How to Apply for a Contractor's License in Chicago, Illinois

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If you want a general contractor license in Chicago, you need to apply to the city's Department of Buildings. The department licenses and registers the more than 29,000 construction professionals who work in the city, from general contractors to plumbers' apprentices. You must be licensed before you bid on a construction project.

TL;DR (Too Long; Didn't Read)

There are five classes of general contractor licenses in Chicago. Higher-level licensees can work on more expensive projects, but they are required to carry greater amounts of insurance. To apply, download an application from the city's building department and return it with all relevant paperwork and the fee.

General Contractors Defined

A general contractor is a construction-industry professional who erects, builds, alters, repairs, moves, installs, replaces, converts or adds to any building or related structures, such as swimming pools, porches, driveways and fences. The definition requires that the contractor exerts control over how the job is done and hires or supervises one or more people from the building trades, such as plumbers, masons, electricians or carpenters.

You must have a general contractor license in Chicago before performing any such work except for doing work on your personal home. City regulations also apply to nonresidents who work as general contractors within Chicago city limits, and they apply if you bid, offer or represent yourself as having the capacity to carry out the work.

Chicago is located in Cook County, Illinois, but a Cook County general contractor license is only good in unincorporated county areas. In Chicago, you need a city license.

General Contractor License: Chicago

Chicago breaks contractor licenses into several classes based on the size of the project you register to work on. The limits for each class are per project. If you work on several jobs that exceed the limit for your class, that's OK.

  • Class E licensees can work on projects that have up to a $500,000 value but no higher.
  • Class D licensees can work on projects valued for as much as $2 million.
  • If you hold a Class C license, the upper limit is $5 million.
  • A Class B licensee has a $10 million limit.
  • If you qualify for a Class A license, the sky's the limit. 

The big difference between the classes is general contractor insurance in Chicago. A Class A license holder must have $5 million in coverage — per incident, not total coverage — "for bodily injury, personal injury, property damage and completed operations arising in any way from the issuance of the license or activities conducted pursuant to the license." If you're a Class E contractor, you only need $1 million coverage per occurrence.

General Contractor License Application

You have to be 18 years of age to apply for a general contractor license in Chicago. If your company is a partnership, all the partners must be legal adults. If you form a corporation, the age limit applies to all corporate officers and "controlling persons." Using the form provided by the building department, you must provide to the city the following information and documents:

  • The class of license you want

  • The kind of work and services you plan to provide customers

  • A statement, verified by an affidavit, that you and other controlling persons are financially solvent

  • If you're already a general contractor elsewhere, the address of your company

  • Proof you're authorized to do business in Illinois. Sole proprietors can skip this step.

  • Proof of insurance

  • A statement as to whether you've been convicted of a criminal offense involving bribery or are currently under indictment for bribery. You can seek an exemption if you convince the city you are rehabilitated enough to be trustworthy.

You also have to pay the license fee, which ranges from $300 for a Class E license to $2,000 for a Class A general contractor license in Chicago.

References

About the Author

Fraser Sherman has written about every aspect of business: how to start one, how to keep one in the black, the best business structure, the details of financial statements. He's also run a couple of small businesses of his own. He lives in Durham NC with his awesome wife and two wonderful dogs. His website is frasersherman.com

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