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Iowa Contractor Licensing Guide
Last Updated Dec 12, 2023
If you're getting started as a contractor in Iowa, you may need to register or obtain a license. Iowa requires all construction contractors and businesses performing construction work to register with the Iowa Division of Labor if they earn at least $2,000 a year.
Additionally, plumbing, HVAC, and mechanical contractors have to get a license through the Mechanical Systems Board while electrical contractors must acquire a license from the Electrical Examining Board.
Fortunately, we've got all of the information about the Iowa contractor licensing process. Read on to learn how to get a license and why it could be important for protecting your payments.
Table of contents
How to get an Iowa contractor's license
Whether you need to get a license or simply register depends on the type of work you do. As mentioned, most construction contractors simply need to register their businesses, while plumbers, HVAC/R, mechanical, and electrical contractors need licenses.
Registering as a construction contractor
Any company engaged in construction work valued at over $2,000 a year needs to register its business with the Division of Labor. This includes subs and specialized contractors like roofers, drywallers, painters, finish carpenters, and the like.
To apply to the registry, construction contractors can log in to sign up for an account through the new Iowa Workforce Development portal. HVAC/R, sheet metal, mechanical professionals (including plumbers), and electrical contractors will have to use a different website and application system, which we'll cover below.
Note: As of 2023, Iowa Workforce Development launched the new mentioned above. All A&A accounts that end with "@IOWAID" are no longer active for Contractor Registration. For any issues, contact the IWD.
For everyone else registering through the Iowa Workforce Development portal, make sure you also have the other necessary items to register your business, including:
- A completed and signed application
- An Iowa unemployment insurance account number (create an account here)
- A NAICS code (codes provided in the application)
- A $50 non-refundable check or money order or a notarized Fee Exemption Form (cash is not accepted)
- Workers' compensation documents (if applicable)
- A $25,000 contractor bond
Once the application is complete, mail it into:
150 Des Moines Street
Des Moines, IA 50309-1836
Do keep in mind that processing can take up to 30 days. Depending on when you apply, the application and registration, as well as any applicable fees, will typically be $50 for registration or renewal.
Getting a license for mechanical, plumbing, and HVAC/R contractors
Iowa contractor licensing requirements state those working in the mechanical, plumbing, or HVAC/R field must carry a license as opposed to registration. This license is a function of the Plumbing and Mechanical Systems Board, which falls under the Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH)
To apply for a mechanical, plumbing, or HVAC/R license, the IDPH licensure page has all the information and forms you may need, including an online application.
General licensing requirements include:
- Applicant must be 18 years old
- Provide documentation of criminal conviction related to the plumbing or mechanical field
- Complete and submit an application (with fees)
- Meet Department of Labor bond and registration requirements (this application also covers registration)
- Provide a valid unemployment insurance number, even if you have no employees (create an account here)
- Supply proof of permanent business address
Beyond those requirements, contractors applying for a license will also have to provide proof of a “Master of record,” which is a master-level license holder. This can be the applicant, the company owner, or someone the company employs.
Getting a license for electrical contractors
Iowa also requires electrical contractors to carry valid licenses. These are issued by the Electrical Examining Board Licensing, Permits, and Inspection division of the State Fire Marshal.
Applicants looking to apply for a license can use create an Electrical Licensing Systems online account to apply online.
To be eligible for this license, the company or applicant must be a Master Class A, B, or Residential Master license holder or employ someone who meets those requirements. You’ll also have to provide:
- Name of the responsible master electrician
- Name of the contractor who will hold the license
- Business name and address
- Mailing address
- Previously obtain registration with the Department of Labor
- Federal Tax ID number
- Certificate of liability insurance of at least $1,000,000
Penalties for unlicensed contracting in Iowa
In Iowa, unregistered contracting carries with it a $500 citation for the first time. After the first infraction, that fine can reach as much as $5,000 for subsequent violations.
Iowa mechanics lien law does not explicitly state that a license is required to file a mechanics lien. So, an unlicensed contractor could potentially file a mechanics lien. However, performing work that requires a license while not holding that license is never a good idea — and it might even work against you in court if you have to foreclose on a lien.
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.View profile
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