Operating as a handyman in Michigan can be a rewarding career path that allows you to use your skills to help homeowners with projects around their properties. However, before getting started, it is important to understand the licensing and insurance requirements for handymen in the state. This comprehensive guide provides an overview of everything you need to know.

Introduction to Handyman Licensing in Michigan

In Michigan, handymen are considered contractors under the law. Any general contracting work valued at over $600 requires a state-issued contractor license. Handymen who only take on small jobs under $600 in value can operate without a license.

There are exemptions for certain types of minor work as well, including:

  • Drywall installation and repairs
  • Fencing installation and repairs
  • Awning installation
  • Sewer line, septic system, waterline, and sprinkler system repairs
  • Paver installation without mortar
  • Asphalt paving and repairs
  • House moving
  • Carpet and vinyl floor installation

However, handyman, electrical, mechanical, and HVAC work always require specialty licensing beyond the general handyman or contractor level. These jobs must be subcontracted to appropriately licensed professionals.

Operating without a license for jobs valued over $600 or requiring permits can lead to fines up to $25,000 and potential jail time. Understanding Michigan’s handyman licensing scheme is crucial to staying compliant with the law.

While handyman work may seem straightforward, licensing helps ensure that handymen have the proper training and carry insurance to protect homeowners. Licensing also allows the state to prevent unqualified or unscrupulous individuals from taking advantage of consumers.

Handyman License Requirements in Michigan

While there is no dedicated handyman license in Michigan, those looking to perform handyman services will likely need to obtain a Residential Maintenance and Alterations Contractor license. The requirements include:

  • Being at least 18 years old
  • Being of good moral character
  • Completing 60 hours of pre-licensure education courses
  • Passing a trade exam and business/law exam
  • Providing proof of general liability insurance

Education Requirements

Applicants must complete 60 hours of specific coursework in topics like:

  • Business management
  • Estimating and job costing
  • Design and building science
  • Contracts, liability, and risk management
  • Marketing and sales
  • Project management and scheduling
  • Michigan residential building codes
  • Construction site safety standards

All pre-licensure education courses must be approved by the state licensing board. This ensures handymen have high-quality training in relevant subject areas before obtaining a license.

Exam Requirements

In addition to education courses, handyman license applicants must pass a trade exam and a business/law exam. The tests are administered by a third-party company called PSI Exams.

The trade exam covers basic construction methods and concepts related to the work of a residential maintenance and alterations contractor. The business/law exam covers topics like licensing laws, worker safety, contracts, risk management, and more.

Passing both exams demonstrates proficiency in the technical skills and knowledge needed to operate as a licensed handyman. Those with prior experience but no formal training can study and pass the exams to meet the state requirements.

Character Requirements

Applicants must also be of good moral character to obtain a handyman license in Michigan. The state licensing board reviews criminal history and backgrounds to identify any past issues that may make an applicant unfit to hold a handyman license.

Those with criminal convictions in their past may have their license applications denied. Checking with the board before pursuing training and exams can help avoid wasted time and effort.

Insurance Requirements

General liability insurance coverage is the final requirement for licensed handymen in Michigan. This protects both the handyman and their clients in the event of damages or injuries related to their work.

Applying for a New Handyman License

Once all education, exam, character, and insurance requirements are met, applying for a new handyman license involves:

Step 1. Submitting a completed application and $195 fee to the Bureau of Professional Licensing. Applications can be found on the Bureau’s website and submitted by mail.

Step 2. Passing the required exams administered by PSI Exams. After the application is approved, PSI Exams will contact the applicant to schedule a time to sit for the trade and business/law exams.

Step 3. Providing proof of general liability insurance coverage. This is required for final license approval.

There are several PSI Exams testing locations around Michigan. Appointments are available 6 days a week. Exam fees range from $70 to $114 depending on the number of trade sections tested.

Once approved, the handyman will receive their official state-issued Residential Maintenance and Alterations Contractor license. This allows them to legally accept handyman jobs valued at over $600.

Maintaining a Michigan Handyman License

Handyman licenses must be renewed every 3 years prior to March 31st. To renew, licensees must:

  • Pay the $150 renewal fee
  • Complete continuing education courses

The number of continuing education hours required depends on how long the license has been held:

  • 21 hours of courses are required if licensed less than 6 years
  • Only 3 hours of courses are required if licensed for 6+ years

Continuing education helps ensure handymen stay up to date on building codes, safety standards, regulations, and industry best practices. Any courses approved for pre-licensure education can also count for continuing education.

Properly renewing with all requirements fulfilled allows the handyman license to remain active for another 3-year period. Failing to renew on time can lead to having to completely reapply and retake exams.

Reciprocity for Out-of-State Handymen

Michigan does not have reciprocity agreements with any other states when it comes to contractor or handyman licensing.

Regardless of current or prior licensing in other states, handymen seeking to operate in Michigan must meet the state requirements and apply for a new license.

The education, exams, character vetting, and insurance requirements apply to all new license applicants. However, handymen licensed in other states may be able to have some pre-licensure education hours waived if the courses closely align with Michigan’s curriculum.

It is still advisable for previously licensed handymen to apply for a full 60 hours of approved Michigan education courses. This helps ensure familiarity with the state’s specific regulations and building codes.

Either way, submitting a new license application and passing Michigan’s exams will be required. There are currently no shortcuts for getting licensed in Michigan based on out-of-state licensure.

License Bond Requirements

While most states require contractors to obtain license bonds, Michigan currently does not have a bonding requirement for licensed handymen or residential contractors.

The only insurance requirement written into the handyman licensing laws is to carry adequate general liability insurance. However, handymen can still choose to take out license bonds as an added layer of consumer protection.

Insurance Requirements for Michigan Handymen

General liability insurance is required by law for licensed handymen in Michigan. However, other types of insurance are also recommended:

Workers’ Compensation – Required by law for handymen with employees. Needed if there is 1 employee working 35+ hours a week or 3+ employees regardless of hours worked.

Commercial Liability – Covers liability risks for those working out of a home office or leased workspace. Often required by landlords.

Business Auto – Provides coverage for work vehicles used to transport tools and materials to job sites.

Professional Liability – Recommended to protect against errors and omissions that could lead to costly lawsuits.

Tool & Equipment – Reimburses stolen or damaged job site tools and equipment.

Adequate insurance helps reduce financial and legal risks assumed by individual handymen and small businesses. Shopping around for quotes and customizing a policy is advised.

Conclusion – Key Takeaways

Becoming a licensed handyman in Michigan involves meeting education and exam requirements, applying for a Residential Maintenance and Alterations Contractor license, and maintaining general liability insurance coverage.

Some key takeaways for handymen are:

  • Get properly licensed for any jobs over $600 in value
  • Take required pre-licensure education courses from approved providers
  • Pass the trade skills and business/law exams
  • Apply for licensing through the Bureau of Professional Licensing
  • Renew licenses every 3 years with continuing education
  • Consider getting license bonds and additional insurance

While there is no handyman-specific license, following the licensing steps outlined in this guide will allow you to legally and safely offer handyman services to Michigan homeowners. Taking the time to get properly licensed can give your handyman business credibility as you being your operations.