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How to Get a Contractor’s License in New Hampshire

5-minute read

Man in blue sweatshirt and red hat, wearing glasses, using hammer on the side of the house
Stephanie Knapp

Stephanie Knapp

5 December 2019

Want to set up a handyman business in New Hampshire but aren’t sure what you need? We’ve got you covered.

You have the skills, a dream, and your clever business name - can you jump into selling contracting services? Not quite. There’s the little detail of the New Hampshire contractor license that you need to get before your handyman business is legal. Luckily, we’ve explored the state websites to sort out the step-by-step process so that you don’t have to.

Why Do I Need a General Contractor License in New Hampshire?

Why do general contractor licenses in New Hampshire exist, anyway? Even though it feels like one extra hurdle between you and starting a business, the licenses do benefit you.

Business licenses have education, experience, or exam requirements. When a state requires contractors to prove they know what they’re doing before selling services, everyone is safer and better off. Consumers know they can trust general contractors, so they’re more likely to hire out work instead of attempting it themselves. Qualified contractors who do great work also increase the reputation of contractors as a whole. Plus, the contractor may earn lien rights that make sure you get paid.

Business licenses also come with business insurance requirements. Accidents can happen on the job, and if they do, general liability insurance means you don’t need to pay for them out of pocket. The average property damage claim is \$30,000, and I’d wager a bet that you’d rather not have to use your own money to pay that.

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Steps to Get a New Hampshire Contractor License

Ready to get started? Let’s go over the steps to get your New Hampshire contractor license.

Contact your local jurisdiction

New Hampshire makes its own rules around contractor licensing, and it has decided not to have state-wide requirements for general contractors. Don’t click away, though! There’s still some information you need.

For general contractors:

If you’re a general contractor, such as a handyman, deck builder, or remodeler, you need to check with your local government about licensing requirements. While it’s true that New Hampshire doesn’t have a state-wide license process for general contractors, your city may require licensing. We’ll cover what that might include below.

For specialty contractors:

Just because there isn’t a single general contractor license in New Hampshire doesn’t mean every contractor is off the hook. There are plenty of other required license types, including specialty contractors.

For example, master electricians need to pass a state exam, prove 2,000 hours of practical journeyman experience, and meet continuing education requirements. There are also licenses for plumbers, asbestos inspectors, home inspectors, and more.

Typical requirements for licensure

What should you expect from the licensure process? Whether you’ll be working on specialty projects and need a state license, or have to abide by local general contractor licensing rules, here’s what you’ll likely need.

  • Experience or education. Licenses usually require proof of training or experience. This will vary by city and the level of license you’re after, but be prepared to show classes you’ve taken or hours worked as an employee. You might also need to do continuing education classes each year.
  • Registered business. One of the first steps in starting a legal business is choosing your structure. You may want to be a sole proprietor or set up a corporation like an LLC. If you haven’t registered your business yet, visit the Secretary of State’s website.
  • Pass an exam. Exact exam requirements vary by city and specialty, but you’ll probably have to take a test.
  • Bond. The state can hold you liable for unfinished work, so they sometimes require bonds to prove financial solvency. For example, manufactured housing installers need proof of a \$25,000 bond.
  • General liability insurance. Thriving local businesses are good for the state’s economy, so they don’t want to see your company sidelined by an uninsured accident. General liability insurance requirements depend on the specialty and cover personal injury and property damage.
  • Worker’s compensation insurance. Having employees means your company can do more work in the same amount of time, but there are a few more requirements. You’ll have to have an unemployment tax account and might need worker’s compensation insurance.
  • Application and fee. Once you’ve passed your exam and secured insurance and bonds, it’s time to submit your application. Forms and fees will vary, and then you’ll need to renew your license every 1-3 years.

Special steps for electricians

Want to start an electrician business? You’ll need to apply for a state license with the Electrician's Board. There are five different electrician licenses to choose from, based on experience:

  • Apprentice
  • High Medium Voltage
  • High Medium Voltage Trainee
  • Journeyman
  • Master

All electrician licenses have some licensure requirements, but not all make you take an exam. For example, an apprentice license only needs a high school diploma, while a journeyman must complete a written exam. Higher-level licenses, like journeyman and masters, have reciprocity. This means that you can acquire a license in an additional state without taking a new exam.

Special steps for plumbers

Similar to electricians, plumbers in New Hampshire will choose from different levels of business licenses. The Department of Safety oversees plumber licensing, which includes licenses of individuals and business entities. This means that the contractor doing the work needs to be licensed, and so does the plumbing business. If you’re a one-person company, there’s no fee to submit your mechanical business entity application. The fee for business entities increases with the number of employees, and the application fee for personal licensure depends on experience level.

What to do if your town doesn’t have license laws

Let’s run through a scenario. For example, what happens if you don’t have any licensing rules to abide by? You won’t be working on any of the projects that require a license, and you live in a city like Manchester without a contractor license law. Are you off the hook?

In a way, yes. After all, there’s no government telling you to take an exam and pay a fee. However, there are still some steps for you. First of all, you’ll still need to register your business. If you have employees or are planning on hiring some, you need to set up an unemployment tax account. Your city will require permits for some projects, too, such as building permits in Concord.

There’s also the matter of insurance. You may not have a state law making you buy business insurance, but it’s still something you should consider. It’s a responsible choice, like so many of the other good habits you live by. For example, there isn’t a fine for not properly brushing and flossing. Yet you know that doing what’s best will save money on your dental bill. Similarly, just because the state isn’t making you get insurance doesn’t mean that your business becomes magically accident-proof.

When you choose to get general liability insurance, you can:

  • Win more jobs because homeowners feel more confident selecting an insured contractor
  • Protect your personal assets in case a customer files a lawsuit for damaged property or injury
  • Get money for stolen tools by adding contents coverage to your plan

Your blood, sweat, and tears go into building a business. The small step of having business insurance could save you from bankruptcy if you were to cause injury or damage to the wrong customer.

If you still have some New Hampshire contractor’s license questions unanswered, check out New Hampshire's guide to licensed, certified, and registered occupations. We’ve also got a guide on How to Start a Handyman Business.

If you still need to get general liability and worker’s comp insurance before you can apply, get a contractor's insurance quote to ensure you’re covered.

Stephanie Knapp

Written by

Stephanie Knapp

I'm a freelance writer who has always had an interest in entrepreneurship, starting way back with lemonade stands. These days I write to help business owners with their everyday challenges and choices. When I'm not typing away, you'll find me eating pizza, volunteering at the animal shelter, or taking too many pictures of my cats.

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