Operating a landscaping business in Michigan requires proper licensing and insurance. This comprehensive guide provides landscaping contractors with extensive details on becoming licensed, renewing your license, reciprocity with other states, and insurance rules in Michigan.

Introduction to Licensed Landscaping Contractors in Michigan

Landscaping contractors offer services like lawn care, landscape design and installation, hardscaping, irrigation, tree care, snow removal, and more. To legally operate a landscaping business in Michigan, contractors must register with the state and meet licensing requirements.

Michigan regulates landscaping contractors through the Residential Builders and Maintenance & Alteration Contractors program. This program, administered by the Bureau of Construction Codes, licenses individuals and companies doing construction, improvement, or repair on residential properties.

Landscaping contractor licenses fall under the Maintenance and Alteration classification. This covers building, repairing, and improving landscapes around homes and residential buildings.

Benefits of becoming a licensed landscaping contractor in Michigan include:

  • Operating a compliant business that meets state licensing laws
  • Increased credibility and trust from potential clients
  • Ability to pull required permits for landscaping construction and improvement projects
  • Opportunity to expand your business across state borders through license reciprocity
  • Access to more public and commercial landscaping job opportunities
  • Ability to register as an approved contractor with certain home improvement financing programs

This comprehensive guide will explore all aspects of landscaping contractor licensing in Michigan, including:

  • Education requirements
  • Testing
  • License application process
  • Renewal process
  • Reciprocity
  • Bond requirements
  • Insurance requirements
  • Tips for maintaining compliance

Having a full understanding of Michigan’s landscaping contractor license rules will help you operate a legal and successful landscaping business.

Detailed Requirements to Become a Licensed Landscaping Contractor in Michigan

To become a licensed landscaping contractor in Michigan, individuals must meet education requirements, pass two exams, submit an application, meet moral character standards, and comply with any local rules. This section provides details on each requirement.

Education Requirements for Michigan Landscaping Contractors

Prior to applying for a landscaping contractor license, individuals must complete 60 hours of state-approved pre-licensure education.

The Bureau of Construction Codes maintains a list of approved landscaping contractor pre-licensure courses. You can take these courses through various providers like trade schools, community colleges, industry associations, municipalities, and online education platforms.

The 60 hours must cover the following topics:

  • Business Management, Estimating, and Job Costing – 6 hours
  • This covers business operations, estimating project costs, managing job expenses
  • Design and Building Science – 6 hours
  • This covers design principles, site planning, materials science
  • Contracts, Liability, and Risk Management – 6 hours
  • This covers contracts, liability issues, risk reduction
  • Marketing and Sales – 6 hours
  • This covers marketing your services, selling to clients
  • Project Management and Scheduling – 6 Hours
  • This covers managing landscaping projects and personnel
  • Michigan Residential Code – 6 hours
  • This covers building codes for residential settings
  • MIOSHA Construction Safety Standards – 6 hours
  • This covers workplace safety and health regulations
  • Electives – 18 hours
  • Any additional approved courses to obtain the required 60 hours

Completing pre-licensure education demonstrates baseline knowledge of business operations, landscaping principles, and regulations. Make sure to keep documentation showing you finished all required coursework.

Testing Requirements for Michigan Landscaping Contractors

After finishing pre-licensure education, landscaping contractor license applicants must pass two examinations:

Business and Law Examination

This tests your knowledge of legal compliance, consumer protection, business operations, risk management, estimating, and other professional practices.

Trade Examination

This covers technical knowledge specific to landscaping services. Topics include landscape maintenance, design, installation, materials, safety, and more.

Michigan contracts with PSI Exams to administer these computerized exams at approved testing centers across the state.

Once your license application gets approved, the state will contact PSI to authorize scheduling your tests. You can choose your testing location and take the exams on any business day. PSI charges separate exam fees.

Both the Business and Law and Trade exams contain multiple choice questions. You must pass each exam with a score of 70% or higher to qualify for a landscaping contractor license.

If you fail, you can retake the exam after 15 days. Make sure to properly study using available preparation materials and courses. Passing these exams demonstrates your competence to provide landscaping services professionally and safely.

How to Apply for a New Landscaping Contractor License in Michigan

The next step after completing education and passing required exams is submitting your license application to the Bureau of Construction Codes.

