ licensing body is the Department of Building and Permits. General contractors, subcontractors, and specialty trades should check with each individual municipality for licensing requirements.

Read the full guide to contractor licensing in Illinois


Plumbing and roofing contractors can face hefty fines for contracting without a license in Illinois. For plumbers, a first offense can result in a $1,000 fine, but only if there are no violations of the Illinois Plumbing Code found. If there are violations, a contractor could see a fine of $3,000 for that first offense. A second offense can result in a $3,000 fine, and subsequent offenses can tally $5,000. 

For roofers, unlicensed roofing is punishable is punishable by a fine of up to $5,000 for each offense.

Additionally, operating without a license where required is punishable by civil fines at the individual municipal level.

Contractors in Illinois are not required to hold a license to file a lien under Illinois mechanics lien statute — except for design professionals.


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Indiana only requires plumbing contractors to carry a state-issued license. Plumbing contractors will have to pursue licensing through the state's Professional Licensing Agency. The PLA handles all applications, renewals, and trade standards for plumbing contractors. All other licenses are a matter of the individual counties, cities, and townships.

For example, general contractors and specialty trades pursuing a license in Indianapolis can check the city’s Department of Business and Neighborhood Services for requirements. Contractors in the Fort Wayne area will need to check the Allen County Building Department website.

Read Indiana's full contractor licensing guide


Penalties in Indiana for unlicensed contracting work generally fall on the individual licensing municipalities. However, unlicensed contractors can potentially file mechanics liens under Indiana law.


Iowa requires all contractors performing more than $2,000 in work over the course of a year to register their business with the Division of Labor. This includes all general contractors, specialty contractors, and handyman contractors.

Read the Iowa guide to contractor licenses

Specialty contractor trades also require licenses in some cases. The Department of Health, Iowa Plumbing and Mechanical Systems Board oversees licensing for mechanical, plumbing, HVAC, refrigeration, sheet metal, and hydronic contractors. Electrical contractor licenses are the duty of the State Fire Marshal.


Violations for unregistered contractors in Iowa start with $500 citations, but can amount to as much as $5,000 for subsequent violations. However, a license is not an explicit requirement for filing a mechanics lien in Iowa.


Kansas does not have any contractor licensing on a state level and handles all licensing on a local level. All businesses (including corporations, limited liability companies, limited partnerships, limited liability partnerships, and general partnerships) simply need to register their business with the State of Kansas Secretary of State.

Read more: Kansas contractor license guide

Specialty contractors may require licensing at the local level. For example, contractors in Salina, KS, need to contact the City Clerk’s office for licensing. Both general contractors and specialty trades in the Wichita area need to contact the Sedgwick County Metropolitan Area Building and Construction Department. Kansas' 105 counties each have their own rules, and they don't carry over to other counties. The best way to ensure you have what you need is to call the county or city clerk where you're planning to work.


For the most part, penalties for unlicensed contracting are at the discretion of the individual licensing municipalities. When it comes to payment disputes, Kansas mechanics lien laws do not require a contractor to carry a license to enact their lien rights.


The only licenses that Kentucky requires at the state level are electrical, plumbing, and HVAC contracting licenses, which all fall under the Department of Housing, Buildings, and Construction. Otherwise, general contractor and specialty contractor licenses are under the control of local municipalities.

For instance, contractors looking to work in Louisville will have to meet the requirements of the Metmro Department of Codes and Regulations. Contractors in the Bowling Green area will have to go through the Bowling Green-Warren County Contractors Licensing Board for licensing requirements.

Read the full guide to contractor licensing in Kentucky

Additionally, all businesses operating in the State of Kentucky — including all contractors —need to register with the Kentucky Department of Revenue.


Penalties for unlicensed work in Kentucky are determined by local municipalities. Many local jurisdictions have their own form of punishment for contracting without a license, and they can include steep fines and a possibility of jail time.

However, all contractors, regardless of licensing, have rights under Kentucky mechanics lien rules. Design professionals are the only exception, as they do need a license in order to file a mechanics lien. 


Licensing for contractors in Louisiana falls under the scope of the Louisiana State Licensing Board for Contractors (LSLBC). Established in 1956, the board’s goal is to protect consumers from incompetent or fraudulent acts while promoting the integrity of the construction industry. 

General contractors need either a residential or commercial license. A residential license is a requirement for projects exceeding $75,000. A commercial license is a requirement for projects over $50,000 in value.

Learn more: How to get a contractors license in Louisiana

Subcontractors need a license for work exceeding $7,500, unless it involves hazardous materials or mold: For these situations, once the project value exceeds $1, a license is required.

Home improvement contractors have to simply register their business with the state LSLBC when the total project value is between $7,500 and $75,000.

All businesses within the state — including contractors — must be registered with the Louisiana Secretary of State. This can all be done through their website, and you'll need to decide the type of business structure you want to set up.


Contracting without a license in Louisiana is a misdemeanor. The state licensing board will assess a fine of up to 10% of the contract value. In addition to this fine, if the board brings the violation to the courts, the unlicensed contractor can face more fines for any actual damages caused and be liable for attorney fees and court costs.

