featured image for a blog post about the handyman license in california

The Handyman License In California

There is no handyman license in the state of California. The term Handyman may refer to a non-licensed individual who offers household repair services including:

  • Fixing a broken toilet
  • Leaky Faucets
  • Replacing Doors
  • Mowing Lawns
  • Yard work 
  • Replacing Windows

 as well as potentially hundreds of other tasks. 

  • While a handyman generally operates without any form of insurance or bonding, this also means that customers have no legal obligation to pay handymen for their services.
  • Also in the event of a legal dispute, without a contractor license you would have no rights in court.
  • Consumers that enter into an agreement with non-licensed individuals also cannot be sued in the event on non-payment.

Do you need a license to be a Handyman in California?

  • In the State of California, individuals that perform handyman services cant charge more than $500 for labor and materials. 
  • This also means that you are not allowed to split up the project into smaller stages or parts to stay under the $500 limit. 
  • This law in some cases prohibits you from even being involved in a project where the cost of labor and materials exceeds $500.

For example, if a customer is looking to remodel their home and has hired several other sub-contractors, and the only thing they need you to do is install some cabinets you would legally not be allowed to perform that work even if the cost for your services is under legal amount as its part of an over-all project where the bid is above $500.

In my experience, it is just easier to obtain a contractor license vs. trying cutting the price of your services or trying to come up with creative ways to evade state laws.

What services a handyman can and cannot offer in California

Several home improvement tools typically used by handymen. including electrical tape, wire cutters, and wrenches

The state of California refers to the work handymen perform as needing to be: “causal, minor, or inconsequential nature.” Meaning light repairs, installations, and maintenance.

Legally Handymen may offer any service below $500. However some services including:

  • Installing furniture 
  • Hanging TVs
  • Installing some pre-constructed equipment may exceed this $500-dollar mark.

C-61 Limited Specialty License

The Contractors State License Board has an entire list of specialty licenses known as C-61 Limited Specialty Classifications that cover a variety of obscure trades that you can obtain a license in. 

Licensing is in essence just a way to protect the public and ensure that anyone charging money to perform a task has some knowledge of laws, safety as well as a way to track them if they were to disappear.

If your business is limited to making light repairs, fixing sinks, door knobs, windows, etc. and you are staying under the $500 mark then you should be fine.

Advertising as a handyman

If you are thinking about advertising your construction services through the use of:

  • Business Cards
  • Signs
  • Printed Flyers
  • Car graphics
  • Radio 
  • Internet or TV

without stating you are unlicensed is strictly prohibited. These are the most common way that the CSLB catches unlicensed contractors.

All licensed contractors must include their license number on their cards, which creates a certain level of legitimacy in the minds of potential customers knowing they can search their info in a state-regulated database.

What the CSLB says

"Unlicensed operators can legally advertise for construction work or improvements if the cost of the work (combined labor and material costs) is less than $500. However, the ad must state that they are not licensed. Unlicensed operators face fines or criminal prosecution if they advertise as a contractor in any advertising forum" – CSLB.GOV

Certifications for available for handymen:

While you wont be able to get a Contractor License without the 4 years journey-level experience.

There are several certifications available in the state of California that can help you establish yourself in the construction industry.

Below are some of the available certifications for handymen in California:

EPA RRP Lead Safety Certification

Logo for the United States environmental protection agency. While there is no handyman license, there are a variety of certifications offered by the EPA that are available.

If you do not meet the qualifications to get a contractor license, there are other state certifications you can obtain that can not only increase your knowledge and skill set but also increase your legitimacy in the eyes of potential clients.

The Environmental Protection Agency has laws in place on how to contain lead paint, they offer a certification in this particular area of expertise.

You will learn about safety procedures and processes to contain lead paint in a residential and commercial setting. Learn how to get an EPA Certification in one day!

Mold Remediation

Understanding the health effects of mold is something every property needs to know especially those with small children.

