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How To Get a Contractor’s License in Ohio

Contractor Tips , Posted by Charlotte Smith on

How To Get a Contractor’s License in Ohio

In Ohio, only certain trades are required by the Ohio Construction Industry Licensing Board to hold a state-level Ohio contractor license. These are plumbers, electricians, refrigeration installers, hydronic technicians, and HVAC contractors. For other types of contractors, including general contractors, the registration and/or license must be applied for and issued at a local level.

In this article, we will highlight everything you need to know about getting a contractor's license in Ohio. Each city has its own specific requirements before a person can be issued an Ohio contractor license. Here, we will look at the processes for the cities of Cleveland, Columbus, and Cincinnati.

While your business license will be managed at the state level, the majority of municipalities also require a certificate of insurance before a person can be licensed or commence working. As long as you have the correct information about the steps necessary for obtaining a general contractor's license in Ohio, it is not a complicated process. Let's get started with information about the process.

Getting a General Contractor's License in Cleveland

The City of Cleveland, located in the northeastern part of the state along the southern shore of Lake Erie, has a population of more than 372,000. For general contractors who wish to perform work in the Forest City, they must first register through the City of Cleveland Department of Building and Housing.

A variety of different contractor's licenses are offered at the department. These include:

  • General Contractor
  • Plumbing
  • HVAC
  • Demo
  • Electrical

It is necessary for general contractors to be insured, registered, and bonded by a bonding company before performing any type of work. The good news is that the process to become a registered contractor is not extensive.

Requirements for Contractor Registration in Cleveland

When making your submission to become a general contractor in Cleveland, you must attach a number of documents (or else copies of documents) with your notarized registration application.

This includes a bond form with at least $25,000 in coverage. For multiple bonds, they must begin and end with the same date. A power-of-attorney form must also be attached to the contractor bond.

For the certificate of insurance, the City of Cleveland must be listed as “certificate holder” and “additional insured.” There are limits of minimum coverage for incidents of both bodily injury and property damage.

The names and signatures of authorized agents are also required to secure permits.

Registering as a Contractor in Cleveland

In addition to the requirements above, aspiring contractors in Cleveland will also need to provide other information on their Cleveland general contractor registration application.

Information that must be disclosed during the application includes if you are registered under a different company name or if you currently hold a Cleveland license. Other information that must be included are:

  • The officers of your company
  • Details of your training, experience, certificates, and qualifications
  • Information about any convictions, misconduct, and/or fraud

For new applicants, the registration fee is $150. The renewal fee is $120.

Getting a General Contractor's License in Columbus

Columbus is the state capital and most populous city in Ohio, with a population of a little over 900,000 people. After Chicago, it is the most populous city in the Midwest. In the Arch City, the contractor licensing process is handled by the Columbus Department of Building and Zoning Services.

Two types of licenses for building contractors are issued by the department. These are for general contractors and improvement contractors. The main difference between these two licenses relates to the type of work that can be performed.

General Contractors License in Columbus

Let's look firstly at the general contractors license in Columbus. In the city, general contractors are able to oversee the construction of new homes (something that home improvement contractors cannot). General contractors are also not limited to working on one-, two-, or three-family homes as is the case of home improvement contractors.

Requirements for a General Contractors License in Columbus

There are a number of basic requirements that a person applying for a general contractor license in Columbus must adhere to. They are the same as those for a home improvement contractor license. They include:

  • Be at least 18 years old
  • Be a US citizen or national, an alien authorized to work in the US, or a lawful permanent resident

Steps for Submitting a General Contractor License Application

You will be asked to specify your scope of work and verify that you are in accordance with the above-listed requirements when submitting your general contractor application. The first step to submitting your application is to download and print it. Next, have the application notarized (otherwise, it cannot be processed).

The payment fee must be a check, made payable to “Columbus City Treasurer.” The printed and filled-out application must then be either mailed or delivered in person to the following address:

The Department of Building & Zoning Services
757 Carolyn Ave.
Columbus, OH 43224

Ensure that you submit your application no later than seven days before the next meeting of the Home Improvement Board (these meetings take place on the first Wednesday of every month).

Once the application is approved, the Board will send a certified letter that details the next steps in the application process. At this point, you should prepare the following documents:

  • Certificate of liability (minimum of $300,000 for damages to a single person/minimum of $500,000 for a single occurrence)
  • A bond in the amount of $25,000

Next, we will look at the application process for home improvement contractors in the city.

