NYC contractor license

How to Become a Contractor in New York

Contractors in New York can take on all types of work, from sprucing up residential properties to working on large-scale commercial buildings. With an average pay that is 33% higher than the national average, you may be wondering how you can become a contractor in New York. 

Since New York does not offer state-wide licensing, you’ll need to receive the proper contractor license or registration offered in your municipality. To get you started, we’ve broken down how to become a contractor in the two largest municipalities of NY: New York City and Buffalo.  

Do You Need a Contractor License in New York?

While there is no state-wide licensing practice, each municipality has its own requirements for contractor work. 

New York City Home Improvement Contractor Licenses are required for any person or business constructing, repairing, remodeling, or doing any other home improvement work on residential land. 

General Contractor Registration is required for all contractors who build one-, two-, and three-family homes. Contractors for all other buildings must get a Safety Registration Number, and for certain additional work, you’ll also need an Insurance Tracking Number. 

The New York City Department of Consumer Affairs provides Home Improvement Contractor Licenses, whereas the NYC Building Department provides General Contractor Registration, Safety Registration Numbers, and Insurance Tracking Numbers. 

The City of Buffalo requires any person engaged in home improvement or construction to get a City of Buffalo Contractor License. The city offers various categories of contractor licensing.

NYC Home Improvement Contractor License

Before applying for your NYC Contractor License, you’ll need to hold the proper Business Certificate depending on your business. 

  • Sole Proprietors need a Business/Assumed Name Certificate
  • Partnerships need a Partnership Certificate and, if applicable, an Assumed Name Certificate
  • Corps, Limited Partnerships, LLCs, or LLPs need to be registered with the NY State Division of Corporations

You will also need to hold the applicable EPA Certifications, listed under the application process.

After you complete the application outlined below and your application is processed, you or the primary party listed on the application will need to take and pass the Home Improvement Exam. The exam is 30 questions and you must correctly answer 21+ to pass. 

You have 60 days from the time your application is processed to take and pass the exam. After passing, you will receive your license. 

Application Process

To apply for your NYC Home Improvement Contractor License, you’ll need to submit a long list of documentation. 

  • Complete the application online (click the link at the bottom of the page) or download the application and apply in person via an appointment at the DCWP Licensing Center or the NYC Small Business Support Center
  • Sales tax ID number or application confirmation number
  • Proof of business address and home address through utility bills, leases, mortgage statements, or government correspondences
  • Worker’s Compensation Insurance information: an Insurance Certificate or a Certificate of Attestation of Exemption from the NY State Workers’ Compensation Board
  • Proof of EPA Certification and EPA Lead-Based Paint Activities Certification OR a copy of the EPA RRP Certification or EPA Lead Abatement Certification and an Affirmation that the other certification is not required
  • DCWP Trust Fund Enrollment or $20,000 surety bond
  • Contractual Compliance Agreement
  • Home Improvement Exam and $50 fee – the exam must be passed by the first person listed on the application after your application is processed
  • Schedule, pay for, and complete a fingerprinting appointment after completing your application 
    • The service code to schedule the appointment is 1585BH, and the Record ID number will be on your confirmation letter after you apply
  • Pay the licensing fee: It ranges from $25-$125 depending on what month and year you apply. Licenses are renewed by February 28th of all odd-numbered years.

For more information on the application process, see the official NYC Home Improvement Contractor page.

NYC General Contractor Registration

If you are building structures from the ground up, you’ll need to register as a general contractor with New York City. To do so, you must:

  • Be 18+
  • Read and write in English
  • Have a good moral character
  • Complete a background investigation 
  • Complete the application

Application Process

Your application should include:

  • The LIC50 or LIC51 application, depending on if you are applying on your behalf or have an agent doing so for you
  • Child Support Certification Form
  • Notarized Supplemental Investigation Questionnaire
  • Notarized company letter listing information for all officers, partners, and stakeholders
  • Employer Identification Number or Federal Tax Identification Number
  • 3 consecutive bank statements for your company showing a $25,000+ balance
  • A general liability insurance certificate of at least $1 million
  • Photo ID
  • Social Security Card
  • Proof of home residence and business residence
  • $330 background investigation fee
  • $300 registration fee

If you are applying as a corporation, LLC, partnership, or sole proprietor, there are additional documents you must submit, which are listed at the bottom of this page.

If your application is approved, you’ll receive a letter with instructions and a list of additional documents you must submit within a year. If you comply with these instructions, you will then receive a registration card.

Additional NYC Contractor Requirements

For those building other structures that are not 1-, 2-, and 3- family homes, you must get your Safety Registration Number with a Construction Endorsement, as well as register as a general contractor. The same goes for those adding more than 25% to the floor area or those adding 3 or more stories. 

Contractors removing floor area or stories need a demolition endorsement. All other non-specific alteration work contractors need an Insurance Tracking number and to register as general contractors OR get a Safety Registration Number.

More information on these processes and requirements can be found here.

City of Buffalo Contractor License

The city of Buffalo offers the following categories for contractor licenses:

  • Handyman contractor
  • Construction manager
  • Specialty contractor
  • Light commercial contractor
  • Demolition
  • Sub-contractor
  • New housing contractor
  • General contractor

Application Process

To complete your Buffalo Contractor License application, you’ll need:

  • General liability insurance
  • Proof of business name
  • The EPA RRP Certification
  • A copy of your driver’s license
  • Proof of Worker’s Comp, if you have employees
  • Exemption from Worker’s Comp form, if you do not have employees
  • Copies of certifications for trade, if applicable

Documentation may vary depending on your contractor category. See the full application for details.

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