Operating a successful landscaping business in Tennessee requires proper licensing and insurance. This comprehensive guide provides an in-depth overview of everything you need to know about obtaining a new landscaping contractor license, renewing an existing license, maintaining insurance compliance, and licensing through reciprocity in Tennessee.

Obtaining a New Tennessee Landscaping Contractor License

To legally provide any landscaping services in Tennessee that are valued at $25,000 or more, individuals and companies must first obtain a specialty contractor license from the Tennessee Board for Licensing Contractors. Here is a detailed look at the process:

Establishing Eligibility for Licensure

To qualify for a landscaping contractor license in Tennessee, applicants must meet the following eligibility requirements:

  • Be at least 18 years old.
  • Be a United States citizen or be legally authorized to work in the country.
  • Have no felony convictions related to contracting work.
  • Have at least two years of experience providing landscaping services. This can include activities like lawn maintenance, tree trimming, planting, hardscaping, and more. Verifiable experience must be demonstrated through past employment records or client references.
  • Submit a financial statement prepared by a CPA demonstrating a net worth of at least $10,000.
  • Provide contact information for a reference who can attest to the quality of past landscaping work completed. This reference should be a client if possible.
  • Agree to maintain general liability insurance and workers compensation insurance (if there are employees on staff).

In addition to the standard eligibility requirements, the Board for Licensing Contractors may request a criminal background check or ask for more details during the application review process if any initial disclosures raise concerns.

Submitting an Application for Licensure

Once eligibility is established, the next step is submitting a complete contractor license application to the Tennessee Board for Licensing Contractors. Here are the key steps in the application process:

  • Complete the license application form in full. This includes business information, names of owners/officers/qualifying agent, past experience summary, and more.
  • Pay the $250 non-refundable application fee.
  • Provide a financial statement that was prepared and signed off on by a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). This demonstrates the applicant has an adequate net worth to operate the landscaping business.
  • Submit proof of general liability insurance coverage. Minimum policy limits of $100,000 are recommended.
  • Provide proof of workers compensation insurance if there are any employees.
  • Pass the Business and Law examination administered by PSI Exams. This is an open book test that covers topics like business organization, contracting, lien laws, labor laws, taxes, and other legal requirements. More exam details are provided later in this guide.
  • Submit contact information for the chosen reference who can vouch for past landscaping work.
  • Provide details on business structure – sole proprietor, partnership, corporation, or LLC.
  • Fully disclose any past issues related to contracting work, such as complaints, violations, disciplinary actions, previous license refusals/revocations, bankruptcies, or convictions. Omissions or false statements can be grounds for license refusal or revocation.

The Board recommends submitting applications by the 20th day of the month prior to the desired board review meeting. This allows sufficient time for processing and review. If approved, it takes approximately 4-6 weeks after board approval for the license to be issued.

Landscaping Contractor License Classifications

The Tennessee Board for Licensing Contractors issues landscaping contractor licenses in the following classifications:

  • Landscaping (HRA-E.1): This license covers typical landscaping services like planting trees, shrubs, and flowers. It also includes groundskeeping services such as fertilizing, mowing, trimming, debris removal, and more.
  • Landscaping and Erosion Control (HRA-E.3): This license allows all services covered under the Landscaping classification. It further authorizes services related to erosion control, sediment control, and hydroseeding.
  • Commercial Landscape Irrigation (HRA-E.4): This classification covers the design, installation, and maintenance of irrigation systems for commercial clients.

The license issued will include a monetary limit based on the financial standing demonstrated. All bids and contracts must be within this limit. Applicants can request a higher limit by submitting an updated financial statement.

Passing the License Exam

To obtain a landscaping contractor license, applicants must pass the Business and Law examination. This is an open book test administered by PSI Exams. Key details on the test process:

  • Available to take at PSI testing centers or remotely with online proctoring. There are multiple test centers located throughout Tennessee.
  • Time limit of 4 hours.
  • Covers topics related to business practices, construction law, lien laws, contracts, estimates, taxes, labor regulations, and other legal requirements.
  • Allows the use of approved references and resources during the exam.
  • $55 exam fee.
  • Study materials available through PSI’s website and third-party providers.
  • No limit on re-takes. Can retry after 15 days.
  • Score of 70% or higher required to pass.

Unless the applicant qualifies for a trade exam waiver through reciprocity (detailed later in this guide), no additional exams are required for a standard landscaping contractor license. However, supplemental classification exams may be necessary if seeking to provide specialized services like irrigation system installation.

Renewing a Landscaping Contractor License in Tennessee

Landscaping contractor licenses must be renewed every two years to remain active in Tennessee. Renewal applications can be submitted online through the state’s licensing system. Here are the key steps and requirements:

  • Submit the license renewal application before the expiration deadline. This is typically the last day of the month for the owner’s birthday.
  • Pay the $250 renewal fee. A late fee applies for renewals submitted after the expiration date.
  • Provide an updated financial statement prepared by a CPA.
  • Maintain general liability insurance and workers compensation insurance. Updated proof is required.
  • Complete 8 hours of continuing education (CE). 4 hours must cover business practices and law. The other 4 can cover any construction topic. Only Board-approved CE providers qualify.
  • Attest that business information like addresses, phone numbers, and staff is current. Update any changes.
  • Fully disclose any complaints, disciplinary actions, violations, or other issues that arose during the prior licensing period.

