In Washington, handymen are considered “specialty contractors” who perform minor repair and installation jobs costing less than $2,000. Any project above $2,000 requires a general contractor or specialty contractor license from the Washington Department of Labor and Industries.

While handymen themselves do not need to be licensed for small jobs under $2,000, they still must register as a business entity with the state and carry liability insurance. Understanding these requirements is crucial for operating legally and protecting yourself from liability.

Requirements for Licensed Handymen and Handyman Businesses

Here are the main requirements for legally operating as a handyman business in Washington:

  • Business Registration: All handyman businesses need a standard business license and tax IDs registered with the WA Secretary of State and Department of Revenue.
  • Specialty Contractor Registration: For jobs above $2,000, handymen must register with the WA Department of Labor and Industries as a “specialty contractor” in their trade.
  • Bond: Handymen must obtain a $6,000 specialty contractor surety bond. This bond helps protect customers if the work is faulty.
  • Insurance: General liability insurance of at least $200,000 in public liability and $50,000 property damage is required.
  • Permits: Building permits from local jurisdictions are required for certain jobs like electrical, handyman, and structural work.

Handymen can perform most minor repair, maintenance, and installation jobs under $2,000 without needing to register as a contractor or get licensed in a specialty trade. However, being registered and insured is still recommended for legal protection.

Obtaining a New Handyman Business License

Here are the step-by-step instructions for becoming a licensed handyman business in Washington:

1. Register your business entity

File with the Washington Secretary of State to establish your business structure (LLC, sole proprietorship, etc). You’ll receive a Unified Business Identifier (UBI) number.

Cost: $180

2. Obtain business licenses

Register your handyman business with the Department of Revenue and your local county/city. This allows you to legally operate.

Cost: $19-$24

3. Get a tax ID number

File for an Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the IRS to handle tax obligations.

Cost: Free

4. Purchase a specialty contractor bond

Obtain a $6,000 surety bond that protects customers if your work is deficient. Bond companies can provide this.

Cost: Varies

5. Obtain liability insurance

Purchase a general liability insurance policy for at least $200,000 public liability and $50,000 property damage. This protects against claims for property damage or bodily injury caused by your business.

Cost: Varies

6. Submit contractor registration application

File a specialty contractor registration application with the Department of Labor and Industries. You’ll need to provide your business registration details, bond, insurance, and pay the registration fee.

Cost: $124.70

7. Pay registration fee

The application fee for contractor registration is $124.70. This must be paid for your application to be processed.

Total Estimated Cost: $400-$500

This covers the essential licensing steps for becoming a registered handyman business in Washington authorized to perform small jobs. Always check your local county and city for any additional handyman licensing requirements.

Renewing a Handyman Business License

Handyman registrations through the Department of Labor and Industries are valid for two years in Washington. To renew, you must:

  • Pay the $124.70 renewal fee
  • Maintain an active $6,000 specialty contractor bond
  • Keep general liability insurance up-to-date
  • Submit any changes to your business structure or status

The renewal fee can be paid online, by mail, or in person. Make sure to renew before your registration expiration date to avoid penalties and suspension.

The surety bond and insurance must also be renewed when they expire. Let the Department of Labor and Industries know immediately of any changes to your bond or insurance by providing updated certificates.

If you fail to renew on time, you may have to pay a late fee of $55.70 in addition to the renewal fee to reinstate your registration. Allow 3-4 weeks processing time for mailed renewals.

Reciprocity with Other States

Unfortunately, Washington does not have any reciprocal licensing agreements for handymen or specialty contractors with other states. This means handymen registered in other states need to go through the full original application process to become licensed in Washington.

However, Washington may grant case-by-case reciprocal licensing for specialty contractors based on individual experience and credentials. It is recommended to contact the Department of Labor and Industries for guidance if you are licensed as a contractor in another state.

The Department will want to see proof of your current license and may ask about your work history and education. Reciprocity is not guaranteed and the Department will decide if your out-of-state license can be honored in Washington.

Bond Requirements

All registered handyman businesses in Washington need a $6,000 specialty contractor surety bond. This bond helps protect the customer if the work performed by the handyman ends up being faulty or needs repairs later on.

Instead of a surety bond, handymen have the option to get an Assignment of Account. This is a $6,000 cash deposit held by the state in place of the bond.

Bonds must be continuous and renewed along with your handyman registration every 2 years. The Department of Labor and Industries must be notified immediately of any changes or updates to your bond coverage while registered.

The bond protects the consumer if any of the following issues arise:

  • Faulty work that needs repairs
  • Code violations
  • Failure to finish a project
  • Damage to the property

Having adequate bond coverage is an important business requirement for licensed handymen in Washington. Make sure to factor the costs into your overhead expenses.

Insurance Requirements

At minimum, registered handyman businesses in Washington must carry:

  • $200,000 in public liability insurance
  • $50,000 in property damage insurance

Or a combined single limit policy for $250,000 can cover both public liability and property damage.

This protects your business in case of any property damage, injuries, or lawsuits that arise out of your work. It covers legal costs and any settlement payments.

General liability insurance policies for handymen should specifically include coverage for:

  • Third-party property damage
  • Bodily injury/medical payments
  • Personal injury
  • Completed work coverage

The Department of Labor and Industries must have a current certificate of insurance on file proving active coverage. Policies must be renewed before they expire to keep your registration valid.

Staying properly insured is a fundamental requirement for legitimately operating as a handyman in Washington. Make sure to work with an insurance agent familiar with contractor policies to get adequate protection.


While handymen in Washington do not need a license for small jobs under $2,000, registering as a contractor and carrying insurance is still recommended. This helps protect your business from liability.

Always research the latest requirements with your local county and city before advertising handyman services. Regulations can vary across jurisdictions.

The key steps covered in this guide include registering your business, obtaining a specialty contractor bond and insurance, submitting a contractor registration application, and renewing your license every two years.

Following Washington’s licensing and insurance rules ensures your handyman business operates legally and safely. Use this comprehensive resource when getting started as a licensed handyman in Washington.

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