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New Jersey Contractor Licensing Guide

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Last Updated Nov 16, 2023

Illustration of New Jersey contractor license with hardhat and map of America with New Jersey highlighted

If you're starting a construction business in New Jersey, one of the first steps is familiarizing yourself with New Jersey contractor licensing requirements.

New Jersey refers to general contractors as "home repair contractors," and they are required to carry a license issued by the New Jersey Department of Banking and Insurance (DOBI). Plumbing, electrical, and HVAC mechanical contractors also have to carry licenses to contract within New Jersey. 

This guide can help you sort through the New Jersey contractor licensing requirements and get to work running or expanding your business.

Table of contents

How to get a contractor license in New Jersey

Many contractors in New Jersey need a license, though the requirements and process vary slightly depending on the type of license you need: home improvement contractor license, plumbing contractor, electrical contractor, or HVAC contractor.

Any contractor who sells or makes improvements to homes or non-commercial properties in New
Jersey must register with the state’s Division of Consumer Affairs— regardless of whether the contractor is based in New Jersey or another state.

Working in another state? Check out The Ultimate Guide to Contractors License Requirements in Every State.

How to get a general contractor license in New Jersey

New Jersey refers to general contractors as "home improvement contractors" or "home building contractors." The state doesn’t require these contractors to carry a license — with one exception that will be covered below.

Home improvement contractors have to register their businesses with the state’s Division of Consumer Affairs, just like any other business in New Jersey. Home building contractors need to register their businesses with the Department of Community Affairs. If you're applying for the first time, you will need to carefully read and fill out this home improvement application packet and pay a $110 application fee.

But, if a home improvement or home building contractor deals in financed repairs with payment schedules of more than 90 days, they will also have to apply for a license from the New Jersey Department of Banking and Insurance

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New Jersey commercial contractor licensing

According to the Division of Consumer Affairs, the statewide contractor registration act of 2006 does not apply to contractors who work exclusively on commercial property. Quote:

"The Act applies only to residential or “non-commercial” units — single- or multi-family homes — or
commercial properties that are being converted to residential or “non-commercial” units. The law
does not apply to properties that are being used for commercial purposes."

However, some individual municipalities, including Newark, Passaic, and Atlantic City have licensing requirements for commercial contractors. Always check with the local government anywhere you plan to work for the most up-to-date information.

How to get a plumbing contractor license in New Jersey

Unlike other states, there is no contractor license for plumbers in New Jersey. However, to operate legally as a plumbing contractor, a licensed master plumber must own at least 10 percent of the company.

Master plumber licensing is a matter of the NJ Department of Consumer Affairs. To apply for a license, an applicant must meet these requirements:

  • Be 21 years old or older
  • Has completed a four-year apprenticeship program approved by the United States Department of Labor and has completed one year of practical hands-on experience as a journeyman plumber; or
  • Has been awarded a bachelor’s degree in mechanical, plumbing, or sanitary engineering from a college or university accredited by a regional accreditation agency recognized by the Council on Post-Secondary Accreditation or the United States Department of Education, and has completed one year of practical hands-on experience as a journeyman plumber.

Once those requirements are in the bag, the would-be contractor will fill out the correct application for the work you are doing on this page, pay the $100 application fee, and take an exam. New Jersey also supplies a succinct PowerPoint that overviews the process for Master Plumbers in full.

How to get an electrical contractor license in New Jersey

Opposite of the plumbing regulations, electrical contractors in New Jersey do need to carry both a trade license and a contractor license. Both of these licenses go through the Division of Consumer Affairs. 

Before a contractor can go into business for themselves, they must hold a journeyman’s license and meet these requirements taken directly from the Consumer Affairs’ website:

  • Be over age 21
    • Hold a high school diploma or equivalent certificate
  • Immediate five years experience working with tools, installation, alteration, and repair of wiring for electrical light, heat, or power in compliance with NEC code. This time can not be spent supervising, engineering, estimating, or managerial task. Alternatively, the applicant may satisfy the above experience by having;
    • Four-year apprenticeship program Federally approved agency with one (1) year experience certified by the employer.
    • Satisfied the requirements of a Qualified Journeyman and completed one (1) year of practical hands-on experience and a Certification by an employer regarding the additional year.
    • Earned a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering with two (2) years of hands-on experience certified by the employer

Once you meet all those requirements, you can create a login and apply through Consumer Affairs.

How to get an HVAC contractor license in New Jersey

To operate as an HVAC contractor in New Jersey, prospective contractors must hold a master contractor’s license issued by the Division of Consumer Affairs. 

The requirements, taken directly from the Consumer Affairs’ website are as follows:

  • The person shall be 21 or more years of age and a citizen or legal resident of the United States and shall have been employed in the HVACR contracting business for a period of five years next preceding the date of his application for a license.
    • One or more of the five years shall have been spent while engaged or employed as an HVACR journeyperson or licensed plumber engaged in the work described. 
    • At least four years of the five years shall have been spent in an HVACR apprenticeship or other training program, including, but not limited to, steamfitter, pipefitter or sheet metal apprenticeship programs, approved by the United States Department of Labor, with proof of passage and successful completion of this program while actively engaged or employed as an apprentice as determined by the board. 
    • Successful completion of an HVACR program given by an accredited technical school, trade school, county college, or community college shall satisfy two years of the minimum four years that must be spent in an approved apprenticeship or other training program. 
  • In lieu of the above requirements a person shall have been awarded a bachelor's degree: a. in HVACR technology from an accredited college or university in the United States which the board finds acceptable and, in addition, shall have been engaged or employed in the practical work of installing HVACR systems for one year; or b. from an accredited college or university in the United States which the board finds acceptable and, in addition, shall have been engaged or employed in the direct supervision of the installation of HVACR systems for three years. 

Contractors must submit these applications online, along with electronic forms of any documentation required. 

Penalties for unlicensed and unregistered work

Registration is pretty universal in New Jersey, so it makes sense that the state would have some strict penalties for working while unregistered.

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.

It’s never a good idea to contract for work requiring a license if you don’t hold that license. It can open your business up to many liability issues, fines, and penalties.

Learn the licensing rules in nearby states

Categories:

Business Management

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Licensing

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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