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California Home Improvement License

If you have some minor home improvement projects to take care of, you may be in search of a handyman. Using a California handyman license lookup is the simplest way to confirm that your chosen handyman is legitimate and licensed. But, do you need a license to work as a handyman in California? Learn about handyman licensing in California, including legal requirements.

Do You Need a License to Be a Handyman in California?

Depending on the tasks you plan to complete, you don’t need a California handyman license. Legally, you can work unlicensed as long as the combined cost of the materials and labor is less than $500.

If you want to do more than this, you will need to get a California contractor’s license. There is no specific home improvement license. In California, you have two options depending on the scope of the home improvements you plan on completing:

  • If the total value (labor and materials) is less than $500, you can do the work as an unlicensed handyman
  • If the total value (labor and materials) is more than $500, you need to get a California contractor’s license before you can do the work

It is crucial to note that you cannot look for loopholes or use tricks to stay under this $500 limit. The California law explicitly states that you cannot divide large projects into smaller parts to keep underneath the limit.

This has obvious and less obvious applications. It means that if you are fixing dozens of windows and the total cost of the service would go over $500, you could not charge for each window individually to keep costs below the limit.

It also means that if there is a major home improvement project and you only do a small part that is worth less than $500, you would still need a contractor’s license. The law considers the value of the entire project, even if you are not involved in all of it.

Is There Anything Special to Know About Working As or Hiring an Unlicensed Handyman?

Because California doesn’t have a handyman license, there are also fewer protections for handymen than there would be for licensed professionals.

Specifically, customers are not legally obligated to pay handymen. In return, handymen don’t need to have a bond or insurance. This requirement reduces the barriers to entry, but it also means that as a handyman, you are at risk of clients not paying. If they do not pay you, you will not have any legal options. Without a contractor’s license, the court will not rule in your favor. You also have no right to sue consumers for non-payment. This makes it somewhat risky.

What Can a Handyman Legally Do in California?

Handymen in California can legally perform a range of home improvement services, as long as their total value does not go over $500. Some of the tasks that are legally allowed include the following:

  • Fix fences
  • Hang drywall
  • Patch drywall
  • Repair doors
  • Replacing doors
  • Repair appliances
  • Mount TVs
  • Repair faulty toilets
  • Fixing leaky faucets
  • Install ceiling fans
  • Mowing lawns
  • Providing yard work

Advertising Limitations

California also has an important restriction on unlicensed handymen and advertising. Specifically, you cannot advertise in a way that makes you seem like a contractor. You also have to legally mention that you are unlicensed in the advertisement.

How Do I Check a California Contractor License?

Remember that there is no California handyman license lookup as there is no California handyman license. Home improvements either do not require a license or require a contractor license.

This means that you may find yourself wanting to check someone’s contractor license. The easiest method is via a California contractor’s license lookup.

What Are the Requirements for a California Contractor License?

Since the main home improvement license in California is a contractor license, it is natural to wonder how you can get that license. You can find detailed information at the previous link for the license lookup. To summarize, the California Contractors State License Board has the following requirements:

  • Four years of experience on the job
  • Be at least 18 years old
  • Insurance
  • $15,000 bond
  • Passing exams (both written and practical)
  • Pay $330 in application fees and $200 for the license

What If You Go Over the $500 Limit As an Unlicensed Handyman?

Don’t feel tempted to violate the $500 limit on unlicensed handyman services in California. This would be “contracting without a license,” a misdemeanor in California. Your first offense can lead to six months in jail and/or a fine of $5,000, in addition to administrative penalties between $200 and $15,000.

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