Contractor License Requirements in Pennsylvania

By Teo Spengler ; Updated June 19, 2017
Building contractor at job site

Commercial contractors in Pennsylvania do not need to register or obtain a state contractor license, but most contractors engaged in home improvement work must register, follow certain rules and obtain personal injury liability and property damage coverage.

Home Improvement Contractors

Pennsylvania law does not require licensing or registration for commercial contractors. Contractors engaged in home improvement work, however, must register and follow specific state guidelines, and include their registration number in all contracts and advertisements.

Home improvement work that requires licensing essentially means work on or near a private residence or on the land near a residence. Even if only a part of a building is used as a private residence, construction work on the building is classified as home improvement work. This includes all repairs and changes to a building. It also includes any construction of a building that is intended to be a private residence. Installation of projects like swimming pools, heating or AC systems, roof or solar panels are specifically included in the definition of home improvement.

Home improvement repair also includes the tearing down of buildings. Demolition of residences comes within the law.

Exemptions to Registration

Pennsylvania law exempts both small contractors and big ones. Contractors that perform less than $5,000 of work in a calendar year do not have to register. At the opposite end of the spectrum, retailers with a net worth of more than $50 million need not register, either.

Employees of a business that is registered as a home improvement contractor don't have to register individually unless they also do side jobs on their own that are valued at more than $5,000 per year. Subcontractors or independent contractors working for a registered contractor must register.

Application Requirements for Licensing

Home improvement contractors have to register with the Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General either online or by mailing the application. They will have to provide information, including:

  • Identifying information, including information on other home improvement businesses they operate or have operated in the past
  • Names of people with an interest in any corporation or business entity making an application, such as partners, officers and managers
  • Information on any other contractor licenses and registrations they hold
  • A description of the business
  • Information about bankruptcies and criminal pleas or convictions

Applicants also have to show that they hold an insurance policy that provides at least $50,000 of personal injury liability coverage and $50,000 of property damage coverage. The $50 application fee must be included and is not refundable.

About the Author

Living in France and Northern California, Teo Spengler is an attorney, novelist and writer and has published thousands of articles about travel, gardening, business and law. Spengler holds a Master of Arts in creative writing from San Francisco State University and a Juris Doctor from UC Berkeley. She is currently a candidate for a Master of Fine Arts in fiction.