Additionally, the contract they were operating under will become null and void, so the contractor cannot collect overhead and profit for the job.

Unlicensed contractors do have mechanics liens rights in Louisiana, but there are some caveats. They’re only allowed to recover the minimum value of their work, and the LSLBC does retain the right to penalize them.


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Regulating and licensing the construction industry in Maine is, for the most part, the function of individual municipalities.

Two trades that the state’s Department of Regulatory Licensing and Permitting does regulate are electricians and plumbers.  

Read the full guide to getting a Maine contractor license

In most cases, general business licenses are also required, though they are also regulated at the local level. There is one rule that all contractors must follow, though: Any project valued more than $3,000 requires a written contract.


There are no licensing requirements for mechanics lien rights in Maine, so unlicensed contractors do have recourse to their payments. However, if the state requires a license (as in the case with plumbers and electricians), they may have to pay penalties. 


Maryland requires "home improvement contractors" to be licensed. The state includes a broad range of contractors in this definition, including trades like plumbing and electrical work. All state licenses are governed by the Maryland Home Improvement Commission (MHIC), and whether you're a general contractor or working in a trade, there are several steps involved in getting licensed in Maryland.

Read the full guide to contractor licensing in Maryland

Home improvement contractors as mentioned above are licensed by the state to do residential work. Individual municipalities and counties handle commercial contractor licensing. 

Subcontractors and specialty contractors may require licenses depending on the trade. Plumbers, HVAC-R technicians, and electricians need to apply for a license with the Maryland Department of Labor. Other trades need to check with the local municipality.

Additionally, all businesses need to register with the Maryland Department of Assessments and Taxation before they can operate in the state of Maryland. This includes every type of construction contractor.


Working as an unlicensed contractor where a license is required is a misdemeanor in Maryland. The first offense is punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 and 30 days in jail. Subsequent offenses bump those consequences up to a $5,000 maximum fine and two years in jail.

The only licensing requirements for mechanics lien rights in Maryland pertain to interior designers (which require a certification), and corporations (which must register with the state). Other than that, unlicensed contractors typically have the right to file mechanics liens in payment disputes. 


There are several licensing bodies and registries in Massachusetts, and their requirements may seem confusing.

Learn more: Massachusetts contractor license rules & requirements

The Massachusetts equivalent of a general contractor’s license is a Construction Supervisor License (CSL) from the Office of Public Safety and Inspections. A CSL is a requirement on all construction 1–2 family home construction projects. It’s also a requirement for work on 1–4 family, owner-occupied projects, but the contractor must also register with the Home Improvement Program

For projects exceeding 35,000 cubic feet of enclosed space, the overseeing party must be a registered design professional (RDP), like an engineer or architect: A CSL will not suffice.

Specialty contractors also each have their own individual requirements, which you can read more about here.


Working without the appropriate state-required license (even if you forgot to renew it) is punishable by a $5,000 fine and up to two years in prison.

That said, there are no specific licensing requirements according to Massachusetts mechanics lien rules. Just be aware that the licensing and registry bodies may penalize you for failing to hold the proper vetting.

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The majority of Michigan licensing goes through the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA). Along with almost every other profession in the state, it oversees licensing for general contractors and specialty trades.

Read the full guide to contractor licensing in Michigan

General contractors in Michigan require either a Residential Builders license or a Maintenance and Alterations Contractors license. Commercial contractors will need to check with the local municipality to determine which licenses they may need to carry. 

Almost all specialty trades need to carry a license in Michigan as well. Electrical contractors need to pursue a license through the Bureau of Construction Codes, Electrical Division. Fire suppression and HVAC licenses are a matter of the BCC, Mechanical Division. Plumbers need to contact the BCC, Plumbing Division for licensing. 


According to Michigan’s Occupational Code, operating without a license where one is a requirement is a misdemeanor. It’s punishable by not less than $5,000 (up to $25,000), or one year in prison — or both. Any subsequent offense is punishable by the same fine, but jail time extends to two years. If a death or injury occurs while operating unlicensed, the fines remain, but the jail sentence extends up to four years.

If you’re working as an unlicensed contractor on a residential project, you’ll have no rights under mechanics lien laws in Michigan.


Minnesota’s licensing body is the state’s Department of Labor and Industry (DLI). The main licensing requirements are fairly unique. For instance, commercial contractors need to register with the Contractor Registration Program, but do not need licenses. Also, contractors providing only one “special” skill do not need to carry a license (except for residential roofers — they need a license even if roofing is their one and only trade). 

Read the guide to contractor licenses in Minnesota

If you’re a general contractor working on residential building or remodeling projects, you will need a Residential Building Contracting license from the DLI.

Residential building contractors performing less than $15,000 in annual gross receipts do not need licenses in Minnesota, provided they have a certificate of exemption

Subcontractors must have a Residential Building Contracting License if they are performing work in two or more of the following areas:

  • Excavation 
  • Masonry/concrete
  • Carpentry
  • Interior and/or exterior finishing
  • Drywall and plaster
  • Roofing
  • General installation

They also have to register their business with the Contract Registration Program. Electrical and plumbing contractors need to pursue separate licenses from the DLI, while HVAC mechanics are not regulated at the state level. 


