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Paving the Road to Becoming a Licensed Contractor

Becoming a contractor may sound like a great way to earn a living until you reach retirement age (and it is) but, just like any other profession, there is a right way to do things (and a wrong way to do things). So, before you set out there are a few things you will want to get squared away. High school, training and apprenticeships will all get you ready for your future occupation but proper training is just half the battle. To complete your quest, you will need to get licensed in your state to ensure that you are qualified to work as a contractor. You will also need to get insured. Here is what you need to do if you are interested in becoming a licensed contractor.

Becoming a Licensed Contractor – Your Road to a License

It can be a long road but we assure you that it will be worth it in the end. In order to get your license you will have to undergo a series of tests, evaluations and screenings by representatives from your state. Listed below are the steps you will need to take.

Step 1 – Fill out an Application

You had to apply for a driver’s license when you turned 16 and you will have to apply for your contractor’s license when you feel the time is right. Once the state approves that application you will be sent a notice telling you that you have been approved. Now, you just need to set up an appointment to take the state assessment. You are just two steps away from becoming a licensed contractor (so close).

Step 2 – Take the State Assessment

The exact details of that assessment will depend on which state you are in (and when you are taking it). But, most assessments will cover everything from law and business to state construction codes. Be sure to study up as you will not want to pay the fee to take the test multiple times (you will want to save that for the fees you will pay later on).

Step 3 – Pay License Fees and Acquire Insurance

Congratulations on passing the test! You have almost accomplished your dream of becoming a licensed contractor (a dream that is just a few fee payments and insurance policies away). After you pass the test you will have to pay license fees and acquire both workers compensation insurance and general liability insurance before you can legally work in the state.

And that’s it! Congratulations on your new license! They typically last two to four years so enjoy your test-free years while you can. If you have any further questions about becoming a licensed contractor please feel free to give us a call at 1-800-649-9094. We look forward to hearing from you!

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Identifying an Unlicensed Contractor

On December 4th, 2013 the Bradenton Police department, based in the state of Florida, commenced “Operation Unhandyman.” The target of the operation: to root out unlicensed contractors working in Manatee County without required workers compensation insurance coverage or insurance exemptions. Within two days, the department had made nine arrests after undercover law enforcement met with the individuals in question, and procured an estimate for construction work. Consumers have begun to use unlicensed contractors more frequently since the housing bubble collapse in 2007, but many are unaware of the risk involved in hiring an unlicensed contractor. While they may cost less in the short run, using an unlicensed contractor could be potentially catastrophic in the long run (just watch “Holmes on Homes” on HGTV!).

Law enforcement has sought to do its best to remove unlicensed contractors whenever possible, by constantly monitoring sites such as Craigslist and Angieslist for both unlicensed contractors and scam artists. However, there will still inevitably be those who avoid discovery, and then it becomes of utmost importance for the consumer to protect themselves. As Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice stated, “Unlicensed contractors can cause more damage than they were hired to repair, so it is essential that anyone looking to hire a contractor do their homework.”

The Ten Commandments of Hiring a Contractor

1.)    Ask to see a license (and tell the contractor that their license will be verified)

2.)    Verify that license

3.)    Do not pay more than 10% down or $1,000 (whichever is less)

4.)    Get 3 bids on the job

5.)    Check references

6.)    Get a written contract

7.)    Beware those who ask for money upfront or will only accept cash. Also, avoid those who go door to door to drum up business.

8.)    Make sure the contractor is licensed for work you need. Electricians cannot do plumbing work

9.)    If you hire a general contractor make sure the specialists they hire (i.e. plumbers, electricians, etc.) are licensed too

10.)  Do not sign a certificate of completion until you are satisfied with the work they have done

Being diligent in your research when hiring someone to do work on your house is the best way to protect yourself from scam artists and unlicensed contractors. Never be afraid to ask as many questions as necessary to get the answers you need to feel confident in the job you’re having done.

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How to Get a Home Improvement License NY: Nassau County

Are you interested in finding out how to get a Home Improvement License NY? We’d like to make the license application process a little bit easier for our contractor friends out there, so we’ve decided to break down the applications process in the metropolitan area. Today we’re starting with Nassau County, but we’ll have Suffolk, Queens, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Staten Island, Bronx, New Jersey and Connecticut covered over the next few weeks, so stay tuned!

Home Improvement Definition

According to the Nassau County Office of Consumer Affairs, “’Home Improvement’ means repair, maintenance, replacement, remodeling, alteration, conversion, modernization, or addition to any land or building, or that portion thereof, which is used as a private residence or dwelling place for not more than three families, and other improvements to structures or upon land which is adjacent to a dwelling, and shall include, but not be limited to, the installation, construction, replacement or improvement of driveways, swimming pools, porches, garages, sheds, central heating or air conditioning systems, vacuum cleaning systems, windows and awnings, sandblasting, power washing, waterproofing, floor refinishing, chimney cleaning, interior and/or exterior painting, carpet installation, and gardening/landscaping, when the gardener/landscaper uses his/her own equipment in the conduct of his/her business and uses his/her vehicle to transport such equipment.” Anyone who is doing any of the aforementioned work to residential property is required to have a Home Improvement License issued by Nassau County. For a more extensive list of job titles that require a Home Improvement License, please click the link above.