To apply for a new individual landscaping contractor license in Michigan:

  • Complete the Business License and Registration (LARA) application form
  • Pay the $100 non-refundable application fee
  • Submit your application to the Bureau of Construction Codes
  • Pass the Business and Law plus Trade examinations after approval
  • Receive final approval and issuance of your license

When completing the LARA application, you will provide information including:

  • Personal information
  • Education and experience
  • Criminal background
  • Bond documentation
  • Insurance documentation

Your license application serves as your affidavit affirming you meet Michigan’s moral character requirements. This involves disclosing details about your personal and professional background for review.

The Bureau of Construction Codes closely reviews all new landscaping contractor license applications. If approved, they will contact you to schedule your licensing exams with PSI.

After passing both exams and meeting all requirements, the Bureau will approve your application and grant your landscaping contractor license. Initial Michigan landscaping contractor licenses are valid for two years before requiring renewal.

To apply for a new business entity landscaping contractor license in Michigan:

The process for licensing a corporation, LLC, partnership or other business entity is similar:

  • Complete the Business License and Registration (LARA) application
  • Pay the $100 non-refundable application fee
  • Submit your application to the Bureau of Construction Codes
  • Designate an Authorized Representative to pass the licensing exams
  • Receive approval and issuance of license after Authorized Representative passes exams

The Authorized Representative must meet experience and moral character requirements and pass the Business and Law plus Trade exams. This demonstrates the business’ competence to offer landscaping services professionally.

Local Permitting and Licensing Requirements

Some Michigan cities, townships, and counties have additional permitting and licensing requirements for landscaping contractors.

Before operating, research any needed:

  • Local business licenses
  • Municipal registration or licensing
  • Permits required for certain landscaping work

For example, a city may require a permit to install a new irrigation system or construct a landscape retaining wall over a certain size. Stay compliant with local landscaping rules by checking municipal codes.

How to Renew a Landscaping Contractor License in Michigan

Landscaping contractor licenses in Michigan expire on May 31st each year. To continue operating legally, contractors must renew their state license annually.

Landscaping Contractor Continuing Education Requirements

As part of license renewal, landscaping contractors must complete 3 hours of continuing education:

  • At least 2 hours must cover updates to the Michigan Residential Code and other applicable building codes
  • The remaining hour can cover any state-approved topic, such as safety, business practices, new techniques, or materials

The Bureau of Construction Codes approves continuing education providers, which include trade associations, community colleges, municipalities, and online platforms.

When renewing your license, submit documentation showing you completed 3 hours of approved continuing education. Save certificates of completion or other records.

Continuing education ensures Michigan landscaping contractors stay up-to-date on codes, regulations, and industry best practices.

How to Renew Your Michigan Landscaping Contractor License

To renew an individual or business entity landscaping contractor license in Michigan:

  • Complete 3 hours of continuing education
  • Submit your renewal application to the Bureau of Construction Codes
  • Pay the $70 non-refundable renewal licensing fee
  • Provide any updated business information
  • Maintain compliance with local licensing requirements

You can submit license renewal applications 60 days prior to the May 31st expiration date. Make sure to renew on time, as late renewals incur an additional $30 late fee.

When completing renewal, double check that your application includes any changes to your business or license since the prior year:

  • Address changes
  • Additional insurance coverages
  • Bond updates
  • Different business structure
  • Authorized Representative changes for business entity licenses

Your license will display an “Expired” status starting on June 1st if not renewed. This makes it illegal to operate or market your landscaping services.

Renewing Local Landscaping Licenses, Registrations, and Permits

Remember to also renew any required local licenses, permits, or registrations needed to legally operate in Michigan municipalities.

For example, renew your local business license, commercial pesticide applicator permit, or contractor registration along with your state landscaping contractor license.

Staying current with state and local licensing ensures you remain legally compliant as a landscaping contractor.

Reciprocity Licensing for Out-of-State Landscaping Contractors

Landscaping contractors already licensed in another state can often get a Michigan license through reciprocity. This avoids needing to take Michigan’s two licensing exams.

Reciprocity involves submitting an application to Michigan showing you hold a current, valid license in another state. Requirements for reciprocity include:

  • Must hold an equivalent active landscaping contractor license in your home state
  • Your home state license must have been obtained by passing a state examination
  • Your license must be in good standing with no disciplinary actions
  • Submit a reciprocity license application to the Bureau of Construction Codes
  • Pay the $100 non-refundable application fee

Not all states have reciprocity agreements with Michigan. Contact the Bureau to verify your state meets the reciprocity requirements.