As a handyman who has already established relationships with homeowners, obtaining a mold remediation certificate is a huge opportunity.

featured image for a blog post about the mold certification

 Helping families to understand and effectively  treat mold growth will further position you as the expert as well as allow you to create a separate income stream.

Learn how to get a Mold Remediation Certificate!

Blue Print Reading

Understanding the various types of Blue Prints and being able to identify them quickly and easily in a construction setting is an invaluable skill, especially for those looking to get a General Contractor License.

Every construction professional including handymen should be able to read blueprints.

Check out our Free Blueprint Reading Course!

Professional Home Inspection Certificate

A measuring tape laying on top of a wooden table with a white background. There is no handyman license in california but, many handyman become home inspection professionals

Home Inspection Professionals specialize in identifying problems that could potential issues that could affect the long-term value of a home.

Some of the services offered by home inspection professionals typically include:  

  • Identifying foundation and structural damage
  • Faulty heating and cooling systems
  • Signs of mold
  • Insulation problems
  • Roof leaks
  • Energy surveying

Home inspection professionals generally work with realtors and investors before the sale or purchase of a property. Many handymen get into the professional home inspection business.

Learn more about becoming a Home Inspection Professional!

Lead Abatement Certification

A lead abatement professional is trained and certified to remove the lead from a structure.

Slightly different from the EPA RRP lead safety as that certification allows you only to contain lead to complete your job.

Handymen through out California encounter lead paint everyday and this certification creates a great opportunity to be of service. 

Environmental Protection Agency

For more information on the difference between lead safety and lead abatement click here.

Being certified to remove lead could be a very profitable certification to hold for the handyman as most residential and commercial structures built pre-1978 have almost certainly have high levels of lead.

Hazardous Substance Removal Certification

Removing hazardous substances is a critical aspect of many construction projects and can be a profitable skill for the handyman with the proper certification.

As it is a requirement for anyone removing underground tanks, it doesn’t generally fall under the duties of a traditional handyman however it doesn’t hurt to check it out as it could be useful to have in some residential settings. 

What happens if you get busted Contracting without a License?

A man putting another person in handcuffs. There is no handyman license, so individuals charging over $500 for construction services run the risk of getting fined or imprisoned for un licensed contracting

Those who are caught contracting without a license likely will have to appear before a Superior Court judge to answer to misdemeanor charges that can carry a potential sentence of up to:

  • Six months in jail
  • An administrative fine up to $15,000 may also be included

CSLB Stings

The Contractors State License Board has a statewide investigative fraud team known as SWIFT.

In my experience in the business, I have encountered many handymen who have been caught in sting operations and received tickets from the CSLB. 

The penalties are much harsher if you are caught twice or appear in court without having made any progress in obtaining a contractor license. 

Using someone else's Contractor License

Felony charges are filed against anyone who illegally uses another person’s contractor license or who tries to mislead consumers into believing that he or she is a licensed contractor.

Anyone who contracts for work in a state or federal natural disaster area without an active state contractor license also could face felony charges.

If convicted of a felony, a person may have to serve time in state prison. 

There is a legal way to use another persons contractor license by finding an RMO.

How to get a Contractor License

To get a contractor license in California, you must first have 4 years journey level experience to qualify for an exam date.

You can then submit an application to the CSLB and wait to be given a test day. 

The basic requirements for licensing are:

  • Be at least 18 years of age
  • Have a valid Driver's License or USA Issued Identification
  • Have a Social Security or ITIN #
  • Not currently be on probation or parole
  • Pass the Contractor License Exam
Logo of the contractors state license board. Logo features a paint brush, hand saw and cement truck with the letters CSLB above in white

Contractors State License Board

Operating as a handyman in the state of California can work for some people, but if you are looking to expand your business and charge what you know you are worth, it may make sense to begin looking at getting a license.

Final Words

There are several pathways for handymen in California looking to expand their services and make a living off their work.

While you wont be able to bid on large projects over $500, you can explore the many other certifications and alternative paths explained above. 

For more information about licensing and other construction related topics, check out more of our articles!

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