Unlicensed contractors working without the proper licenses are subject to a misdemeanor charge in Minnesota. While the exact penalties are unclear, one thing is clear: Working unlicensed when the state requires one means forfeiting your rights to a mechanics lien or lawsuit.

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Contracting licenses are a function of the Mississippi State Board of Contractors. The ten-member board regulates licensing, enforces licensing laws, and educates consumers.

All contractors and subs on commercial jobs valued over $50,000 require a license. This value lowers to $5,000 for public fire protection systems, and $10,000 for private fire protection systems.

Residential contractors performing new construction over $50,000, remodeling over $10,000, or roofing over $10,000 also require a license. Electrical, plumbing, or HVAC contractors on projects under $10,000 on a residential project do not require a state license, but may be subject to local regulations

The Board breaks down licensing classifications into the following classes:

Many of these have subcontractor classes for specialty contractors, and may require tests.

Read the guide to contractor licenses in Mississippi


Though Mississippi isn’t explicitly clear about the penalties for unlicensed contracting, the state does make it clear that it’s illegal. Further, unlicensed contractors have no rights at all under Mississippi's mechanics lien laws.


There are no state-mandated requirements for general contractor licenses in Missouri. Instead, most licensing regulation is a function of counties and municipalities.

Local municipalities are responsible for the regulation of contractors and penalties for unlicensed work. For instance, contractors interested in working in Kansas City will have to contact the City Planning and Development office. The city has different requirements for several trade classes, including fire protection, plumbers, HVAC, and more. 

Read the guide to contractor licenses in Missouri

Montana does make all contractors register with the Secretary of State, which they can do online via the Business Portal.


Individual municipalities can set their own fines and legal penalty for contracting without a license. Expect penalties such as fines that accumulate for each day spent working without a license, and even up to one year in jail for a first offense.

Holding a license is not a requirement under mechanics lien rules in Missouri


Montana is one of the more relaxed states when it comes to contracting licenses. Any licenses that are state requirements fall under the scope of the Department of Labor and Industry (DLI). Plumbing and electrical contractors will need to contact the DLI for licensing. Other types of contractors will likely need to register instead.

Read the full guide to Montana contractor licenses

Montana offers both Independent Contractor Registration and Construction Contractor Registration, and your business’s structure will determine which is best for you. Both registrations go through the Department of Labor and Industry. To put it simply, Independent Contractor Registration is for contractors who are literal individuals, and Construction Contractor Registration includes most construction contractors with employees.


Not registering with the registration program can result in a $500 fine for each violation. Also, performing electrical or plumbing work without a license is a misdemeanor, which could result in a minimum $250 fine (maximum of $1,000), imprisonment between 90 days to a year, or both.


Most regulation at the state level in Nebraska pertains to registration as opposed to licensing. All contractors earning more than $5,000 annually, including general and specialty contractors, must register their business with the state’s Contractor Registration program. 

Read the guide to contractor licenses in Nebraska

Electrical contractors are required to get state-issued licenses with the Nebraska State Electrical Division. Plumbers, HVAC contractors, and other subcontractors will have to check with local municipalities for licensing requirements: For instance, Omaha requires licensing for building, electrical, mechanical, and plumbing contractors. Lincoln has similar requirements. 


If a contractor receives a citation for not registering with the Contractor Registration, the fee could be up to $500. They then have the opportunity to contest the citation. If the contractor has never registered, they have up to 60 days to do so, at which point the registry will waive the penalty fee.


Construction licensing in Nevada is the responsibility of the Nevada State Contractors Board. The board regulates trade licenses within the state.

Nevada requires all contractors to carry state-issued licenses. Residential general contractors should pursue Class B licenses, while Class C licenses apply to specialty trades and subcontractors.

Learn more about Nevada's contractor licensing rules


It’s illegal to contract without a license in Nevada. The first offense is a minor misdemeanor. The second offense constitutes a gross misdemeanor. A third offense becomes a Class E Felony. The contractor board can impose a fine for each violation, and which can be $1,000 to $50,000 depending on the situation.

On top of getting hit with a possible felony charge, your payments may be at risk. If you’re required to carry a license but operate unlicensed, you’ll have no right to a Nevada mechanics lien or lawsuit. 

New Hampshire

New Hampshire doesn’t have a requirement for general contractors, and only has license requirements for electricians and plumbing contractors. Most licensing requirements fall on local municipalities and counties. All businesses within the State of New Hampshire must register with the Secretary of State.

Even the largest cities in New Hampshire don’t have well-defined licensing requirements. In fact, many cities prefer to manage contractors through permits. Nashua, for instance, requires contacting the Building Safety Department. The same applies to Concord

Read the complete guide to contractor licenses in New Hampshire


There are only two main contractor types who need licenses in New Hampshire, and there are penalites for working unlicensed as either one. Operating as an unlicensed electrical contractor in New Hampshire is a misdemeanor. The same is true for unlicensed plumbing contractors

New Jersey

New Jersey does not require general contractors to hold licenses, though they do need to register their businesses with particular state offices. 