If approved for reciprocity, you still need to meet Michigan’s application requirements including:

  • Meeting moral character standards
  • Paying licensing fees
  • Obtaining a $10,000 surety bond
  • Carrying appropriate business insurance
  • Renewing the license yearly

Reciprocity allows qualifying out-of-state landscaping contractors to obtain a Michigan license without re-taking exams. This saves time and makes it easier to operate in multiple states.

Bond Requirements for Michigan Landscaping Contractors

All licensed landscaping contractors in Michigan must carry a $10,000 surety bond. This bond helps protect consumers financially if the contractor fails to fulfill their professional duties.

Common situations covered by contractor bonds include:

  • Failing to complete a landscaping project according to the client contract
  • Failing to honor warranties or guarantees
  • Damaging property and refusing to repair or compensate the client
  • Accepting payment for services and then abandoning the job

Contractors must obtain the $10,000 surety bond from an authorized surety company. When applying for a new or renewing a landscaping contractor license, submit documentation showing your current bond.

If a client claim gets filed against your bond, the surety company will investigate the complaint. If the claim is determined valid, the company will pay damages to compensate the consumer up to $10,000.

Maintaining an active surety bond signals to clients that your business is financially accountable. Bond requirements apply to both new and reciprocal landscaping contractor licenses.

Michigan Insurance Requirements for Landscaping Contractors

Operating a landscaping business in Michigan comes with significant risks and liabilities. Carrying proper insurance helps protect your company in the event of claims or lawsuits.

Michigan requires licensed landscaping contractors to carry two essential insurance policies:

General Liability Insurance

This policy protects your landscaping business against third-party claims alleging bodily injury or property damage. It covers legal defense costs and any compensation owed to customers or public members for covered claims.

General liability insurance should cover common landscaping risks like:

  • Customer injuries on a job site
  • Damage to client property during tree trimming
  • Third-party injuries from a stray fallen branch
  • Product damage from defective materials or poor drainage design

Michigan does not mandate specific general liability insurance minimums for licensing. But experts recommend carrying at least $1 million per occurrence to properly protect your business. Higher limits are wise if you take on large commercial projects or projects near water or roadways.

Workers’ Compensation Insurance

Workers’ compensation insurance provides benefits to employees who suffer job-related illnesses and injuries. This state-regulated policy covers:

  • Medical treatment costs
  • Temporary wage replacement benefits
  • Permanent disability awards if applicable
  • Rehabilitation services
  • Death benefits to dependents

Licensed landscaping contractors operating as corporations, LLCs or partnerships must carry workers’ compensation insurance under Michigan law.

Sole proprietors and partnerships without employees can waive coverage by filing an exclusion form. But it’s often wise to carry this policy voluntarily for owner protection.

Workers’ compensation insurance also protects your business from expensive claims. Make sure to maintain current coverage as part of your license compliance.

Tips for Maintaining Compliance as a Michigan Landscaping Contractor

Here are some important tips for staying compliant with Michigan’s licensing and insurance requirements as a landscaping contractor:

  • Prominently display your landscaping contractor license number on your website, advertisements, contracts, invoices, and vehicles per state law
  • Keep your surety bond and insurance policies active to avoid violations
  • Renew your state license prior to the May 31st annual expiration date
  • Complete 3 hours of continuing education yearly
  • Maintain any required local licensing, registrations, or permits
  • Avoid practicing outside your license’s scope of allowable landscaping work
  • Follow all regulations and best practices related to safety, materials disposal, pesticide use, and environmental impact
  • Accurately represent your landscaping contractor license and qualifications to consumers
  • Respond to client complaints promptly and fairly
  • Keep detailed project documentation and financial records

Following these tips shows your dedication to professionalism and helps builds a positive reputation. It also keeps your Michigan landscaping contractor license in good standing.


This comprehensive guide provided detailed information on successfully obtaining and maintaining a landscaping contractor license in Michigan.

Key steps covered included:

  • Meeting pre-licensure education requirements
  • Passing the Business and Law plus Trade examinations
  • Submitting your license application with fees
  • Complying with local permitting or licensing
  • Renewing your state license annually with continuing education
  • Securing license reciprocity if licensed in another state
  • Obtaining a $10,000 surety bond
  • Carrying appropriate insurance policies
  • Following best practices for staying compliant

Properly licensing your landscaping business demonstrates your commitment to professional standards. It allows you to operate legally and gain the trust of potential clients.

Use this resource as a reference when becoming a licensed landscaping contractor in Michigan. Reach out to the Bureau of Construction Codes with any additional questions.