How to Get a Contractor’s License in New York

Female contractor with a NY license working on tiling

Are you a general contractor or handyman in New York and ready to be official? We’ll explain how you can get your license in New York’s biggest cities and counties.

Do You Need a License to be a Contractor in NY?

In New York, you need a Home Improvement Contractor license to to work in the cities of New York and Buffalo, and in the counties of Suffolk, Nassau, Westchester, Putnam, and Rockland.

Does a Handyman Need a NY Contractor License?

There is no state license requirement for handymen, but similar to contractors, there are laws and regulations at the local level. You should check with governing agencies in the areas in which you plan to work.

What is the Difference Between a General Contractor and a Licensed Contractor in New York?

The primary difference is having a license. While having a license is often a legal requirement, it can also make good business sense. Having a license shows customers you have a higher level of training and experience than someone who isn’t licensed.

Knowing that, if you were the customer, which type of contractor would you prefer?

Why Do I Need a NY Contractor’s License?

In New York, general contractor’s licenses are offered at the local level — by city and county. And, the process is different for each area. The only licenses that are offered through the state are for crane operators and asbestos handlers.

The good news: It’s fairly easy to get your license, either through state or local departments. And, there are a lot of reasons why you should pursue it. Not only is a license required, it’s also good for your business.

A license:

  • Can help you market yourself to new customers.
  • Communicates that you’re serious about your trade and won’t cut corners.
  • Give you a competitive edge over other contractors.

It also helps protect you and your company. Licenses require that you carry general liability and business insurance, such as NY workers’ comp. As you pursue your license, you’ll also take important steps toward securing its assets, like tools, equipment, and vehicles.

Along with a contractor’s license, you may also need a NY business license. We can help you with that here.

Applying for a NY Contractor’s License?

You may need to show proof of business insurance to get your license.

That’s where we come in. Compare insurance quotes today.

How do I Get a NY Contractor’s License?

So how do you know if you actually need a contractor’s license in New York?

Unfortunately, the state doesn’t make licensing requirements clear, as this information is handled at the city level (more on this in a bit). But to help give you a little more guidance, you should get your contractor license in New York if:

  • You’re working on projects that total over $1,000 (this is with tools and labor combined, so it can easily apply to most projects); and
  • You’re working on a project site that requires a permit.

Now that you know the basic requirements of getting a contractor license NY, let’s take a closer look at what else you need to know.

Getting a General Contractor’s License in New York’s Largest Cities and Counties

If you’re a general contractor, you can get a license through your local municipal department. To help, we’ve outlined the licensing process for New York’s largest cities and counties.


The City of Buffalo Department of Permit and Inspection Services offers licenses to contractors and handymen.

The license allows you to:

  • Remodel or repair property.
  • Make alterations to commercial and residential structures, or property.

However, the license does not let you work on:

  • Heating and cooling.
  • Plumbing.
  • Electrical systems.

To get your license in Buffalo, you’ll need:

  • Proof of your business name and registration.
  • Two passport-size photographs.
  • Proof of liability insurance for at least $2 million.
  • A list of all partners or members of the corporation (for partnerships, LLCs, and corporations).
  • A $750 application fee.

If you want to do demolition work, you’ll also need:

  • A list of the equipment you plan to use.
  • A CV outlining your demolition experience.
  • Letters of reference from past clients.

You can send all of materials by mail or in-person to:

City of Buffalo, Department of Permit & Inspection Services, Office of Licenses, 65 Niagara Square — City Hall 301, Buffalo, NY 14202

Nassau County

If you want to work in Long Island and Nassau County, you can get your license with the Nassau County Office of Consumer Affairs. The license lasts two years and must be notarized.

You’ll need:

  • A completed application in blue or black ink. If you are part of a corporation or partnership, you must have every employee who can negotiate contracts, as well as stockholders, complete and notarize the paperwork.
  • Two professional 2” by 2” photographs taken within the last six months.
  • Proof of your residence.

