Handyman & CSLB Publications

When consumers need minor repairs or think about remodeling, they often mistakenly look first for someone who is ‘handy’ at the job. However, as current California law is written there is no specific ‘handyman’ license, despite what you may read in some ads. I will also ‘expand’ your knowledge of legally ‘contracting’ and that advice is ‘on the house’…

Q: I keep reading that there is no such thing in CA as a handyman license. Is this true? What license would be required to be a handyman? What is the process of getting the correct license?

A: There is in fact no “handyman” license issued by the Contractors Board in CA. The state has a number of license classifications including General Building (B), which many “handymen” apply for. However, it all depends on the type of work you want to perform and what experience you have in the building trades. For instance, if you only want to do plumbing repairs, then the “C-36” would be the proper classification. For electrical jobs, you’ll need to apply for the “C-10”. If you want to handle a variety of trades, then the “B” would be best.

A license is required for all work over $500. The Contractors Board (CSLB) will require that you show at least 4 years full time experience for whichever license you apply for. You’ll be required to post a $12,500 bond, complete the “open-book asbestos exam” and be fingerprinted. Unless you hire employees, like many handypersons, you will likely be exempt from Worker’s Compensation.

Q: I am just starting out and want to make sure I do everything right. My license was just issued and I know I need to make sure my contracts are in order. I only intend on doing roofing jobs on residential properties. Can you suggest where I can go to get a legal contract for home improvements?

A: The requirements for Home Improvement Contracts are contained in B&P Code Section 7159. A review of the 2010 “California Contractor’s License Law and Reference Book” includes over 10 pages covering the Do’s and Don’ts of a correct (i.e. legal) home improvement contract. Some legal bookstores sell sample contracts. Better yet, you may want to review “Contracting For Success: A CONTRACTOR’S Guide to Home Improvement Contracts”, published by the CSLB.

In my personal experience over the past several years, this is a publication more contractors should look at. While I know a great deal about the construction industry, I am not a contractor. I must admit I’m not the handiest person when it comes to home improvements or repairs like installing a new toilet or water heater; repainting the house; or putting down new flooring. So, I am also a customer hiring contractors. Because, I typically get more than one bid, I have seen a number of contracts and can report that very few contractors had it right. Most are on one page and lack many of the disclosure requirements such as the “Mechanics Lien Warning”, “Down payment wording” or a full description of the project and materials to be used. One contractor still had the CSLB located at an address where they moved from 20 years ago.

While you’re at it, I would suggest reviewing another CSLB publication: Tips for Hiring a Roofing Contractor. While it’s written with the consumer in mind, it can only expand your knowledge regarding what the CSLB expects. Further, for ANY contractor who works on home improvements, a review of the Board’s “Terms of Agreement: A CONSUMER Guide to Home Improvement Contracts” would also be helpful.

These and other CSLB publications are available at no cost online or by calling the Contractors Board or you can call my office to have one sent out free of charge. Like it says below, good information is empowering.