Everything You Need to Know about General Contractors’ Licenses in New York

July 01, 2020

Everything You Need to Know about General Contractors’ Licenses in New York

If you’re looking to obtain your home improvement license in New York State, you may by now have realized: the process of doing so isn’t exactly straightforward at first glance. That’s because licensing in New York State is done entirely at the local level, either by city or county governments – and in the majority of the state, no license is required at all.

There are seven major jurisdictions in New York State that do require general contractors to obtain their licenses: New York City, the city of Buffalo, Suffolk County, Nassau County, Westchester County, Putnam County and Rockland County.

Each implements a similar set of requirements as it pertains to licensing general contractors (though each, of course, have their differences). What follows is a comprehensive list of the requirements for each jurisdiction, respectively. Applications and further detailed instructions can be found at the website of each of the relevant city and state governments.

New York City General Contractor Licensing:

General contractors seeking their licenses from the city must be at least 18 years old, read and write in English, and have “good moral character.” You’ll be asked to submit a written form to the city confirming you are all of the above.

Obtaining your license from the city requires a significant amount of paperwork. Original copies of the following documents must be submitted in order to be considered for a general contractor’s license (copies will not be accepted.) Links to required forms can be found at nyc.gov/assets.

  • A typed, completed and notarized General Contractor Registration form.
  • A Child Support Certification Form, detailing whether or not you owe child support and whether or not you are up to date on your payments.
  • A notarized copy of the Supplemental Investigation Questionnaire — the document affirming you meet the criteria to register for a license listed above.
  • A notarized letter on the company’s letterhead listing name, home address, home phone number, social security number and percent of ownership for all corporate officers, partners and stakeholders
  • Original proof of Employer Identification Number (EIN) or Federal Tax Identification Number from the IRS
  • The last 3 consecutive business bank statements for your money, each showing a balance of at least $25,000. (Alternatively, you may submit a notarized letter from your company’s bank proving the same.)
  • Original general liability insurance certificate (minimum $1 million policy), workers’ compensation insurance and disability insurance certificate.
  • Your current original photo ID (driver’s license, non-driver’s ID, passport or green card)
  • Your original social security card
  • Your original proof of home residence (utility bill, deed, lease) or a notarized letter and bill from the residence in which you reside
  • Original proof of business address
  • $330 background investigation fee

BUSINESSES LOCATED OUT OF THE FIVE BOROUGHS: LIC50 application, which designates an agent/listed NYC address for the business.

BUSINESSES FORMED OUTSIDE OF NEW YORK STATE: Must submit corporate documentation from the state was formed in addition to an application for authority from the State’s Department of State.

Note: There are additional requirements for corporations and LLCs. Find them at nyc.gov/assets/buildings.

City of Buffalo:

Buffalo employs several classes of licensing for general contractors depending on whether you retain employees; whether you intend to do specialty work, including lead or asbestos abatement; and whether you intend to perform demolitions.

All applicants, regardless of permit type, will need to submit the following:

  • General Liability Insurance Certificate (minimum policy thresholds range from $50,000 to $2 million and do differ depending on the permit you intend to apply for).
  • Workers’ compensation insurance: contact your insurance carrier or insurance agent for forms. (One-man operations that can attest to their having zero employees are allowed an exception. You may not hire subcontractors without workers’ comp.)
  • Proof of business name
  • 2 passport-sized photographs
  • Application (pages 7 & 8) from Buffalo’s website at buffalony.gov
  • Renovation, repair and painting Certification
  • Copy of your driver's license

Additional requirements to work on residential properties:

  • Blank, five-part contract with following provisions: description of work to be performed; a notice to the homeowner that unpaid work may be subject to liens; a contract letterhead with physical address.

All applicants will need to submit the rest of the city’s license application to completion (depending on the licenses you plan to apply for.) Find forms and further details at buffalony.gov.