Send your paperwork and materials to:

The Office of Consumer Affairs, 240 Old Country Road, Mineola, New York 11501, Attention: Licensing

To learn more about getting a license in Nassau County, read here.

New York City

To get a license in New York City, you’ll need:

  • A signed and notarized registration form.
  • A letter, signed and notarized, with the names, addresses, social security numbers, and percent of shares in the company for all officers of the corporation and stockholders.
  • The original Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the IRS.
  • Your last three bank statements showing a minimum balance of $25,000 or a notarized letter from the bank showing this balance for the last year.
  • A certificate for general liability insurance for $1 million in coverage, as well as worker’s compensation and disability insurance.
  • A state-issued photo ID, birth certificate, or passport.
  • Proof of your home address.
  • Proof of your business address.

You can send your application materials as well as the $330 background check fee to:

NYC Department of Buildings, Licensing Unit, 280 Broadway, 6th Floor, New York, NY 10007

Westchester County

Just like other local governments in New York, to get a contractor’s license, you’ll need:

  • A completed application form in blue or black ink.
  • Proof of your business name.
  • Details about the last five years of your work history, including your training.
  • A notarized child support certification form (if you’re self employed).
  • Proof that you carry general liability insurance, as well as workers’ compensation and disability insurance (or an exemption affidavit).
  • A recent passport size photo.
  • A current driver’s license and registration.
  • A $400 nonrefundable fee made out to Westchester County General Fund twice per year.

Send your application materials in person to:

Westchester County Consumer Protection, 148 Martine Ave #407, White Plains, NY 10601, Phone: (941) 995-2155

Additional Requirements for a NY Contractor’s License

Crane Operators

If you’re a professional crane operator, the state of New York requires you to get certified before operating a crane in construction, demolition, or New York excavation projects.

To get your crane-operating license, you’ll need:

  • A completed application form.
  • Proof of your training and experience.
  • Proof that you’re meeting your child support obligations (if it applies)
  • A driver’s license or government-issued photo ID.
  • Proof that you’ve passed a written and practical test.

Asbestos Handlers

If you handle and remove asbestos, you must get a license before doing any work in New York. The good news is it’s a fairly quick process — it only takes about 14 days to process your license.

To get your asbestos handler certificate, you’ll need:

  • A completed application form.
  • Proof that you’ve taken the state’s asbestos training course.
  • Proof that you’re meeting your child support obligations (if it applies).
  • A driver’s license or government-issued photo ID.

Get Business Insurance

No matter where you work, to be a contractor in New York, you need to get business insurance first. Sure, it’s a government regulation — but it’s designed to protect you and your company too.

When you buy worker’s compensation and general liability insurance, you’re protecting your business if there’s an accident or loss of property. You can also advertise to customers that you carry business insurance. A top-rated plan shows you’re professional, trustworthy, and ready to take the job seriously.

Need to get insured? We got you! Compare free quotes from top insurers who specialize in keeping contractors like you protected while you work.

Ready to Get a NY Contractor’s License?

If you’re a little overwhelmed by all the information here, we don’t blame you. It’s a lot to take in! But you’re prepared with the info you need to apply for a contractor’s license in New York.

Depending on your county or city, we suggest using the info above as a checklist in your prep process. If you need a break while applying, sit back, breathe, and know that you’re taking another crucial step to building trust with future customers.

Emily Thompson

I earned a B.A. in Journalism from the University of Wisconsin at Madison (go Bucky). After realizing my first job might involve carrying a police scanner at 2 am in pursuit of “newsworthy” crimes, I decided I was better suited for freelance blogging and marketing writing. Since 2010, I’ve owned my freelance writing business, EST Creative. When I’m not penning, doodling ideas, or chatting with clients, you’ll find me hiking with my husband, baby boy, and 2 mischievous mutts.

Emily writes on a number of topics such as entrepreneurship, small business networking, and budgeting.