How to Become a Contractor in New Jersey

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Here’s everything you need to know about how to become a contractor in New Jersey. Learn the licensing, registration, and bonding requirements for New Jersey contractors, and contact Surety Bond Professionals for all of your bonding needs today.

Who Needs a Contractor’s License?

In New Jersey, general contractors are registered, not licensed, except for certain specialty subcontractors, such as master plumbers and electrical contractors. Specialty subcontractors typically must be licensed in their own profession before registering as a contractor.

Some municipalities issue licenses to contractors working in their jurisdictions, but a local license does not exempt a contractor from the statewide registration requirement. Registration of contractors is handled by the state’s Division of Consumer Affairs, which is part of the Office of the Attorney General.

Definition of Contractor

In New Jersey, a “contractor” is broadly defined as anyone who is involved in selling or making home improvements to residential dwellings and surrounding property. In fact, the term “contractor” is synonymous with “home improvement contractor,” which is the term used in most of the registration regulations and documentation.

Two elements of that definition require a bit more explanation:

  • “Anyone” includes sole proprietors, partnerships, LLCs, corporations, or any other type of business organization.
  • “Home improvements” includes remodeling, altering, installing, renovating, restoring, moving, demolishing, or modernizing any residential structure or the land it sits on. Mowing lawns and pruning bushes does not require one to register as a home improvement contractor, but laying sod or planting bushes does.

Failure to Register

Failing to register appropriately as a contractor in New Jersey carries a civil penalty of up to $10,000 for the first offense and $20,000 for all subsequent offenses. Knowingly choosing not to register is a crime that carries additional fines and possible jail time.

The Registration Process

To register as a general contractor with the state of New Jersey, you must:

  1. Download the application form on the Division of Consumer Affairs website (or call the Division and ask to have one mailed to you).
  2. Complete the application, including the Disclosure Statement page.
  3. Submit the completed application, along with copies of all other required documents.
  4. Submit proof of general liability insurance in the amount of $500,000 per occurrence.
  5. Pay the $110 registration fee, which is non-refundable.

Unlike many states, New Jersey does not require any proof of a general contractor’s education or industry experience.

Registration Number

Upon completion of the registration process, the contractor receives a certificate and registration number rather than a license. New Jersey law requires the registration number to be included on all advertising materials, correspondence with consumers, business vehicles, and any contracts or business documents. The original certificate must be displayed in plain view in the contractor’s place of business.

Registration Renewals

All registrations must be renewed annually, before March 31. Renewing a registration requires payment of a renewal fee.

Licensing of New Home Builders

Not all general contractors are home improvement contractors. Some contractors specialize in new home construction. In New Jersey, only general contractors who perform new residential construction and provide financing need to be licensed. Licensing of contractors in this category is done by the state’s Department of Banking and Insurance, and the application is available on the DOBI website. Note that licensing of contractors in this category is in addition to—not instead of—registration with the Division of Consumer Affairs.

Is a Contractor’s License Bond Required?

Some New Jersey municipalities require contractors to obtain a surety bond in conjunction with the issuance of a local license. For example, Jersey City requires a $15,000 contractor’s license bond. However, there is no surety bond requirement at the state level.

Get Bonded Today

The Surety Bond Professionals Team

If you’re one of the contractors who needs to obtain a surety bond to do business in New Jersey, the construction bonding experts at Surety Bond Professionals are here to help you. Even if you’re not required to get one, being bonded shows potential clients that you take your business responsibilities seriously and are committed to meeting their needs. Contact us today to request a quote or discuss your bonding needs.