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Does a Painting Contractor Have to be Licensed?

The short answer to this question is “not necessarily,” and the long answer is, of course, much longer. In California, every contractor needs to have a license in order to legally work on a home or business. This holds true for some other states, like Alaska and Louisiana, but others have looser requirements (only jobs over a certain monetary amount require a license) or no requirements whatsoever.


This is why it’s important to know your local laws and regulations. Depending on where you live, you may be hiring a contractor that’s not required to be licensed by the state or local board. Working with unlicensed contractors leaves you open to a whole host of issues, ranging from sub-par work to a lack of support if you have to file a payment dispute. If your state or city requires licensing for painting contractors, it’s illegal for a contractor to work on your home without it. Always be sure to check up on any contractor you’re considering to be sure that they have an active license on file.


To better understand why a licensed contractor is preferable to an unlicensed one, we’ll go over the requirements for licensing in California. Other states may have similar registration practices, or none at all.


In California, all contractors must take and pass a license examination. It’s required if they haven’t passed the test in the last five years, or if they haven’t served for the same qualification for which they’re applying. Contractors that have been doing the work they’re licensed for over the past five years and are in good standing are exempt from this examination. The exam may be waived in some cases, but they’re outlined very clearly in the Business and Professions Code.


As you can see, this requirement acts as a filter to ensure that contractors working in the state are dedicated to doing quality work and always keeping on top of their industry’s requirements. A failure to pass the test indicates that they’re not working to an appropriate standard, and if they haven’t been working in their advertised field in the last five years, you may want to question whether they have the experience necessary to do the job well. Your contractor should state clearly on their website or materials whether they’re licensed, and you should be able to double-check to make sure the license is currently active.


Another benefit of working with a licensed individual or business is that you have a fallback if the job doesn’t work out or if you have to file a dispute. For an unlicensed individual, you may end up losing your payment or having to go to civil court.


Do you have other questions about licensing? Let us know and we’ll be happy to answer!

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