As a handyman, you’re a human skeleton key, skilled at accomplishing a wide range of repair and maintenance tasks. You resolve homeowners’ headaches with ease. Some days you wear the hat of an electrician and other days you wear the hat of a plumber. You understand the carpentry craft and are excited when tasked with a home improvement project.
If you’re good with tools and enjoy variation in your day-to-day job, handyman work can be lucrative and rewarding. You may already have the skill set based on your experience repairing your own home.
But do you need a license before you start working as a handyman?
The answer depends on where you live, and a number of other factors. The amount you bill per job and per year can affect whether or not you need an occupational license. And even if your state doesn’t require you take out a handyman license, your local government might. This is your guide to understanding licensing, learning about other ways you can protect yourself from legal and financial risk, and answering the pressing question of “does a handyman need a license?”
State and local regulations
When it comes to handyman work, laws vary based on your location, your services, and the amount you bill. For example:
- In California, you need a handyman license if you work on jobs worth more than $500. (Even if you only do a part of the work, it’s the job’s worth that matters—not your takeaway.)
- In Florida, you may not need a license for minor repairs and carpentry, but if you do any structural work, you’ll need one.
- Minnesota requires a Residential Remodeler License for handymen who bill more than $15,000 a year.
- Some states may not have a license requirement, but you may still need to register with a Contractors Board or another organization to do business legally.
To be safe, check on two levels of regulation:
- State – Check whether your state requires that handymen have a license, or whether you’re classified as a general contractor. Some states may require a license only for handymen who do jobs above a certain ceiling, or who bill a certain yearly minimum.
- Local – Even if your state does not require you to get a license, check your county and city laws, too.
Next, we’ll take a closer look at how you can get a license should you need one in your location.
How to get a handyman license
Handyman work requires specialized tools and knowledge, as well as an awareness of worksite safety. Many states and municipalities therefore regulate this work through licensure.
So how do you get a handyman license?
In general, handymen licenses should be available if you are a U.S. citizen over 18. In some cases, you may need to show you have a certain amount of training and experience before you can apply for a license. Technical education courses as well as hands-on experience might count towards your training.
Once you have the right experience, you’ll need to provide the following:
- Your federal tax ID
- A surety bond
- A Certificate of Insurance (COI)
In some states, you’ll need to take and pass an exam to obtain your handyman license. Study up on your state’s specific curriculum. Likely topics include:
- Business organization – Kinds of legal business types in your state
- Business finances – Best practices for managing your finances and balancing a budget
- Employment requirements – How to keep track of payroll and evaluate employees
- Bidding – How to create bids, execute contracts, and stick to a budget
- Job site safety – Best practices for ensuring employee and third-party safety when you’re on the job
Once you’ve passed your exam, pay your state’s fee and register for your license.
General liability insurance for a handyman
As you can see from the above, you usually need to show proof of insurance in order to receive a handyman license. Even if you don’t need a license, you probably need insurance to legally register as a professional handyman. Finally, even if insurance isn’t required in your area, it’s usually a good idea in your line of work.
Being a handyman comes with inherent risks. Whether it’s working on drywall or using specialized tools, something could always go wrong. You need a strong foundation for your business. Without insurance, all you’ve worked to build could start to bow and crack after just a single costly insurance claim.
Handyman insurance can help cover the costs of:
- Bodily injury – As a handyman, you repair rickety surfaces. Should a newly reinforced staircase buckle under a client’s weight, you could be held liable for their bodily injury.
- 3rd-party property damage – You work in people’s homes. Should a piece of falling drywall damage your client’s property, you could be held liable.
- Legal fees – In a scenario like the above, a client could take you to court to collect payment. Without insurance, you’d be responsible for your own legal fees while the case goes to trial.
- Medical costs – You work with hazardous materials. Should a client become lightheaded while you’re on the job, you could be liable for the cost of their trip to urgent care.
General liability insurance is not only necessary for your state’s licensing requirements—it also comes in handy for the everyday risks you encounter on the job.
At Thimble, our goal is demystifying insurance so that small business owners can focus on what matters most (growing their business). While some companies require phone call after phone call before they issue a policy, we make insurance fast, flexible, and easy. Offered on-demand, you can take out a policy for a single afternoon’s work, or pay by the month.
Need a COI for your license? With Thimble, getting insurance takes less than 60 seconds. Enter your ZIP code, your crew size, and your desired policy limits, and you’ll receive an instant quote. If it looks good, purchase with a click, and you’ll receive a COI right away.
Make sure your business is up to code. Take out handymen insurance and work with confidence knowing that you’re protected from risk.
Our editorial content is intended for informational purposes only and is not written by a licensed insurance agent. Terms and conditions for rate and coverage may vary by class of business and state.