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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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 >
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:
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.
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:
However, the license does not let you work on:
To get your license in Buffalo, you’ll need:
If you want to do demolition work, you’ll also need:
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
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.
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:
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
Just like other local governments in New York, to get a contractor’s license, you’ll need:
Send your application materials in person to:
Westchester County Consumer Protection, 148 Martine Ave #407, White Plains, NY 10601, Phone: (941) 995-2155
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:
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:
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.
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 contractors 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.
*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 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.
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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