Suffolk County

Contractors seeking their licenses within Suffolk County must pass an examination consisting of true/false and multiple choice questions. Contractors must also turn in a complete license application, which can be found at suffolkcountyny.gov. The following materials must be submitted alongside the application:

  • current passport photo
  • a completed and signed affirmation relative to the status of your company (incorporated or d/b/a)
  • filing receipt for New York State if incorporated OR d/b/a certificate, available at the Suffolk County Clerk’s office
  • Copy of valid New York State driver’s license or non-driver’s ID.
  • permits for use of regulated chemicals or pesticides, if relevant
  • permits for application of fertilizers, if relevant
  • $200 non-refundable application fee
  • $100 fee to be contributed to the Home Improvement Contractor’s restitution fund
  • Certificate of liability and property damage insurance, minimum $500,000 (see application forms for specific minimums)
  • A certification of workers’ compensation insurance as required by New York State law
  • Completed applicant background form with pertinent documentation attached (see application for details).

Note: A Suffolk County contractors license is not valid within the townships of South Hampton or East Hampton or Shelter Island. Contractors working within those municipalities must seek approval at the local level.

Nassau County

General contractors seeking their license in Nassau County must submit the following to the county’s Office of Consumer Affairs: (materials can be found at nassaucountyny.gov)

  • Signed, notarized application completed in blue or black ink; out of state individuals and corporations must submit a Certificate of Authority to do business to New York State, proof of a New York State location and an authorized contact person that can be reached in New York State
  • Disclosure noting each individual, partner, officer, director, stockholder, manager and salesperson must complete notarized application form.
  • Two professional passport photos taken within the last six months for
    1. each individual
    1. all partners in the partnership
    1. all corporate officers, directors and stockholders
    1. all employees and/or salespersons who have the authority to estimate/negotiate contracts
  • Proof of residence for each of the individuals mentioned above (New York State driver’s license, non-driver ID and a utility bill, car registration or copy of current lease).
  • Proof of current business address (if different than home address)
  • Copy of business phone bill showing landline phone number and address (cell, toll-free numbers not permitted. Home phones permitted if doing business from home.)
  • Complete criminal histories from all relevant persons
  • Relevant documentation certifying trade names, partnerships and corporations (see application for details)
  • Certificate of insurance with Nassau County Consumer Affairs as the certificate holder
  • Certificate of Workman’s Compensation (variable if no employees)
  • Federal Employer's Identification Number, New York State
  • Pool certifications, if applicable
  • Certificate of Lead Course completion
  • List of sub-contractors with proof of insurance; sub-contractors must be licensed by Nassau County
  • $600 two-year license fee
  • $50 application fee

Westchester County

General contractors seeking their license in Westchester County must submit the following. (Please note the city of Yonkers has additional licensing requirements which can be found at yonkersny.gov/).

  • Signed and notarized application, completed in blue or black ink (application can be found at consumer.westchestergov.com)
  • Two year non-refundable application fee of $400, payable to Westchester County General Fund (checks, money orders accepted; credit card accepted in-person)
  • Proof of business name: copy of business certificate, partnership certificate, articles of organization (LLC, LLP), filing receipt, certificate of incorporation filing receipt or certificate of assumed name filing receipt where applicable.
  • A detailed self written work history for the past five years. Include documentation of any relevant employment or training in the home improvement/construction industry and detail the type of work performed. Specify company name, address and name and contact of the employer. Work history must be dated and signed by the applicant.
  • A notarized child support certification form; sole proprietors must turn in one form, partnerships must submit a form for each partner
  • Liability insurance certificate, naming Westchester County Department of Consumer Protection as certificate holder. The certificate should list operations performed by the insured covered b the policy. You may list exclusions under the policy — i.e. roofing, siding, paving. All insurance documents must be in the correct company name.
  • Workers’ compensation and disability — proof in the form of either:
  • a) New York State workers’ compensation insurance certificate (Form U-26.3 or C-105.2), naming Westchester Department of Consumer Protection as certificate holder)
  • b) New York State Disability Insurance Certificate (Form DB-120.1 or DB-155) naming the Westchester County Department of Consumer Protection as certificate holder.
  • OR, IF ELIGIBLE
  • c) Workers’ Compensation Exemption Affidavit (Form CE-200). (To obtain Form CE-200, go to wcb.nys.gov).
  • A passport size and style photo, taken within the last 60 days.
  • Clear copy of valid driver’s license from the state of residence and proof of current home street address if different from driver’s license. Must be submitted for all individuals named as partners or proprietors.
  • Copies of current vehicle registrations for each decal requested; minimum of one required. Must be in the name of the company, applicant, owner(s)/officer(s). Decals are not required for trailers and will not be issued for them. Copies of vehicle registration window stickers, temporary certificates of registration and vehicle titles are not acceptable.
  • Copies of both 1) New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Pesticide Business Registration Certificate AND 2) Pesticide Applicator/Technician Photo Identification card, where applicable.