New Jersey refers to general contractors as "home improvement contractors," and they need to register their business with the New Jersey Division of Consumer affairs. Commercial contractors do not have to register at a state level. However, individual municipalities have their own rules when it comes to commerical contractor licensing — for example, Atlantic City, Newark, and Passaic all require commercial contractors to be licensed and have their own requirements to do so. It's always a good idea check with the local government anywhere you plan to work for the most up-to-date information.

Learn more about New Jersey's contractor licensing rules

If a contractor deals in financed home repair contracts, they must have a home repair contractor license issued by the New Jersey Department of Banking and Insurance. This doesn’t apply for cash payments or credit card payments taken over the course of 90 days or less.

Electrical, plumbing, and HVAC contractors need to carry licenses issued by the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs.


The penalty for working without registering is a civil penalty of up to $10,000 for the first offense and $20,000 for each subsequent offense. There can also be criminal charges and additional fees.


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New Mexico

Professional licensing in New Mexico is done by the New Mexico Regulation and Licensing Department. Specifically, the Construction Industry and Manufactured Housing Division. Before getting a license, New Mexico turns to a third-party testing company called PSI for all its contractor exams. For the most part, the entire process goes through PSI, right up until CID issues you a license.

Read the guide to contractor licenses in New Mexico

New Mexico requires just about every contractor to carry a license. General contractors and subcontractors can find their classification in the NM Administrative Code, Title 14, Chapter 6. The exception to this rule is for contractors making less than $7,200 annually — they don’t require licensing.


Unlicensed contracting in New Mexico is illegal, and the consequences depend on the value of the project. For projects valued at less than $5,000, unlicensed contractors may see up to 90 days in jail or a fine of $300-$500. For projects over $5,000, the contractor may see a jail sentence of up to six months and a fine up to 10 percent of the contract’s value. 

When it comes to payment disputes, unlicensed contractors don’t have a ladder to stand on in New Mexico. They’re unable to file a claim under New Mexico's mechanics lien rules. They’re also unable to file a suit. In fact, in some cases, a homeowner can even request their money back. 

New York

New York leaves most licensing requirements up to its cities and counties. The only construction-related licenses issued at the state level are asbestos abatement contractors, crane operators, and elevator contractors. Those licenses fall under the control of the Department of Safety and Health

Read the full guide to contractor licensing in New York

General contractors, subs, and specialty trades need to check their local municipalities for licensing requirements. In New York City, Home Improvement Contractor Licenses are required for any contractor to build, repair, remodel, or make other improvements to residential land or building. Rochester has its own licensing as well. Work in and around Yonkers will require a Home Improvement Contractor license from the Department of Consumer Protection.


Fees and penalties are also a function of the individual municipalities. However, operating a crane without a license is a state misdemeanor, varying between Class A and B, depending on the circumstances. 

The rules for New York State mechanics liens make it clear: If your work requires a license, and you don’t have that license during the project, you do not have lien rights. You also cannot file a lawsuit. 

North Carolina

Licensing in North Carolina falls under the North Carolina Licensing Board for General Contractors. North Carolina has five different types of general contractor license classifications you can apply for depending on what kind of work you do: building, residential, highway, public utilities, and specialty contractors. Any subcontractors or specialty contractors both fall under the final category.

Read the full contractor licensing rules in North Carolina

Licenses come with three limitations: Limited for projects up to $500,000, Intermediate for projects up to $1,000,000, and Unlimited. Each has increasingly stringent requirements. 

Additionally, electrical, plumbing, HVAC, and fire sprinkler contractors require separate licenses. But specialty contractors outside of those trades working as subcontractors in contract with a licensed general contractor do not need licenses.

Handyman service work for less than $30,000 is exempt from licensing. 


In North Carolina, contracting without a license, impersonating a licensed contractor, or and engineer or architect recommending the award of a contract to an unlicensed contractor are all considered Class 2 misdemeanors. The North Carolina Licensing Board for General Contractors can enforce penalties for contracting without a license, as well as apply for an injunction, barring the contractor from continuing to work until a resolution is reach. More penalties could include civil fines and criminal charges.

North Dakota

North Dakota requires all contractors performing work valued at more than $4,000 to carry a license. Contractors can choose to apply for four classes: Class A for projects over $500,000, Class B for projects up to $500,000, Class C for projects up to $300,000, and Class D for projects up to $100,000.

Read the full contractor licensing rules in North Dakota

Additionally, electricians, plumbers, and asbestos contractors require their own separate licenses.

All businesses, contractors included, must also register their business with the Secretary of State.


As far as penalties go, North Dakota considers contracting without a license as a Class A misdemeanor, which could result in a steep fine an even the possiblity of jail time.


Ohio doesn’t have state requirements for general contractors. Licensing for professionals is generally a matter handled by cities and counties. Commercial electrical, plumbing, HVAC, and hydronics professionals need to carry a state-issued license, however. The Ohio Construction Industry Licensing Board oversees those licenses. 

Read the full guide to contractor licensing in Ohio

General contractors, home improvement contractors, and subs will have to check with local municipalities to determine their licensing requirements. For example, contractors in Columbus need to check with the Building and Zoning Department. Cincinnati-based contractors need to check with the city’s Buildings Department.


