Do you want to become a licensed contractor, handyman, or home renovator in Idaho - but not exactly sure how to get started?
Don’t worry. We’re here to simplify the process. We’ve poured over all of the legal ramblings and fine print from the State of Idaho, and sorted it out in this easy-to-understand guide.
Making sure you remain on the right side of the law when starting a new business can be intimidating at first, but we’ve got the step-by-step process to get your legal ducks in a row so that you can get on doing what you do best.
This is a bit of a trick question. The state of Idaho does not require contractors to be licensed. Instead, they require them to be registered.
It’s easy to use these terms interchangeably, but there is a difference when it comes to legally working as a contractor in the Gem State.
Licenses - To get a contractors license in many states, you need to meet a number of requirements, including passing an exam.
Registration - Registering a business is often more simple than getting licensed. There is generally less paperwork, fewer fees, and often no exams.
So, to answer the question, anyone who performs work as a contractor in Idaho needs to be registered with the Idaho Contractors Board. There is an exception for employees and companies working on projects of less than $2,000.
It’s a bit different for subcontractors working in HVAC, public works, plumbing, and construction management. Along with registering, they also need to be licensed through the Division of Building Safety.
Much like a contractor, a handyman in Idaho does not need an Idaho contractors license. However, they do need to register with the Idaho Contractors Board.
If you don’t register, you may not be able to pull building permits.
Disclosures, licenses, insurance, registrations - what does it all mean? Let’s break down a few words to know before we get started.
Licensure laws require contractors to meet experience, education, or examination requirements before they can set up shop. Luckily, Idaho doesn’t have a “license law” for general contractors, so you don't need to take an exam to start your business. However, as we mentioned earlier, licenses are required for certain specialties, such as plumbing or HVAC.
Registration laws are created to ensure that both contractors and customers have protection under the law. Construction contractors in Idaho are required to register, which is simply a formal way of letting the state know you’re working as a contractor, and ensuring that you have insurance.
Business insurance protects your business in the chance that something goes awry. Idaho requires contractors to have insurance, but we’ll get into those details later.
Now that we’ve had a crash course in legal business terms, let's take a moment to understand why you need an Idaho contractor’s license. No, the registration requirements aren’t set up just to make you jump through hoops. Holding all contractors in the state to the same standards benefits everyone.
By requiring contractor registration and removing fraudulent contractors from the talent pool in Idaho:
On top of the benefits of having a general contractor's license in Idaho, there are very real consequences to skipping registration. First, a contractor operating without registration loses lien rights and contract rights. You're helpless if a customer doesn't pay you for work done if you don't have those contractor rights.
Plus, if you don't acquire business insurance, you and your business could be sued and required to pay out of pocket. Even if you had a spare $30,000 in your business account to cover damages, we’d wager you’d rather keep that money for yourself.
You may need to show proof of business insurance to get your license.
That’s where we come in. Compare free insurance quotes for policies as low as $19.58/month.*Start Here >
Finally, the state of Idaho could charge you with a misdemeanor criminal offense if you don't register your contracting business.
You know your state registration lingo, and you understand the benefits of the process. Now let’s get items checked off your to-do list! Let’s review the steps in the application and registration process for general contractors and handymen in Idaho.
General contractors in Idaho who will work on construction projects valued at at least $2,000 are required to register their business. That means that someone making a small change to their own home doesn’t need to register. It also means that an employee who earns a salary doesn’t need to register themselves. If, however, you plan on offering construction services such as installing cabinets, excavating land, or expanding someone’s house, you’ll need to register as a general contractor.
Earlier I mentioned that certain types of contractors need to be licensed; what’s up with that? If you work on specialty projects such as electrical, plumbing, HVAC, or architecture, then the state of Idaho wants to make sure you meet education and knowledge requirements.
Required exams vary by trade, and you can explore specialties here. While you’ll need to pass an exam to be licensed in Idaho, you don’t need to register your business. Some of these trade licenses still require general liability insurance, along with continued education, renewal fees, and bonds.
The heart of the registration process is an application. Still, there are a few pieces of information you’ll need to get started.
Your SSN or EIN. You’ll need a valid Social Security number for an individual or an employer tax identification number for a business.
Partner names and addresses. If you’re a sole proprietor, you only need to submit your name and address. However, if your company has multiple partners or shareholders, they need to be listed as well.
Workers compensation insurance. If you have an employee (or will in the future), you need worker’s compensation insurance. If you don’t have an employee, you’ll have to submit an explanation of why you don’t need this insurance.
General liability insurance. Whether you have employees or not, you have to have general liability insurance to register as a contractor in Idaho. This insurance needs to cover your construction operations for at least $300,000.
Statement of type of construction. Your application will also need a statement from you about the contracting you plan on doing.
Explanation of past revoked license or registration. If any of your company’s partners have had a contractor’s license or registration revoked or denied in any state, the state of Idaho wants to know. If this applies to you, you’ll need to submit an explanation.
With business registration, not only can it be simpler to start your contractor business, it also can be less expensive.
Once you’ve gathered your certificates of insurance, partner information, and statements, it’s time to fill out the Idaho contractor license application. The application is available for download online, but you’ll need to print it out to submit it. Your application signature also has to be notarized. Finally, you’ll include an application fee for both an individual or a small business of $35.
Send all of your forms and fee to:
Bureau of Occupational Licenses 700 WEST STATE STREET, PO Box 83720 Boise, ID 83720-0063
The Idaho Contractors Board will review your application. Once you’re approved, you need to display your registration. Your registration number needs to appear on your:
There are no additional fees immediately after being approved, but you will need to renew your registration annually. Luckily, the state will send you a head’s up about six weeks before your year is up, and you can pay the $35 and submit a renewal application online.
Got more questions about getting your Idaho contractor’s license? Find answers at the official Idaho Bureau of Occupational Licenses website.
If you still need to get general liability and worker’s comp insurance before you can apply, get a contractors insurance quote to ensure you’re covered.
Need an Idaho business license? Check out our guide here!
*Monthly payment calculations (i) do not include initial premium down payment and (ii) may vary by state, insurance provider, and nature of your business. Averages based on January - March 2023 data of 10% of our total policies sold.
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.
Stephanie writes on a number of topics such as state insurance regulations, business licenses, and small business administration.
This content is for general, informational purposes only and is not intended to provide legal, tax, accounting, or financial advice. Please obtain expert advice from industry specific professionals who may better understand your business’s needs. Read our full disclaimer
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