Note: applications take approximately 60 days to process. Applicants may opt to pay a $75 expedited application fee to have their application processed within seven days.

Putnam County

Putnam County grants general contractors registrations in lieu of licenses, according to the county’s website. General contractors seeking their registration for the first time should submit the following to Putnam County Office of Consumer Affairs:

  • Signed, notarized and completed application, which can be found at putnamcountyny.com
  • A certified business certificate, certified partnership certificate or certified filing receipt (depending on whether applying as an individual, partnership or corporation)
  • A certificate of liability insurance (ACORD form), listing Putnam County of Consumer Affairs as Certificate Holder. Additional insured must be Putnam County Consumer Affairs; scope of work must be included in description
  • Workers’ Compensation Form (C105.2 or U26.3) or Exemption Form (CE-200); Putnam County Consumer Affairs must be Certificate Holder. If Workers’ Compensation is not required, applicants must fill out a Workers Compensation Waiver online at (wcb.ny.gov).
  • License and Permit Bond OR Bond Continuation Certificate in the amount of $25,000. Bond must be for a two year period (registration expiration corresponds with bond term) and obligee must be Putnam County Department of Consumer Affairs. Bond must be signed by the principle ONLY if it is a new bond.
  • Child support form; not required if business is a corporation or LCC. Tax ID, -IITN card cannot be accepted in lieu of a Social Security Number.
  • Current copies of vehicle registrations that are used in the performance of occupation as home improvement contractor. Window registration stickers not accepted.
  • Copies of current home improvement licenses, if held in other counties
  • Copy of valid photo driver’s license from state of residence; proof of current home street address if different from address on driver’s license
  • Two-year, $300 registration fee in the form of a check or money order made payable to the Putnam County Commissioner of Finance
  • Photo of the owner, partner or highest ranking corporate officer, submitted either in person at the Putnam County Consumer Affairs office or emailed to contractors@putnamcountyny.gov. NOTE: Driver’s license photo not accepted. If submitting via email, include company name, last name, first name and submit in .jpg format.

LANDSCAPING AND LAWN CARE CONTRACTORS ONLY: a copy of Certificate of Attendance, certifying you have attended the Lawn Care Best Management Practices.

Rockland County

General Contractors seeking to obtain their license to operate in Rockland County must submit the following. Partners in listed partnerships must each submit an application; each corporate officer within corporations must do the same.

  • Completed, signed and notarized application. (Applications can be found at rocklandgov.com/files)
  • Notarized record of experience
  • Child Support Certification
  • Photograph; copy of driver’s license with photograph clearly visible OR copy of state-issued identification card with photograph clearly visible
  • Document establishing employment authorization: U.S. Passport, Birth Certificate, Naturalization Papers or Permanent Resident Form
  • One of the following documents: Certified Copy of Rockland County Business Certificate; Copy of Corporate Filing Receipt (if New York State corporation); Copy of Filing Receipt for authority to do business in New York State, if outside of New York State. If the filing receipt is lost, submit a copy of the certificate of good standing.
  • Proof of insurance: certificate of insurance (ACORD Form accepted); Workers’ Compensation (see application for details); Disability (see application for details); Certificate Holder on certificates of insurance must written as County of Rockland, Office of Consumer Protection, 50 Sanatorium Road, Building A, 8th Floor, Pomona, NY 10970
  • Proof of completion of approved turf management course, if relevant
  • Letters of reference: 2 or more regarding applicant’s experience (see instructions on application for details)
  • Copy of current DMV Registrations for each vehicle used in business (see instructions on application for details)
  • Authorization letter, if needed (see instructions on application for more details)

Non-refundable $325 application fee in the form of a check or money order, made payable to Rockland County Commissioner of Finance

Non-refundable Decal Fee: first decal free, each additional $10