A homeowner or small business owner in need of minor property repairs might prefer calling a handyman or maintenance contractor rather than a carpenter or other tradesman who might charge higher rates. Hiring a professional who holds either a maintenance license or handyman license can help ensure the job gets done right. Although the two terms may seem interchangeable, there are some differences between a maintenance license and a handyman license.

Handyman License

A handyman license is a license issued by the state, and it allows an individual to legally perform handyman services such as general building and repair work. In the state of California, for example, a handyman license is required for any person or legal business entity conducting construction work where the value of the project meets or exceeds a value of $500, as of July 2011, notes licensing and career certification website, getyourlicense.

Maintenance License

A maintenance license is similar to a handyman license because it allows an individual to perform maintenance work and services in a residential setting. Since the laws governing licensed contractors, builders, handymen and residential maintenance workers vary from state to state, a maintenance license is only applicable in states that require a maintenance license. The state of Michigan not only requires a maintenance license but also requires the license be displayed in the place of business or carried by the contractor, as noted by the Michigan state business website, Michigan Business One Stop.

Notable Differences

Although both a handyman license and a maintenance license allow an individual to perform basic construction work of a smaller caliber than a fully licensed contractor, there are some differences to note. In California, a licensed handyman is permitted to perform a number of different types of jobs. In Michigan, a maintenance contractor may only perform work in the specific trade for which he is licensed, such as carpentry, excavation, tile and stone work, painting, roofing and siding.


Whether a state requires a handyman license or a maintenance license, either one can offer exclusive benefits to the license holder. Not only can an individual perform his work without fear of penalties, fines or jail time, but he can advertise himself as licensed. A licensed handyman or maintenance contractor offers a layer of protection to the homeowner since the state licensing authority holds him accountable for pulling all necessary permits as well as upholding his reputation for good work and quality service.