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Starting a contracting company is an exciting time for any Indiana contractor. You’ll be the boss, so choosing the projects, workforce, and customers you want to work with is up to you. One area you won’t have much control over is how to go about getting a contractor license in Indiana.

But getting a business off the ground takes a lot of time and resources. You might not have the bandwidth to figure out all the requirements around contractor licenses in Indiana. This guide will help streamline the process as it explains which licenses you need and how to get them.

Need a contractor license outside Indiana? Check out The Ultimate Guide to Contractors License Requirements in Every State.

Who needs a contractor license in Indiana?

Indiana handles licensing differently than most other states. Instead of the state overseeing all the contractor licensing, the individual municipalities handle them. Generally speaking, this means contractors need to head to the seat of each county in which they plan to work. It’s up to those municipalities to determine who needs a license and who doesn’t.

The one exception to this rule is plumbing contractors. We’ll go over this in more detail in a bit, but the state does control plumbing contractor licensing.

Do you need a license to file a mechanics lien in Indiana?

There is a benefit of the state relegating control to the municipalities: Indiana’s mechanics lien law makes no specific requirement for licensing in order to file a lien. With that said, it’s never a good idea to contract for work without a license if the local municipality requires one.

If you’re performing work without the proper license, you may be able to file the mechanics lien, but enforcing it could be an issue. If you have to take the case to court, it’s unlikely that the court will look fondly upon your licensing status. That could hurt your chances of recovering all of your cash.

Filing a lien in Indiana? Check out How to File a Mechanics Lien in Indiana – Step by Step Walkthrough.

How to get a contractor license in Indiana

Other than plumbing contractors, licensing is handled at the local level. The following sections will go over business licenses (which are different from contractor licenses), getting a plumbing license, and the routes to go for licensing in the most populated areas of the state.

Business license

Regardless of the type, all businesses in Indiana must register with the Indiana Secretary of State. Business owners can handle the entire process online. All that’s required to start registering is to head to the Secretary of State’s portal, create a login, and complete the registration application online.

State-issued plumbing contractor licenses

Plumbing contractors are the only contractor types that need to pursue licensing through the state. Licensing for plumbing contractors in the State of Indiana goes through the Indiana Professional Licensing Agency. 

Licensing is relatively straightforward. Applicants will head to the state’s MyLicense portal and create a login. From there, the requirements for licensing are:

  • Be 18 years or older
  • Complete the online application
  • Pay the application fee of $50 (credit or debit card for online applications, checks or money orders for mail-in applications)
  • Fill out the appropriate section of the paper application:
    • Approved apprenticeship school section with sponsor signature and current/active plumbing license
    • Out-of-State Licensed Plumber section with current plumbing license showing four years of experience in the plumbing trade (or a notarized Affidavit of Experience in Plumbing Trade from the applicant’s employer)
    • Experience in Plumbing Business section describing sufficient experience in the trade

The first four questions on the paper applications concern disciplinary actions, license denials, arrests, and conditional or impairments. If you answer “yes” to any of those questions, you’ll have to provide an affidavit detailing the situation, the outcome, the date of occurrence, malpractice details, and court documents or arrest records.

Getting a contractor license in Indiana: Municipality-specific rules

Contractor licensing in Marion County, Indiana

Most of the licensing in Marion County goes through the consolidated City of Indianapolis Department of Business and Neighborhood Services. Indianapolis requires general contractors, electricians, HVAC, and many other contractors to carry licenses. All licenses require this application.

General contractors

General contractors planning to work in Marion County have some specific requirements to meet. They include:

  • A license fee of $247, $185, or $124, depending on the time of year
  • DBAs must register with the city prior to application
  • Completed application signed by the sole proprietor, a partner, or an officer of the corporation
  • General liability insurance certificate valued at:
    • At least $500,000 for each occurrence of death or bodily injury
    • At least $100,000 for each occurrence of property damage
    • Or a combined policy with a minimum of $500,000 per occurrence
  • A surety bond certificate of at least $10,000 with “Consolidated City of Indianapolis and/or Unknown Third Party” as obligee
  • Proof of workman’s compensation insurance or a waiver if you do not have employees

Electrical, HVAC, and wrecking contractors

Many of the requirements for electrical, HVAC, and wrecking contractors are the same as general contractors — with a few slight twists. The requirements are: 

  • Must employ one trade license holder who has taken the required examination and list them on the application
  • Pay the license fee:
    • New businesses: $247, $185, or $124, depending on the time of year
    • New individual: $377, $283, or $189, depending on the time of year
  • DBAs must register with the city prior to application
  • Completed application signed by the sole proprietor, a partner, or an office of the corporation
  • General liability insurance certificate valued at:
    • At least $500,000 for each occurrence of death or bodily injury
    • At least $100,000 for each occurrence of property damage
    • Or a combined policy with a minimum of $500,000 per occurrence
  • A surety bond certificate valued at:
    • $10,000 for electrical contractor
    • $5,000 for HVAC contractor
    • $30,000 for Wrecking Type A contractor
    • $20,000 for Wrecking Type B contractor
    • $10,000 for Wrecking Type C contractor
      • “Consolidated City of Indianapolis and/or Unknown Third Party” listed as obligee for all license types
    • Proof of workman’s compensation insurance or a waiver if you do not have employees

Contractor licensing in Lake County, Indiana

Contractors who plan to work in Lake County, Indiana, will have to pursue licensing through the county government. Specifically, licensing is a function of the Planning Commission.