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As a contractor performing Home Improvement work, in addition to a license, you are required to have liability, property damage, and workers compensation insurance to cover all of your bases. Contractors seeking to obtain a license in Nassau County must be 18 years of age or older, be of good moral character and have financial stability, and own a business that requires such a license. Filing an application for a Home Improvement License is not the same as having a license, and in order to actually do any Home Improvement contracting work in Nassau County, contractors must wait for their application to be approved in order to receive their license.

Application Process

We understand that the application process may be difficult to digest, so we’ve gone through the official instructions and have put it in language that is hopefully easier to understand. The application process for a Home Improvement License for Contractors in Nassau County is as follows (anything in quotes is directly from there):

  1. You need to bring your signed and notarized application to the Office of Consumer Affairs in person.
  2. In addition to the white application (which must be notarized), you also need to have the blue disclosure form, which needs to be completed by “each individual, partner, officer, director, stockholder, manager, and salesperson of the business.” This form also must be notarized.
  3. All of the aforementioned parties must submit three passport type (2”x2”) photos that were taken within the past six months; these pictures must be professionally taken, as photos from home will not be accepted.
  4. All of the aforementioned parties must also provide proof of residency, in the form of a NYS DMV Drivers License or Non Driver ID Card in addition to one of the following: a current utility bill, NYS Auto registration, or a copy of a current lease. PO Box addresses are not consider acceptable proof of residency.
  5. If the business address is different from the filer’s home address, you will need to provide a utility bill or lease for the business to prove its location.
  6. The business is also required to show that it has a landline telephone number. If you’re doing work from your home, your home phone number is acceptable, but cell phone numbers and toll-free numbers are not. A copy of the business phone bill serves as proof for this requirement.
  7. All of the aforementioned parties are also required to document all criminal convictions, including DWI, DWAI, and DUI, and provide court documentation for the charges. Additional documentation may be required depending on the case.
  8. You must complete Blumberg form #X201 if you are using your own name or a trade name for your business, and need to provide a certified copy of your business certificate that is on file with the Nassau County Clerk’s Office. If you are operating a partnership, you need to complete Blumberg form #X74 and provide a certified copy of your partnership certificate that is on file with the Nassau County Clerk’s Office. If your business is a corporation, you have to provide a copy of the Secretary of State’s Filing receipt. It is important to note that “the corporation must maintain a bonafide establishment at a definite location within the State of New York.” If your corporation is using a DBA, you have to also provide an Assumed Name Certificate that you’ve filed with New York State that authorizes you to use the name in Nassau County. Any corporation is required to provide “the original and current corporate structure naming all principals, officers, directors, and stockholders including all minutes showing changes made to the corporate structure.” You’re welcome to bring the corporate book with you during your application if you’re not sure about these requirements. Lastly, if your corporation was formed more than three years ago, you are also required to provide a Certificate of Good Standing, which is issued by the New York Bureau of Corporations, who you can reach at (518) 473-2492.
  9. You will also need to bring a Certificate of Insurance with you, and the certificate holder must be listed as Nassau County Consumer Affairs. There is a separate document on the Consumer Affairs Office website that details coverage requirements, which you can find here.
  10. You will also need to bring a Certificate of Workman’s Compensation that will cover all of your employees. If you don’t have employees, you will need to complete form CE-200, the Certificate of Attestation Exemption form, from the Workman’s Compensation Board. You can obtain that form by calling (866) 546-9322.
  11. You will also be required to have a Federal Employers Identification number and a NY State Sales Tax number if you collect sales tax. If these numbers are not listed on your application, IT WILL BE REJECTED. To find these numbers, you can call (800) 829-4933 for your Federal Employers ID number, and (518) 457-5431 for your Sales Tax number.
  12. You will need to provide payment in the form of a certified check or postal money order made payable to THE COUNTY OF NASSAU. No other form of payment will be accepted, so be prepared.


The fees for a Nassau County Home Improvement License are as follows:

  • $500 for the new application of a two-year license
  • $50 for each new application as a restitution payment*The restitution payment MUST be made SEPARATELY by certified check or money order in the amount of $50. It CANNOT be combined with the $500 fee.
  • $100 for an additional location
  • $50 for a duplicate copy of license (ONLY if original is lost)
  • $75 for name changes not at the point of renewal*”ANY name changes MUST be accompanied by a fully completed application in proper form, and the original current license MUST be surrendered.”

 Last things to keep in mind about Home Improvement Licenses in Nassau County:

  • You must put your license in a visible location at every business location
  • You must also keep a copy of your license in each vehicle used for your business
  • You must complete all forms in blue or black ink, or type them.
  • Your two-year license will be mailed to your once your application has been processed and approved.
  • Refunds are never given.