Contracting without a license where it’s a requirement can get expensive quickly. The OCILB can hit unlicensed contractors with a $1,000 fine per day, per violation. However, there are no specific licensing requirements found in Ohio's mechanics lien law, so unlicensed contractors do generally have rights to payment claims.


In Oklahoma, electrical, mechanical, plumbing, and roofing contractors have to carry state-issued licenses from the Oklahoma Construction Industries Board. Oklahoma does not require general contractors to carry state-issued licenses.

Read the full contractor licensing rules in Oklahoma

Generally, counties and cities handle their own requirements. Oklahoma City contractors need to check with the city’s Business Licensing Department. Broken Arrow contractors should check the Community Development Business Registration and Licensing department.


Penalties and fines are, for the most part, the responsibility of the individual municipalities. However, electrical contracting without a license in Oklahoma is a misdemeanor


Licensing in Oregon is a function of the Oregon Construction Contractors Board. 

The Oregon Construction Contractors Board is pretty clear about who requires a license: Anyone who works for compensation in any construction activity involving improvements to real property needs a license. This includes carpentry, electrical, plumbing, and HVAC contractors, as well as handyman services and home inspectors. 

Read the contractor's guide to Oregon licensing

Licenses are available in residential, commercial, or residential and commercial. There are also a number of license types for speciaty trades called "endorsements" to choose from when applying. A full list of endorsements — as well as bond and insurance requirements — is available on the Oregon Construction Contractors Board website.

Before getting licensed, all types of contractors have to complete 16 hours of law and business training, called "Responsible Managing Individual" training (RMI), which is followed by an open-book exam.

All businesses will also need to register their business with the Oregon Secretary of State.

Additionally, there are some cities and municipalities that have some licensing rules to keep in mind. Portland requires contractors to register with Metro, submit a form, pay a fee to be licensed, and pay additional income taxes and transit authority payments based on how much work they do in the Portland area — no matter how much work that is.

Many smaller cities and municipalities around the state also require business licenses for contractors which may need to be purchased before a company can pull permits on a project. It's always best to call or check the website for the city or municipality you’ll be working in for its specific licensing requirements.


Contracting without a license in Oregon is punishable by a $1,000 fine for a first offense. If the property owner files a complaint for damage, that fine can climb to $5,000. The fines can also amount to $5,000 if you’re a repeat offender. Just bidding without a license can be a $500 fine.  

Not only that, but Oregon Inspectors regularly visit job sites and gather the names of the companies working on-site to confirm that they are licensed, and the principals of companies that work without a license are placed on a list — and the Contractors Board can consumers not to hire them.

On top of fines, unlicensed contractors in Oregon are not allowed to file a mechanics lien.


The only licenses that the state of Pennsylvania requires for contractors are for asbestos and lead removal (with the Department of Labor and Industry), as well as crane operators (with the State Board of Crane Operators). 

All other types of contractor — including general contractors — are categorized as "home improvement contractors" and need to register with the State Attorney General Office.

Read more about Pennsylvania contractor licensing

Beyond those licenses and registration, Pennsylvania largely handles licensing on a municipal level. Contractors need to check with local municipalities to determine licensing requirements. For instance, Philadelphia requires all contractors involved in construction, demolition, or repair to carry a license. 


Penalties and fines for unlicensed work are the responsibility of the municipalities and will vary from location to location. However, working while not registered with the Attorney General’s Office is a violation punishable by fines of $1,000 or more.

Rhode Island

Rhode Island's contractor rules focus on registration over licensing. It requires all contractors to register with the Contractors Registration and Licensing Board. The board also requires you to complete five hours of Pre-Education Courses, which you can take in person or online.

Read the full guide to contractor licensing in Rhode Island

Rhode Island does require actual licenses for commercial roofing contractors, well-drillers, and home inspectors through the Contractors Registration and Licensing Board. The Department of Workforce Regulation and Safety issues licenses for electrical contractors.


The first violation for non-registered contractors can lead to a fine of up to $5,000. Subsequent offenses can cost as much as $10,000 each.

Unregistered contractors also have no right to a lien claim under mechanics lien law in Rhode Island in the event of a payment dispute. 

South Carolina

Contracting licenses in South Carolina are relatively straightfoward. Licensing is a function of the South Carolina Contractor’s Licensing Board. The board’s role is to protect the health, safety, and welfare of the public through the regulation of construction contractors.

Read the full guide to contractor licensing in South Carolina

South Carolina requires contractors performing work over $5,000 to hold a General and Mechanical Contractors license. This license class can work on residential, commercial, and industrial projects. 

Contractors performing only residential work can contact the Residential Builders Commission for licensing and registration. This commission licenses electrical, HVAC, and plumbing specialty contractors, as well as Residential Home Builders.


Contracting without the appropriate license can cost up to $250, but a second offense can bring you before the board.

Also, contracting without a license where it’s required forfeits your mechanics lien rights in South Carolina.

South Dakota

South Dakota’s licensing largely falls on municipalities. Electrical and plumbing contractors, however, receive licenses from the Department of Labor and Regulation.

