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Should a Painter Have a License?

When you're having your home painted, it’s important to hire only topnotch contractors. Whether you’re painting a fence or changing the entire look of your interior, you want the most reliable service. For that reason, a contractor’s license plays an essential role in guaranteeing that your home is painted professionally. However, the answer to whether or not a painter should be licensed depends on your location. In most states a painting contractor is required by law to be licensed. One notable exception is cities like Austin and Houston, since the state of Texas only requires licenses for specialty contractors, such as HVAC professionals and plumbers. All businesses or individuals who construct or alter any building, highway, road, parking facility, railroad, excavation, or other structure in California must be licensed by the California Contractors State License Board (CSLB) if the total cost (labor and materials) of one or more contracts on the project is $500 or more. Contractors, including subcontractors, specialty contractors, and persons engaged in the business of home improvement (with the exception of joint ventures and projects involving federal funding) must be licensed before submitting bids. Licenses may be issued to individuals, partnerships, corporations, limited liability companies, or joint ventures.

Advantages of Having a Licensed Contractor

There are several important advantages to hiring a licensed contractor. For one, licensed contractors are regulated. In the event of a dispute between you and your contractor, the state licensing board can help resolve the issue because it has leverage over the contractor. If, however, you hire an unlicensed painter, you’ll have to deal with the problem on your own.

Further, licensed contractors are required to:

  • be bonded. Bonding works to protect you financially if the contractor does not complete the job you contracted for and you have to file a claim with your state contractors' board.

  • have liability insurance. Liability insurance ensures that there will be money to pay you should you file a claim against the contractor for faulty or unsafe work, property damage, or any other issue.

  • have workers’ compensation coverage. Workers' comp insurance ensures you will not have to pay costly medical bills and other large sums of money in the event of a worker getting injured while on the job.

License Description:

(Always confirm this information with the licensing agency.)

Requirements for a Contractor's License

Most states require contractors to undergo one or more exams in order to obtain a license. These tests cover a wide range of knowledge, including subjects such as construction laws, business organization and specific skills related to the contractor’s occupation. This verifies that your painter will be knowledgeable in his field’s techniques, materials, and ways of dealing with obstacles and difficult circumstances.

In some cases applicants also have to prove they have the financial means to run a contracting business. In addition, letters of reference from previous employers, bankers and others may be required. Several states, California for example, require a contractor to be fingerprinted and background checked in order to obtain a license. For certain advanced types of licenses, a contractor may have to demonstrate a certain number of years of experience. However, the exact details differ from state to state.

When You Hire a Contractor

Any unlicensed painter should raise eyebrows. Before you hire a painting contractor, ask to see his license and make sure it is up to date. Be sure to check his insurance certificate, as well. It’s also important to know that licenses in one state are not usually valid in others, so don’t accept an out-of-state license. Remember, you’re paying for service, so don’t settle on anyone until you’re satisfied.

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