Home Improvement Contractors in Columbus

Home improvement contractors, under Columbus City Code, are required to be licensed by the Department of Building and Zoning Services. Before permits can be issued and they are permitted to perform any work, they must be properly registered and licensed.

Home improvement work refers to the following types of work on an existing building or a portion of one:

  • Replacing
  • Repairing
  • Altering
  • Remodeling
  • Modernizing
  • Adding to
  • Converting

As noted above, this applies to a dwelling that is not used by more than three separate families. The addition of accessory structures, such as garages for homes of up to three families, is also included, but the building of a new home is not.

Basic Requirements for a Home Improvement Contractor License

The basic requirements for people who are applying for a home improvement contractor license are the exact same as the general contractor license. As listed above, they relate to age, nationality/residency, and level of experience. An ICC-accredited examination must also be passed as part of this application.

There are two exceptions to the work experience requirement. The first of these is if the applicant is already a registered engineer in Ohio specifically in the field of construction. The second is if the applicant is an engineering graduate with at least one year of experience in the home construction industry.

For the home improvement contractor license, the application fee is $185 annually.

Steps for Submitting a Home Improvement Contractor License Application

As with the general contractor application, applicants here are required to verify that they are in accordance with the requirements and to specify the scope of their work experience. The home improvement contractor application form must be downloaded, printed out, and properly completed. It must then be notarized so that it may be processed.

The payment, in the form of a check, must be made payable to “Columbus City Treasurer.” The completed application must then be delivered, along with the check, either by mail or in-person to the following address.

The Department of Building & Zoning Services
757 Carolyn Ave.
Columbus, OH 43224

As with the general contractor application, it must be received no later than seven days before the next Home Improvement Board meeting (again, this is the first Wednesday of every month).

Once the application is approved, the Board will send a certified letter that details the next steps in the application process. At this point, you should prepare the following documents:

  • Certificate of liability (minimum of $300,000 for damages to a single person/minimum of $500,000 for a single occurrence)
  • A bond in the amount of $25,000

An official bond form is included in the application packet.

Getting a General Contractor's License in Cincinnati

Cincinnati is the county seat of Hamilton County and the city itself is home to 310,000 people. With a metropolitan population of 2,250,000, it is the largest metropolitan area in the state and the 30th-largest in the United States.

Contractors are required to register under one of two different categories by the City of Cincinnati Department of Buildings and Inspections: either as a building construction contractor or as a home improvement contractor.

Building construction contracts are allowed to engage in the building of new structures (those intended for private use for as many as three families).

Home improvement contractors are responsible for supervising work to an existing structure (such as repairing, remodeling, adding to, or altering) a dwelling for up to three families. New home construction is not permitted under a home improvement contractor license.

Both the application procedure and fees are the same for each of the designations.

Requirements for a Cincinnati Contractor Registration

The following documents must be submitted in order to complete the contractor registration process in Cincinnati:

  • Proof of coverage for workers' compensation insurance
  • Certificate of liability insurance 
  • A signed Contractor Registration Assignment form is required (if registering as a business entity)
  • The registrant’s social security number (if registering as an individual)
  • The business's Federal Tax ID number (if registering as a business entity)

Steps to Register as a Contractor in Cincinnati

In the Cincinnati general contractor registration application, you will be required to provide information verifying that you fulfill the requirements and specifying your scope of work.

Once you have printed and filled out the application form, you must put it and all other relevant documents in a single envelope. This envelope must be mailed to the following address:

Buildings and Inspections Department
Contractor Registration
805 Central Avenue, Suite 500
Cincinnati, Ohio 45202

Business Registration in Ohio

Please also note that all businesses operating in the state must register with the Ohio Secretary of State. For more information on business registration and tax obligations, we recommend that you contact the Ohio Department of Taxation.

A business with employees is also required to have workers’ compensation insurance coverage. This should be either on a self-insured basis, through the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation, or through a commercial carrier.

Becoming a Contractor in Ohio

The above information breaks down how you can apply for and obtain a contractor's license in Ohio. There are many great benefits to becoming a contractor in Ohio. These include the potential to earn an excellent salary, more freedom in your work, and the fact that it is a flexible career path.

Having a contractor's license is not only the law, but it will help to bring you more customers. Having a license indicates to customers that you have the competence, experience, and knowledge required for their project.

Do you need help sorting out the steps to achieve your goal of becoming a licensed contractor within the state of Ohio? Click here to book a Start-Up Consultation with a licensing specialist that can help you navigate the complicated process.