How to Get a General Contractor License in California

Just Like all other states, in California, all home construction, remodeling, and repair projects are completed by licensed contractors. That license is issued by the Contractors State License Board (CSLB) which is a state government entity. That entity also protects the consumer’s rights and regulates the contractor’s activities. They also conduct administering license exams and investigate complaints against the contractors and their customers. This legislative body also seeks criminal and civil actions against unlicensed contractors.

Why you need a Contractor’s License in California

If you are a professional contractor and already working on a contract less than$500, you do not need to get the contractor’s license right away. According to the construction contract law of California, You do not need to get a license if you are working on a construction project that cost’s less than $500 including both material and labor. 

It sounds good, right? But it is not that simple!!

As if you obtain a contractor’s license, you will get a lot more work and will be trusted by your clients. If you are a licensed contractor, you can get high-end residential projects, commercial properties, and big-budget projects. As such clients prefer to work with licensed contractors.

The client is going to get you to work on their homes, business property, and commercial projects. They have a strong interest in making sure that they are working with a legally approved contractor.

If you have a license its shows that:

  • You are an approved contractor by the state
  • Your license demonstrates that you know what you’re doing
  • It gives you leverage on someone without a contractor’s license
  • It will also show that you are licensed and insured in case something go wrong on the job

It is a simple process of hiring subcontractors with a license to work on your business or in your home. Clients will never hire just anyone who walks in off the street. They prefer someone they can trust with their business since that’s ultimately your name on the line. 

That’s why you need a general contractor’s license in California

How to Get a General Contractor License in California?

In this section, we break it down into steps in order to get the contract license in California State. So let get started!

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Determine the Type of Contractor License You Need

According to the construction contract law of California, any individual or business working on the construction of a building, highway, road, parking facility, railroad, excavation, or other structure in California must obtain the license from the California Contractors State License Board (CSLB). The license is exempted in case you are working on a project whose cost is less than $500 including both labor and materials.

The contractors, subcontractors, particularly the businesses engaged in the business of home improvement must be licensed before submitting bids. Licenses may typically be issued to individuals, partnerships, corporations, limited liability companies, or joint ventures.

In California, you can apply for one of these three types of contractor’s licenses as follow:

Class A: General Engineering Contractor

A general engineering contractor is a contractor that has a principal contracting business in connection with fixed works. These work typically require specialized engineering knowledge and skill in order to perform the work.

Class B: General Building Contractors

This type of license is for general building contractors and closely resembles the standard definition of a general contractor. It deals with the structure built, being built, or to be built.

Class C: Specialty Contractor

This is for a special kind of contractor. There are 42 further “C” license classifications for contractors whose construction work is required. You can get that list on the official website of CSLB. 

A specialty contractor can perform any construction works which require special skill and with the principal contracting business that involves the use of specialized building trades or crafts. This includes the business of servicing or testing fire extinguishing systems.

In addition, as a specialty contractor, you can also perform the work that involve the installation and laying of carpets, linoleum, and resilient floor covering.

Submit the California Contractors License Application Form

After you have determined the types of licenses to be applied, you will need to submit the application form. The state of California has issued general requirements for getting your contractor’s license in California as follow:

  • Must be at least 18 years old
  • Provide a valid social security number or individual taxpayer identification (ITIN)
  • Provide certification of work experience: You need to have at least 4 years experience as journey-level in the last 10 years in the classification that you want to apply for.
  • Complete Construction Project Experience Form: This form needs to submit along with the Certification of Work Experience. For each completed project, it is required to have one separate form.
  • Submit an Additional Personnel form which must be completed when there is additional personnel to report on behalf of the applicant.
  • Applicant must provide a Disclosure Statement Regarding Criminal Plea/Conviction. You shall need to list down each plea or conviction, regardless of when the crime was committed, and/or whether it was dismissed or expunged. You must submit each plea/conviction reported separately on a separate form.
  • Applicants who request accommodation must submit the Accommodation Request for Examination Form. The verification is required and this needs to be verified by a medical authority or learning institution.
  • Certificate of Workers’ Compensation Insurance or an Exemption from Workers’ Compensation Insurance form.
  • Submit the application form and pay the application fee of $330
  • Submit fingerprints requirement after CSLB review the application
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Experience in the Military is also countable towards this requirement. You need to mention that you’re a veteran when applying for your California contractor’s license. Therefore, based on your experience, your application may be expedited.

Document to submit for contractor’s application if you have experience in Military:          

  • Provide a copy of the Enlisted Record Brief (ERB)
  • Provide a copy of DD-214; Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty
  • Provide a copy of Joint Service Transcripts; military transcripts
  • Provide a copy of the Officer Record Brief (ORB)
  • Provide a copy of DD-2586; Verification of Military Experience and Training
  • Sealed, official educational transcripts of civilian education

You can submit your application form and other required documents to the below address:

California State License Board

9821 Business Park Dr.

Sacramento, CA 95827

Pass the Contractor License Examination

The next step is to pass the examination in order to get your California contractor license. When you submit your application along with the fee, you get a notice from the authorities to appear in the examination. They inform you about the exam before three weeks of the test. They will inform you via letter with all the information you need on where to go and how long the test you’ll take.

You need to pass two computer-based exams; the Business and Law exam and the Trade exam. For business and law exam, it contains straightforward questions based on job safety, business finances, and contract requirements. Whereas, the trade exam contains specific tasks to the trades, like landscaping, plumbing, or roofing. 

There is an exemption where you are not required to take the exam. This is applicable if you have been qualified and working under the same classification with a California contractor license in good standing for at least five years or you have passed the law and trade examinations for licensure, you will be exempted and no examinations are required.

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Once you get the notification of passing the exam, you’ll need to submit the following documents:

  • $200 license fee
  • $75 per additional license you’re requesting
  • Proof that you hold the contractor’s bond
  • You also need to provide proof of workers’ compensation insurance. This can  be exempted if you don’t have any employees

Once you get your license, you are ready to work on big projects and excel in your career. 

Obtain Your California Contractor License Bond

After passing the exam, you will need to obtain your California Contractor License Bond before CSLB issues the license. The contractor license bond amount or cashier’s check is $15,000. The contractor’s bond must be written by a surety company. To be able to sign on the surety bond, the surety company must be licensed by the California Department of insurance.

Reference and Useful Links

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