While licenses aren’t a requirement at the state level for more trades, all contractors engaged in construction need to register for a South Dakota Contractor’s Tax License with the Department of Revenue. 

Read the full guide to contractor licensing in South Dakota

Because licensing is up to the individual cities and townships, contractors need to check locally for their licensing requirements. For example, the city of Sioux Falls handles contractor licensing and exams through the Office of Planning and Development Services. Rapid City contractors will need to call the licensing office directly. 


Most penalties are at the discretion of the municipalities and vary from city to city. However, operating without a contractor’s tax license isn’t a great idea. It’s a Class 1 misdemeanor, punishable by up to $1,000 or a year in jail, or both. Continuing to operate the business after receiving notification bumps it up to a felony with a fine of up to $4,000, or up to two years in prison.

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Licensing in Tennessee is a function of the Tennessee Board for Licensing Contractors.

General contractors need a state-issued license before bidding on the project or contracting directly with the owner if a project costs $25,000 or more. One of six different license classifications will be necessary to lawfully perform the work:

  1. Building Combined (BC): All types of projects (residential, commercial, or industrial), and all 34 types of building categories (masonry, carpentry, drywall, etc.).
  2. Residential (BC-A): Building, repair, remodeling, and improvements of residential (three stories or fewer) properties
  3. Limited Residential (BC-A/r): Allows the contractor to bid and work on residential projects. However, under this license, the contractor is limited to single-family homes, and the project cannot exceed $125,000.
  4. Commercial (BC-B): Covers repair, construction, alteration, or demolition of commercial properties. Similarly to the BC license, this license covers all 34 types of building categories.
  5. Small Commercial (BC-b(sm)): This license is similar to a commercial license but is limited to projects of $750,000 or less.
  6. Industrial (BC-C): Allows for the repair, construction, remodel, or demolition of industrial-type buildings (like manufacturing, chemical, or power plants).

Additionally, subcontractors need licenses before contracting with a general contractor when the project exceeds $25,000.

Read the full guide to contractor licensing in Tennessee

Specialty contractors performing electrical, mechanical, plumbing, HVAC, and roofing require licenses when the project is over $25,000 in value. Masonry contractors need licenses when the value exceeds $100,000. 

Subcontractors performing drywall, painting, landscaping, and carpentry are not required to obtain a license if they’re working for a licensed contractor. 

Additionally, certain Tennessee have a "home improvement license" requirement for all contractors working on remodeling projects between $3,000 and $25,000, no matter if they have or need a state license or not. The counties that require the home improvement license include: Bradley, Davidson, Hamilton, Haywood, Knox, Marion, Robertson, Rutherford, and Shelby.

Tennessee is also a state that has license reciprocity with other states, including:

  • Alabama (General, Electrical, Residential, and HVAC)
  • Arkansas (Commercial/Residential Building only)
  • Georgia (Commercial Building and Electrical)
  • Louisiana (Residential, Commercial, Electrical, and Mechanical)
  • Mississippi (Residential, Commercial, Electrical, Mechanical)
  • North Carolina (Residential/Commercial Building, Electrical)
  • Ohio (Electrical, Plumbing, HVAC)
  • South Carolina (Commercial Contractors Licensing Board)
  • West Virginia (Residential, Commercial, Industrial Building, Electrical, Mechanical, Masonry)
  • NASCLA (National Commercial Exam)

Two rules to keep in mind: The reciprocating state must be the applicant's home state (so the reciprocities above don't work vice-versa for Tennessee residents), and contractors with open complaints or felonies aren't eligible.


According to Tennessee Code 62-6-120, contractors caught working unlicensed will be ineligible for a license for six months after the determination. The Board can fine an unlicensed contractor up to $5,000 per offense, and suspend or even revoke their license as well.

Unlicensed contractors can face criminal penalties, too. Violation of the licensing requirements is a Class A misdemeanor, which can result in up to one year of jail time and fines up to $2,500.

The contractor himself isn't the only one penalized. Persons hiring unlicensed contractors for projects exceeding $25,000 are also committing a Class A misdemeanor.

If that’s not enough, any injured party can also bring a claim under the Tennessee Consumer Act. If found in violation of the Act, the contractor can be held personally liable for any damages and attorney’s fees.

Unlicensed contractors working on single-family, residential, home improvement projects lose their rights to file a claim under mechanics lien rules in Tennessee. For other projects, there is no specific licensing requirement. 


General contractors aren’t required to carry a state-issued license. Licensing for these contractors is a matter of local municipalities. However, all businesses in the state must apply for a Texas Business License.

While municipalities handle most licensing, the Texas Department of Licensing & Regulation (TDLR) governs licenses for electricians, HVAC technicians, and plumbers. 

Learn the full rules for contractor licenses in Texas

Since municipalities set their own requirements for licensing in Texas, you’ll have to check with your local licensing office. Contractors working in Austin can contact the City of Austin Development Service Department. San Antonio contractors should check in with the Developmental Service Department for both home improvement contractor and residential building contractor licensing. 