General contractors, electrical contractors, plumbing contractors (registration only), and HVAC contractors will apply for licensing using this application. The requirements are relatively straightforward, including:

  • Fill out the application completely, and submit it with a $300 licensing fee
  • Attach two colored passport photos
  • Notarized endorsements
  • Pass the written examination with a score of 76 percent or better

The application requires:

  • Applicant’s name
  • Business name and address
  • Federal Tax ID Number
  • License type including specialty if applicable
  • Proof of property and liability insurance policy with coverage of at least $500,000 or an umbrella policy worth $1,000,000
  • A surety bond of at least $5,000
  • Proof of workman’s compensation insurance
  • Describe ength of service in contracting business in Lake County, Indiana
  • Two endorsements from residents of Lake County that can verify your work experience

Contractor licensing in Allen County, Indiana

Contractors working in Allen County will have to pursue licensing through the county Building Department. The county doesn’t make applications readily available online, but it does provide a 37-page copy of rules and regulations for download.

The Allen County Building Department requires several types of contractors to carry a license, and the department has several designations. It offers licenses for:

  • General Contractors
  • General Contractor Superintendent Registration (required to oversee a project)
  • Building Contractors for commercial and multi-family builders
  • Building Contractor Superintendent Registration (required to oversee a commercial project)
  • Residential Contractor License
  • Residential Contractor Superintendent Registration (required to oversee a residential project)
  • Home Improvement Contractor License (repair, alteration, and improvement of one and two-family dwellings)
  • Subcontractor Licenses:
    • Concrete
    • Masonry
    • Roofing
    • Demo
    • Drywall
  • Electrical Contractors License
  • Plumbing Contractor Registration
  • HVAC and Duct System Contractors

The fees for each license type vary:

  • General Contractor: $90
  • General Contractor Superintendent: $25 
  • Building Contractor: $90
  • Building Contractor Superintendent: $25 
  • Residential Contractor: $60
  • Residential Contractor Superintendent: $25 
  • Home Improvement Contractor: $60 
  • Electrical Contractor: $90
  • Plumbing Registration: $25
  • HVAC Contractor: $90

Contractor licensing in St. Joseph County, Indiana

Most contractors working in St. Joseph County, Indiana need to pursue a license. Since the City of South Bend, Indiana is the county seat, its Building Department oversees licensing within the county. 

General contractors

General contractors will need to register as Building Contractors. They’ll use this application, and the requirements are:

  • Complete Pre-Licensing Registration form in the application
  • Carry a surety bond
    • Must be for a one-year period
    • The amount must be at least $5,000
    • Must name the City of South Bend/St. Joseph County as the obligee
    • Bond form must indicate “building contractor”
  • Proof of worker’s compensation insurance
  • Register with the State of Indiana Secretary of State
  • Pay $125 annual fee

Electrical contractors

Electrical contractors have a choice between two license types: Class A and Class B. Class A would apply for typical electrical contractors, while Class B includes industrial electrical work. Requirements for both licenses are:

  • Complete this application and submit a photo ID
  • Be at least 21 years old
  • Provide a statement from a local Police Department indicating misdemeanor and felony convictions
  • Have at least four years of experience in the installation, repair, and maintenance of residential, commercial, or industrial electrical wiring. 
  • Submit a letter of reference from each contractor on the application verifying apprenticeship
  • Submit a $50 application fee
  • Provide a surety bond
    • Must be for a one-year period
    • The amount must be at least $5,000
    • Must name the City of South Bend/St. Joseph County as the obligee
    • Bond form must indicate “electrical contractor”
  • Proof of worker’s compensation insurance
  • Register with the State of Indiana Secretary of State
  • Pay $125 annual fee

HVAC Contractors

HVAC contractors have very similar requirements as electrical contractors, from the fees and experience down to the bond and the amount required. The forms are different, however, as HVAC contractors must use this application.

Penalties for unlicensed contracting in Indiana

Since almost all the contractor licensing requirements in Indiana fall on individual municipalities, penalties for not playing by the rules vary. Each individual county or municipality can issue fines and penalties, as well as classify unlicensed contracting as a criminal act as they see fit.

Protecting your payments in Indiana

Beyond the licensing requirements of the individual municipalities, contractors have other important issues to keep in mind. For instance, protecting their cash flow by prioritizing their lien rights is a key to a growing, thriving business. Without cash flow, it’s hard to keep the lights on.

Indiana requires subcontractors and suppliers to send a preliminary notice on all residential projects in order to maintain their lien rights. For new projects, they have up to 60 days from first furnishing to send their notice. If it’s a renovation project, subs and suppliers have only 30 days. Project participants on commercial projects and general contractors on any project type aren’t not required to send a preliminary notice.

Learn moreIndiana Notice to Owner: Guide + Free Forms

Contractors, subs, and suppliers have another critical deadline to keep their eyes on: the deadline to file a mechanics lien. For all project participants, this deadline is either 60 or 90 days from last furnishing of labor or materials. The 60-day window applies to residential projects, while the 90-day window applies to non-residential projects.

Also, Indiana gets a bit tricky with the deadline to enforce liens. In most cases, contractors must initiate their enforcement action within one year. However, if the property owner sends a Notice to Foreclose, that deadline can be shortened to 30 days. If the contractor isn’t prepared to begin foreclosure within that window, it will render the lien null and void.