If you’re thinking about offering handyman services in the state of California, you’re probably wondering what the laws are.
In this article, you’ll learn everything you need to know about licensing laws for handymen in California.
I’ve poured over the hundreds of pages of difficult to understand legal jargon and pulled out the critical information you need to know.
Do you need a license to offer handyman services in California?
No, there is no handyman license in the state of California. However, just like in most states, there are limitations on the services you can provide without obtaining a contractor’s license.
I’ve described the limitations below in detail.
Also, you will still need the appropriate business licenses.
California Handyman Limitations & Restrictions
On a basic level, an unlicensed handyman in CA can perform a wide range of services as long as the total cost of the project is less than $500. That includes labor and materials.
Additionally, you cannot break a project up into smaller components to meet the $500 limit or work even work on part of a project that is more than $500.
For example, let’s say a customer is remodeling their kitchen and has several subcontractor’s helping on the project. You would not be able to perform any parts of that project even if your total bill to the customer is under $500. Let’s say they were going to pay you to install the sink. You couldn’t legally perform that service if it was part of a larger project.
There is also some language in the Law book that states that the work performed must be of “causal, minor, or inconsequential nature.” This leaves a big gray area, with no clear lines on what that actually means. For example, I couldn’t find a description or list of services that falls under this category. I did, however, see that asbestos removal is something you will want to stay away from unless you are registered.
This all might seem like a deal breaker if you are thinking of starting a business, but California is actually a relatively handyman friendly state. For example, I couldn’t find anything that limits your ability to perform minor plumbing or electrical tasks. That leaves a LOT of services you can provide, and would allow for a surprisingly profitable business. You could fix fences, doors, drywall, hang TVs, repair appliances, install ceiling fans, repair toilets, among hundreds of other services.
Advertising Restrictions for Unlicensed Contractors in CA
Here’s an excerpt taken from the “California Contractor’s license Law and Reference Book.”
That means that even though you can offer many services as long as they are under $500, you must make sure that you are not being perceived as advertising as a contractor. I did some poking around on the website, and did find one place where it said that all unlicensed contractors must mention they are unlicensed on all of their advertising.
So, you’ll want to be careful how you advertise your services. Advertising yourself as a “Handyman” probably isn’t a problem. But, you start advertising yourself as a drywall installer, a plumber, an electrician, or any other licensed contractor, you are at risk of a run-in with the law.
There is one important exception to the $500 job limit that is worth mentioning. In the “California Contractors License Law and Reference Book,” there are several exemptions to the $500 limit. On of them is as follows:
That means as long as whatever you are working on does not become a fixed part of the structure, you can do bigger jobs. Building furniture, hanging pictures, installing certain types of shelving, and many more jobs fall under this exemption.
What Happens If You Get Caught Contracting Without a License?
This is taken from the License Law Reference Book:
And it looks like California isn’t just letting people get away with this. They actually have a team called SWIFT (Statewide Investigative Fraud Team) that conducts regular sweeps of construction sites and stings to catch unlicensed contractors.
Already offering handyman services in California?
If so, I’d love to hear your thoughts. Please leave a comment below to share your knowledge or experience.