Before you begin your licensing process to become a general contractor in Massachusetts, you’ll first have to meet the experience and educational requirements set forth by the Massachusetts State Board of Building Regulations and Standards. Licensing for contracting work is required and regulated by the state board. In addition to experience and educational requirements, you must also pass an exam.
As with most states, if you plan on launching your own contracting business, you’ll have to register with the Massachusetts Secretary of State, as well as provide necessary documentation and permits — a certificate of insurance as well as tax ID numbers. Massachusetts issues several different licenses depending on your contracting work, including separate plumber and electrical contracting licenses, and it is worth understanding which license you need before starting your general contractors licensing process
Massachusetts Home Improvement Contractors and Construction Supervisors
All construction and renovation of detached one and two-family homes is regulated by the Board of Building Regulations and Standards. Prior to performing work on such homes, a contractor must be registered as a Home Improvement Contractor and/or licensed as a Construction Supervisor, depending upon the type of work that is being done.
Who Needs a Contractors License?
Depending on your scope of work and certain building types and structures, your Construction Supervisor License (CSL) will be separated into three separate licenses:
Restricted CSL: For the supervision of construction work on two-family dwellings, including accessory buildings and structures.
Unrestricted CSL: For the supervision of construction work of two-family dwellings, buildings that do not exceed 35,000 ft.³, agricultural buildings and structures, and walls that measure up to 10 feet.
Specialty CSL: Specialty CSLs fall under an unrestricted CSL, and will include such specialty trades as:
- Windows, Doors, and Siding
- Roof Covering
- Solid Fuel Burning Appliances
For more details on the classification of specialty CSLs, visit the Board of Building Regulations and Standards.
Home Improvement Contractor: You will need to register if you will be performing common alterations such as: exterior painting, wallpapering, and deck and patio repairs. In most instances, you will need to be both registered as a Home Improvement Contractor and a licensed Construction Supervisor.
The board also requires licensing for specific trades such as:
- Asbestos Abatement
- Lead Abatement
What Do You Need To Become a Home Improvement Contractor or Construction Supervisor in Massachusetts?
For any CSL, you will have to register and take the Prometric exam. To be eligible for the exam, you must be 18 years of age. Additionally, you will need to verify your work experience — demonstrating and providing documentation of three years of experience in building construction. Once your exam is completed and passed, you will receive instructions on applying for your CSL through the Department of Public Safety, which operates under the State Board of Building Regulations of Standards.
Licensing and Registration Fee Summary
Exam Administration Fee: $100 per exam
CSL Licensing Fee: $150 per license
Home Improvement Contractor Registration: $150 with a mandatory contribution to the Guaranty Fund if you have:
- 0 – 3 employees: $100
- 4 – 10 employees: $200
- 11 – 30 employees: $300
- More than 30 employees: $500.
Massachusetts Contractors Exam
The Massachusetts State Board of Building Regulations and Standards has contracted with Prometric Inc. to administer all CSL examinations. If you are eligible, you must first register for an exam through Prometric. Test center locations and scheduling are available through the Prometric website.
You must score a 70% or above on exams testing for general knowledge, as well as on Massachusetts State Billing Code requirements. Exams are also open book and multiple choice. For more details on your CSL examination, visit the State of Massachusetts Candidate Information Bulletin.
Contractors Exam Fees
Each exam administration fee will be $100. Exam fees will be payable to Prometric. Accepted forms of payment include MasterCard, Visa, money orders, and company and cashier’s checks. Personal checks or cash are not accepted.
Massachusetts Contractors License Application
Your licensing application will be handled through the State Board of Building Regulations and Standards and will be reasonably straightforward. When applying for a new CSL, you will:
- Determine the type of license you are applying for.
- Verify your work experience, including documentation.
- Submit exam registration form.
- Complete and pass exams.
- Pay administrative fees.
- Submit passing exam scores to the State Board of Building Regulations and Standards.
You must mail your score report to the Board to 1000 Washington St, Suite 710, Boston, MA 02118. You will also have to provide proof of liability insurance before becoming eligible to work as a licensed contractor, no matter what type of contractors license you are applying for.
Massachusetts Contractor Registration and Permitting Requirements
According to the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation, you must register as a Home improvement contractor if you are performing home improvement work on an existing, one to four unit residential property in Massachusetts. Contractors can register as an individual, proprietorship, partnership, or corporation.
Corporations must show that their business is registered with the Secretary of State. Registration is $150, and if you have employees, you are required to contribute to the Guaranty Fund according to the size of your company. All contractors, regardless of license type, are also required to have bond insurance before beginning work on any project. Contractor bonds can be purchased through bonding companies, or you can inquire to see if your preferred liability insurance carrier also provides bonds.
Massachusetts State Business Licenses and Registration
To operate in the state of Massachusetts, many businesses and independent contractors are required to be licensed. Businesses and independent contractors may also need to be bonded and insured to commence or bid on projects. To find out the requirements for your contracting business, or to find information on starting a new business, visit the Massachusetts Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development webpage.
Massachusetts Business Registration
Any business will have to be registered. To register your business, go to the Secretary of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts webpage.
Massachusetts Tax Identification Numbers and Registration
Businesses that operate within Massachusetts are required to register for one or more tax-specific identification numbers, licenses or permits, including income tax withholding, sales and use tax (seller’s permit), and unemployment insurance tax. Contact the Massachusetts Department of Revenue for more information about business registration and your tax obligations.
Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Insurance Requirements and Forms
Businesses with employees are required to carry workers’ compensation insurance coverage through a commercial carrier, on a self-insured basis, or through the state Workers’ Compensation Insurance program. Check out the Workers’ Compensation Rating and Inspection Bureau of Massachusetts site.
Massachusetts Contractor License Lookup and Verification
Visit the Official Website of the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security Department of Public Safety database to verify the status of an individual’s license.