How to Apply for a Handyman License in California

by Vicki A. Benge; Updated September 26, 2017

Any handyman job in California that costs more than $500 requires the worker to possess a state contractor's license. This $500 limit includes both material and labor. Therefore, before advertising your services or completing jobs, it's best to take the required examinations and get licensed and bonded to avoid fines and possible jail time. To apply for a handyman license, contact the California Contractors State License Board, which accepts and processes contractors’ licenses within the state.

Apply to Take the Exams

The first step in obtaining a license is to take the necessary examinations. To be eligible, you'll need to demonstrate four years of verifiable experience in the trade or contractor classification for which you are seeking a license. This certification is a mandatory part of the application. Dozens of classifications are available covering a wide range of handyman skills, and you can apply for more than one.

Send in the Application

The state does not accept applications in person. You must mail the completed form, along with the application fee of $300 to:

Contractors State License Board
P.O. Box 26000
Sacramento, CA 95826

All required paperwork should be submitted in one package. The agency then will begin processing the application and will notify you of your examination date if it approves your application, typically three weeks before the test date.

Exam Prep

In your Notice to Appear for Examination, the state board will tell you the time and place where it will test you. Along with the notice, the agency will send you a study guide to help you find resources to prepare for your exams.

There are seven testing centers throughout the state. You will be sent to the one closest to your ZIP code. The test includes a Law and Business examination that all contractor licensees must pass, then a specific test based on the classification for which you are seeking certification.

After the Exam

After you have passed the law, business and trade exams, the state board will complete the application process. You will receive a certificate to post on the wall of your office and a pocket license to carry with you.

Tips

  • When applying for a contractor's license, you must show that you have more than $2,500 of operating capital. Figure this by subtracting your current liabilities from your assets.

About the Author

Vicki A Benge began writing professionally in 1984 as a newspaper reporter. A small-business owner since 1999, Benge has worked as a licensed insurance agent and has more than 20 years experience in income tax preparation for businesses and individuals. Her business and finance articles can be found on the websites of "The Arizona Republic," "Houston Chronicle," The Motley Fool, "San Francisco Chronicle," and Zacks, among others.