Answers To Your Handyman Licensing Questions
≡ Menu
Disclaimer: The content on this website is strictly the opinion of the author and is for information purposes only. There is no guarantee of accuracy. This following is NOT legal advice, and the authors of this content are NOT legal professionals. We recommend that you seek the advice of a legal professional before engaging in any business venture.

Handyman License in California

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.”

“This exemption does not apply to a person who advertises or puts out any sign or card or other device which might indicate to the public that he or she is a contractor or that he or she is qualified to engage in the business of a contractor.”

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:

“Sale or installation of finished products that do not become a fixed part of the structure;”

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:

“Contracting without a license is usually a misdemeanor. Unlicensed contractors face a first offense sentence of up to six months in jail 4 SECTION I. THE CALIFORNIA CONTRACTOR LICENSE and/or a $5,000 fine, and potential administrative fines of $200 to $15,000. Subsequent violations increase criminal penalties and fines.”

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.

{ 14 comments… add one }
  • agustin G Rodriguez August 27, 2017, 4:52 am

    I’m interesting how to get my handyman license ,

  • Dan Grahovac November 18, 2017, 4:12 pm

    I own my own window company and I’m always searching for newer info in the industry.
    Enjoyed the read. You’ve got a great site BTW.

  • Brandon January 19, 2018, 4:10 am

    I am curious, I’m starting a business with my step dad and what we are doing is producing gutters and installing them. Is it possible to do this in a way that will allow us to sell the gutters for $x and SEPERATELY offer our services for installation

  • Ezequiel Ojeda January 30, 2018, 6:30 am

    Thank you for all the info.
    I just started a handyman service.
    Not licensed
    So my advertising is limited.
    I do state that i am not licensed.
    On my web page i do state a few of the laws on a handyman etc.
    But im a little nervous. I dont want to get on trouble

  • Joe Bonsangue March 25, 2018, 3:01 pm

    I am thinking about starting a handman service. RIALTO C.A.

  • Rosalie Macrae April 5, 2018, 4:35 am

    Thank you for the info. I am a lic. Cleaning Company in So. Cal.
    As part of my service when I started I fixed few things in the home for clients at no charge to build my reputation. Being my family has always been a dyi type. As well as a brother is a lic. Contractor the knowlage is there. Last year I had numerous requests from people to fix this or that in the properties and started to charge for the services. Nothing over $500. Limit. Recently I created flyer indicating my HandyGal at your service for Cleaning and light handy work. I’m greatful that I have not overstep the law in my advertising and services. I can now rest my worries.
    Thank you

  • Gaby April 27, 2018, 11:11 pm

    Just starting a new business, my advertising is clear that I am not a licensed contractor but do repair jobs. I was wondering if it is ok to have the words Painting and power washing in my business name
    thank you

  • Scott May 16, 2018, 12:12 am

    Thanks for the information, it’s very helpful and provided insight into what I can and cannot do. Seabees “CAN DO” That is my LOGO “CAN DO” Seabee’s are the Navy’s Construction force, I learned many of my skills from my time in the Navy and from my Father a retired Master Chief Builder. Thanks for the info. Scott

  • Marshall May 31, 2018, 6:47 am

    I too am a handyman who’s wondering exactly what the “rules” are… esp when advertising. The way I understand it, is, in California you may not have any services you provide other than “handyman” listed on your advertising. You can charge a flat rate or by the hour, but do you need a business lic? it seems the rules are different city to city and county by county making it hard to comprehend. I’ve contacted the state contrator’s board and even they tell me they don’t know! If anyone hears anything more current, please post!

  • Oscar Alvarado June 10, 2018, 2:48 am

    I Got my Handyman License issued in The Golden State. But you mentioned under $500 per job for those without a license what about those with a license?

  • Marcus Carey June 15, 2018, 1:07 am

    I want to get a Handymen’s license. But if I publish my self as a residential an commercial maintenance. Is putting myself in danger to?

  • Dawn June 15, 2018, 9:05 pm

    I believe it’s been ‘$500.00’ for too many years now. The cost of those materials & cost of living constantly rises…. why hasn’t this $500. limit increased? Also, who determines the value of those materials when there are so many variables?

  • Steve England June 17, 2018, 8:03 am

    As handymen we some times run across an owner that has a lot of small repairs that need to be done and the list will exceed the $500 limit.
    What is the time line that we have to come back and do more work?
    Example total of all the minor repairs comes to $1500.

  • Darrell Mathieu June 20, 2018, 10:46 pm

    Thanks for your info I read all the information you provided on being a handyman it was very interesting my name is Darrell and thanks again for the info very helpful

Leave a Comment