Penalties and fines are also the responsibility of the municipality, though there are repercussions for operating without a state-required license. HVAC mechanics working without a Texas required license are committing a Class B misdemeanor, punishable by a fine between $1,000 and $3,500 and up to one year in jail. 

Both the TDLR and the Texas State Board of Plumbing Examiners will investigate complaints of unlicensed contracting and can enforce legal charges and fines.

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Contracting licenses in Utah fall under the Utah Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing. It requires all construction professionals to obtain a state-issued contractors license.

Read the Utah contractor licensing guide

Both general contractors and specialty contractors apply for licenses from the same division. General contractor licenses come in seven types:

  1. B100 - General Contractor
  2. R100 - Residential/Small Commercial Contractor
  3. E100 - General Engineering Contractor
  4. P200 - General Plumbing Contractor
  5. P201 - Residential Plumbing Contractor
  6. E200 - General Electrical Contractor
  7. E201 - Residential Electrical Contractor

Specialty contractors must choose from the list of specialty classifications before applying for their license. 

Both general and specialty contractors have applications and resources for getting licesnsed on the Division of Professional Licensing website.


According to Utah Code 58-55-501 et seq., first offenses for contracting without a license are punishable with a fine up to $1,000. Second offenses increase the fine to $2,000. Subsequent offenses are eligible for fines up to $2,000 per day.  


There are no state-level licenses for general contractors in Vermont. Some specialty trades like plumbing and electrical contractors do require state licenses, which both fall under the Division of Fire Safety.  

Since Vermont doesn’t require a state-issued license for general contractors or other speciaty trades, you need to check with your municipality to determine whether or not you need a license or permit.

Read the Vermont contractor licensing guide


Penalties for working unlicensed in Vermont are up to the municipalities. However, under the Division of Fire Safety's rules, performing electrical or plumbing work without a license is punishable by a fine of no more than $500.


Licensing in Virginia is regulated by the Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation Board for Contractors (DPOR).

General contractors in Virginia are required to carry a state-level license. The same goes for speciaty contractors working in electrical, plumbing, HVAC, gas fitting, water well construction, and more. 

Read the Virginia guide to contractor licenses

When applying for a license, contractors will have to choose what level of license they want, as well as their specialty.

  • Class A licenses allow contractors to work on projects up to $10,000 in value, up to $150,000 per year.
  • Class B licenses allow work on projects up to $120,000 with a max of $750,000 per year.
  • Class C licenses are unlimited.

Specialty contractors must go through the same steps and choose from the same license levels as general contractors, and they’re also required to pass an additional examination for their specific trade and carry a specific DPOR license. The complete list of trade designations is available on the application.

Virginia is a state that has contractor license reciprocity. Currently licensed contractors in the neighboring states of Alabama, the District of Columbia, Kentucky, Maryland, West Virginia, or North Carolina wishing to work in Virginia can apply. The full list and more details are stated by the Virginia Board for Contractors.


Under Virginia Code 54.1-1115, the penalty for contracting without the proper license in Virginia is a fine in the amount not to exceed $500 per day of violation. It is also a Class 1 misdemeanor, and you could also face up to one year in jail. 

Virginia mechanics lien rules are even more stringent. Contractors must hold a license to have mechanics lien rights. On top of that, the contractors up the chain must also hold licenses. The filing contractor must also include the license number — plus the date of issuing and when it will expire — on the lien. 


Washington focuses its efforts on registering contractors over licensing. The Washington State Department of Labor and Industries (DLI) is the registering body with which all contractors must file. All contractors working in the state must register with the Department of Labor and Industry must be bonded and insured. 

General contractors and specialty contractors must register with the DLI. Asbestos contractors, electrical contractors, and plumbing contractors need state-level licenses from DLI.   

There are certain trades that require an individual to be licensed before a company can register as a contractor. Those trades are plumbing, electrical, elevator mechanic, boiler and pressure vessel inspectors, manufactured home installer, asbestos removal, and construction cranes.

Electrical contractors have a special process for applying to be licensed. There are 15 specialties that an electrical contractor can apply for. All other specialties and trades register as specialty contractors through DLI. The process, application fees, and insurance requirements are the same as for general contractors.

Important note: if your company hires subcontractors, no matter what kind of work you do, you must register as a general contractor. "Specialty contractors" in Washington are not allowed to subcontract work.

Read the guide to contractor licenses in Washington State

Additionally, some cities and municipalities in Washington have their own regulations around licensing. In the state capital of Olympia, all businesses in the city or conducting business in the city need to apply for a business license. In Seattle, there is no business license requirement — only gas pipe installers and refrigeration technicians are required to get a contractor license. And if your business is in nearby Oregon or Vancouver, you'll want to know their requirements as well.


Under RCW 18.27.020, performing contracting work without registering with DLI is a gross misdemeanor in Washington. There’s also no mercy for unregistered contractors when it comes to Washington's mechanics lien rules: Unregistered contractors lose their lien rights

Washington D.C.

Many contracting businesses working within D.C. are actually from the neighboring states, not D.C. itself. But that doesn't mean working in the District of Columbia doesn't come without licensing requirements: Washington D.C. requires all contractors that work in the district to carry a license. This includes general contractors, home improvement contractors, and specialty contractors.