The Board will send courtesy renewal notices in advance of the expiration date. But ultimately, the license holder is responsible for renewing on time. Failure to renew by the expiration date can result in having to re-apply as a new applicant.

It’s advisable to start the renewal process 60-90 days prior to expiration. This provides time to obtain the needed financial statement, insurance certificates, and CE credits. Rushing through the application increases the odds of omitted information or errors that could delay approval.

Continuing Education Requirements

As part of renewal, landscaping contractors must complete 8 hours of continuing education (CE) covering board-approved topics over each 2-year licensing period. Specific requirements include:

  • 4 hours must relate to business practices, law, or safety
  • 4 hours can cover any construction-related subject
  • Only CE courses approved by the Board will qualify
  • Classroom, virtual, online, and correspondence courses are acceptable
  • Proof of completion must be submitted when renewing

The CE requirement helps ensure landscaping contractors stay up to date on legal compliance, safety, best practices, and emerging technologies. Renewal applicants are selected at random for CE audit, where they must provide certificates and evidence of actual attendance.

Obtaining a Tennessee License through Reciprocity

Tennessee offers license reciprocity to landscaping contractors already licensed in certain other states. This allows qualifying applicants to obtain a Tennessee landscaping contractor license without needing to pass the required Business and Law exam. However, all other application requirements still apply.

States with reciprocal licensing agreements for landscaping contractors include:

  • Alabama
  • Arkansas
  • Georgia
  • Louisiana
  • Mississippi
  • North Carolina
  • South Carolina

To get a Tennessee license through reciprocity, applicants must:

  • Hold an active landscaping contractor license from one of the approved reciprocal states listed above. A license in good standing is required.
  • Submit license verification from the originating state’s licensing board.
  • Complete the standard Tennessee licensing application and meet all other requirements.
  • Pay the standard licensing fees.

Reciprocity reduces redundancy for contractors already licensed in states with equivalent requirements. However, the license holder must still demonstrate sufficient financial standing, insurance coverage, bonding, and all other aspects to operate legally in Tennessee.

States not included on the reciprocity list require passing the Business and Law exam to obtain a Tennessee landscaping contractor license.

Bond Requirements for Licensure

Along with proper insurance coverage, landscaping contractors licensed in Tennessee must obtain a $10,000 surety bond that will remain in effect for the entire licensing period.

Surety bonds provide financial protection to consumers in the event the landscaping contractor fails to satisfactorily complete work according to the contract terms or fails to honor a warranty obligation. It can be used to assist with obtaining a refund or contracting another company to remedy any deficiencies.

Most insurance agencies and brokers can facilitate obtaining an appropriate surety bond. The Tennessee Board for Licensing Contractors must be listed as the certificate holder. Applicants can request a waiver of the bond requirement under select circumstances, such as providing contracted services only to commercial entities.

Insurance Requirements for Licensure

Landscaping contractors must carry adequate insurance coverage to maintain licensure in Tennessee, including:

  • General liability insurance: Covers third-party property damage and bodily injury caused by the landscaping business during operations. It protects the business in the event of claims or lawsuits. Tennessee requires a minimum of $100,000 in per occurrence and aggregate limits. Higher limits are recommended for larger companies.
  • Workers’ compensation insurance: Required for landscaping contractors that have employees. This covers medical expenses and lost wages for employees injured on the job. Tennessee requires all employers with 5 or more employees to carry this coverage.

Additional recommended policies include:

  • Inland marine insurance: Covers loss or damage to landscaping tools, equipment, and vehicles.
  • Commercial auto insurance: For company vehicles.
  • E&O insurance: Provides coverage for claims related to inadequate work or negligent actions that don’t involve bodily injury or property damage.

Both general liability and workers’ compensation (if applicable) are required for the initial license application and renewal. Tennessee also mandates that active insurance be maintained at all times and requires continuous reporting of coverage. Gaps in insurance or cancellations can lead to license suspension or revocation.


Becoming a licensed landscaping contractor in Tennessee involves meeting eligibility requirements, obtaining a surety bond, carrying proper insurance, passing the Business and Law exam, and renewing the license biennially. Following the proper application steps, maintaining insurance coverage, and renewing on time helps ensure full compliance with Tennessee’s contractor licensing regulations.

Key steps covered in this guide include submitting a complete license application with all requirements to the Tennessee Board for Licensing Contractors, passing the Business and Law exam or qualifying for a waiver through reciprocity, carrying adequate insurance, completing continuing education hours before renewal, and maintaining licensure in good standing.

Ensuring your landscaping business meets Tennessee’s licensing, bonding, and insurance requirements protects your company and demonstrates you perform services legally and ethically. This gives consumers confidence in using your services. With the proper license, insurance, and focus on quality work, your landscaping company can thrive in Tennessee for years to come.