Pennsylvania is a good place to be a homeowner, as the state has a wide array of statutes designed to protect homeowners from unscrupulous or incompetent contractors. These laws require most contractors to be registered with the state, carry insurance and comply with a host of rules in dealing with consumers. Some types of contractors are also required to be licensed.
In Pennsylvania, a "home improvement" is any "repair, replacement, remodeling, demolition, removal, renovation, installation, alteration, conversion, modernization, improvement, rehabilitation or sandblasting done in connection with a private residence." This includes the construction, replacement, installation or improvement of driveways, swimming pools, pool houses, porches, garages, roofs, siding, insulation, flooring, patios, fences, gazebos, sheds, cabanas, painting, doors and windows, according to the Pennsylvania Home Improvement Consumer Protection Act. Anyone who performs home improvement work for money in Pennsylvania is considered a contractor. Although the title implies a bit of informality, so long as a handyman is paid for his services, he is considered a contractor in Pennsylvania.
Unless a handyman is regulated by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania as a professional -- unless he is an architect, engineer, land surveyor, asbestos abater, electrician or master plumber -- he does not need to be licensed in Pennsylvania to ply his craft. If he does perform those services, however, he must be licensed in Pennsylvania, either on the state or municipality level. All contractors, including handymen, should contact the local building department where the project is located before beginning work on a project to determine whether there are local ordinances or regulations that require additional licenses or certifications. In Pennsylvania, municipalities are free to impose additional requirements on contractors.
Although a handyman, who is not within the professional trades, is subject to no licensing requirements, he is nonetheless required to be registered with the Pennsylvania Attorney General's Office to perform any work on residential projects. To become registered, a handyman must complete an application, provide proof of insurance and disclose whether he has ever been convicted of a crime or engaged in misconduct, such as fraud.
There is no registration requirement if a handyman is not paid for his work, is employed by a contractor that has a net worth exceeding $50 million or if the handyman earned less than $5,000 in the previous year for home improvement work. Homeowners are, of course, free to work on their own homes without being registered.