Read the complete guide to contractor licensing in Washington D.C.

In D.C., "general contracting" includes heavy construction, land development, and the construction of new buildings. Contractors falling under this category require a Basic Business License for General Contractor/Construction Manager License. This designation also includes repair, remodeling, improvements, or demolition of buildings or structures. 

There is also a license specifically for those working solely on residential properties, known as Home Improvement Contractors. It requires a different license known as a Basic Business License for Home Improvement Salesperson.

Both of these license types include specialty contractors and trades like:

  • Roofing
  • Rough carpentry
  • Flooring
  • Sheetrock
  • Finish carpentry
  • Electrical (requires an additional license)
  • Plumbing (requires an additional license)
  • HVAC (requires an additional license)
  • And basically every other trade involved in the construction industry

There may be many types and subtypes of license, but getting them is handled in one place: All contractor licensing in Washington, D.C. is managed by the Department of Licensing and Consumer Protection.

Note: Not only do contractors in D.C. need contractor licenses, but they also need to register their businesses with the Office of Tax and Revenue.


Contracting without a license in Washington D.C. is a Class 1 infraction, which carries a minimum penalty of $2,000 for the first offense. If a licensed contractor hires an unlicensed subcontractor, both the licensed contractor and sub are guilty of this Class 1 Infraction, and both will receive the fines.

Additionally, unlicensed contractors working in D.C. have no right to a mechanics lien.

Project Management

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Deliver projects on time and on budget with greater visibility.

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West Virginia

West Virginia contractor licensing is the responsibility of the Division of Labor, Contractor Licensing Board. The board consists of eight licensed contractors and two code officials.

The state requires general contractors and specialty or subcontractors on projects worth more than $2,500 to carry a contractor license.

General contractor licensing is a function of the West Virginia Contractor Licensing Board. Before you’re able to apply for licensing, you need to contact the board and describe your work in order to receive the information on classification and required exams.

For specialty contractors, the process is almost exactly the same as for general contractors, just with even more emphasis on proper classification and examination.

Certain specialty contractors have more specific requirements: To run a plumbing contracting business, the company must employ a certified plumber. Plumbing certification is a function of the Division of Labor. To operate as an electrical contractor, the business must employ an electrician licensed by the Office of the State Fire Marshal.

Read the full guide to West Virginia contractor licensing

If you own a business of any type in West Virginia, you will have to register with the State’s Tax Department, which you can do using the Business for West Virginia website.


Under WVa. Code 21-11, the Licensing Board can issue fines between $200 and $1,000 for any person contracting without a license. A second offense can garner a $500 minimum fine with a ceiling amount of $5,000, as well as possible jail time of up to six months. A third offense will result in a fine between $1,000 and $5,000, and a jail stint between 30 days and one year. 


Contractor licensing in Wisconsin is handled by the State of Wisconsin Department of Safety and Professional Services.

The Department of Safety and Professional Services requires anyone working on 1–2 family homes, on projects worth more than $1,000, or pulling a building permit to get a Dwelling Contractor Qualifier license. This includes general contractors and specialty contractors. However, if the project’s value is under $1,000, or you don’t have to pull permits, you don’t need to carry a license. 

To obtain a Dwelling Contractor Qualifier Certification, you’ll have to take the state-mandated 12-hour initial training course and pass an exam.

If you're a specialty contractor and you’re working on one or two-family dwellings, you must also carry a Dwelling Contractor Qualifier.

Electrical, plumbing, HVAC, and asbestos abatement contractors need separate licenses as well

Additionally, all businesses in Wisconsin need to register with the State of Wisconsin Department of Revenue.

You can use the department's website to complete the registration online. 

Read the full guide to Wisconsin contractor licensing


Working without a license in Wisconsin is a misdemeanor, so you can expect fines and possible jail time.


In Wyoming, state-level licensing only extends to electrical contractors, and it’s done through the Department of Fire Prevention and Electrical Safety.  

All other licensing falls under the control of the individual municipalities throughout the state. For instance, contractors in Cheyenne will want to check with the city’s Compliance Division for the general and specialty contractor license requirements. Contractors in Casper need to check in with the Building and Inspections Department for licensing.

Most Wyoming contractors will have to register their businesses with the Secretary of State, which you can do through an online portal.

Read the complete guide to Wyoming Contractor Licensing


Penalties and fines fall under the power of the municipalities. Expect fines based on the number of offenses.

The bottom line: Licensing can protect your rights as a contractor

If your state has licensing requirements for your trade, get the proper license before you start work — or even bid on a job. The penalties for performing unlicensed construction work can be steep.

Not only could you wind up paying large fines, but you can possibly lose the powerful payment tool of a mechanics lien as well as other legal recourse, depending on the state. And if you garner a reputation for working unlicensed, you may find yourself losing a lot of business.




Written by

Tom Scalisi

57 articles

Tom Scalisi is a writer with over 15 years of experience in the trades. He is passionate about educating contractors and specialty contractors about the best practices in the industry. He has seen first-hand how education, communication, and preparation help construction professionals overcome challenges to build a strong career and thriving business in the industry.

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