Starting your own contracting business in Missouri is a big step, but being your own boss is full of rewards. You’ll be able to choose your clients, pick the type of projects you’d actually enjoy working on, as well as limit or expand your territory anytime you’d like. But even if you’re at the helm, there is one area that won’t be under your control: Missouri contractor licensing requirements.
It’s important to ensure your business is on the up-and-up right away, but launching a new company is a lot of work. This article will cover Missouri contractor license requirements so you can focus on building your business from the ground up.
Contracting in another state? Check out The Ultimate Guide to Contractors License Requirements in Every State.
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Who needs a contractor license in Missouri?
Here’s the trick: Missouri doesn’t require anyone to carry a state-issued contractor’s license. While that might seem like a free-for-all, that couldn’t be further from the truth. There are lots of requirements within the state — the state government just isn’t the one creating them. We’ll clear that up in a bit.
And, while the state might not require anyone to carry a contractor license, they do mandate businesses to register with the Secretary of State and possibly obtain a business license.
Do you need a license to file a mechanics lien in Missouri?
As a state, Missouri is fairly laid back about contractor licensing. With that in mind, it makes sense that the state’s mechanics lien laws do not explicitly require contractors to carry a license to file a mechanics lien.
But, just because filing a mechanics lien in Missouri doesn’t require a state-issued license, doesn’t mean the contractor is off the hook. If the contractor is handling work for which the state requires a license without holding that license, it could become an issue in court. If the contractor has to foreclose upon the lien, it’s unlikely that the court will look upon their unlicensed status fondly.
For that reason, Missouri contractors need to carry the appropriate licenses regardless of the state’s mechanics lien statute.
Learn more: Missouri Mechanics Lien Guide and FAQs
How to get a contractors license in Missouri
Getting a contractor license in the State of Missouri will depend on the type of work you do and the area you work in. The following sections will cover some of the most common areas and their requirements for common contractor types.
Missouri doesn’t make contractors carry licenses, but it does make businesses register with the Secretary of State. Sole proprietorships and general partnerships are exempt, but all other businesses (including any business operating under a fictitious name) must register.
Missouri makes the registration process as simple as possible. Contractors can head to the Secretary of State’s website and utilize the Business Portal to complete their registration online. The contractor needs to create a login, but the process is straightforward. Fees for registration are between $30 to $205, depending on the business structure and the number of partners registering.
How to get contractors license in Kansas City
Most contractors in Kansas City need to carry a license, and licensing is a function of the City Planning and Development- Development Services department. This agency requires applicants to submit an electronic application through its Compass KC system.
Kansas City has some basic requirements that contractors must meet, and they include:
- Be at least 21 years of age
- Hold a high school diploma or GED
- Provide adequate documentation of the required skills, knowledge, and experience
- Carry liability insurance coverage with a minimum aggregate limit of $1,000,000 per occurrence
- Must name the City of Kansas City, Missouri as additional insured
- Must also state the insurance company with notify the city of Kansas City, Missouri at least 30 days before changing or canceling the insurance, or 10 tend in the event cancellation due to nonpayment
- Obtain a business license from the Finance Department
Some contractors might also need to post a cash deposit with the city’s Finance Department. Also, each contractor must employ a full-time, qualified supervisor to oversee trade work. They’ll also have to choose one or more of the following license types:
- Demolition Contractor Class 1 and 2
- Electrical Contractor Class 1, 2, and 3
- Elevator contractor class 1, 2, and 3
- Fire Protection Contractor Class 1, 2, and 3
- Gas-Fired Appliance Contractor
- Mechanical Contractor
- Pipe Fitting Contractor
- Plumbing Contractor
- Residential Building Contractor
- Sign Contractor
Once all the requirements are met, contractors will be required to submit the license along with a $55 non-refundable application fee to the City Planning and Development -Development Services department.
How to get a contractors license in St. Louis
While St. Louis requires all contractors and subcontractors performing construction work of any kind within the city to obtain a license, the process is much simpler than other major cities. And while the city might refer to it as a license, it’s really more akin to a registration.
The requirements for application are fairly straightforward:
- Obtain a State Sales Tax Number from the State of Missouri (you can apply online, but this might not be more applicable to suppliers than contractors)
- Provide a certificate of worker’s compensation coverage or a notarized affidavit developed by the Missouri Department of Labor and Industrial Relations, Division of Worker’s Compensation
- Pay the applicable fees based on employees:
- 0 to 2 employees: $200
- 3 to 5 employees: $325
- 6 to 10 employees: $675, and so on
- Obtain a Statement of Clearance from the City’s Collector of Revenue
- Obtain an Occupancy Permit from the Building Division
Applicants will need to fill out this application and submit it to:
Office of the License Collector
1200 Market Street
City Hall, Room 102-104
St. Louis, MO 63103
How to get a contractors license in Springfield
Springfield is another city that prefers to use registration as a form of licensure. Generally speaking, all businesses working within the city limits need to register with the city’s Finance Department.
There are several applications that could apply to contractors working in Springfield, and choosing the appropriate application depends on the circumstances.
- For businesses operated from a residence within the city limits, complete the Residential Business License Application
- For businesses operated from a commercial location inside the city limits, complete the Commercial Business License Application
- For businesses with an address outside of Springfield but operating inside the city, complete the Outside Business License Application
- For businesses operating in Springfield for a brief, temporary period, complete the Temporary Business License Application
More than likely, the city will require applicants to carry both liability insurance and worker’s compensation insurance, but the city determines that on a case-by-case basis. The Finance Department will also determine the application fees.
How to get a contractors license in Columbia
Columbia, Missouri requires all businesses operating within the city to apply for a business license through the city’s Finance Department. And, while applicants can apply online through the Citizen Self Service portal, they can also complete and submit the paper form of this application as well.
Requirements are minimal. For electrical, plumbing, or mechanical contractors, the city mandates that applicants provide the name of a trade-licensed supervisor. Also, all construction industry businesses with one or more employees (not counting the business owner) must provide proof of worker’s compensation insurance. There are a few trade-specific requirements, as well:
- Plumbing contractors must carry a $10,000 surety bond
- Electricians must file a certificate of liability insurance
- Mechanical contractors must contact the Building and Site Development Division for up-to-date trade license requirements
Fees for application vary, but the general rundown includes:
- $30 application fee
- $17 background investigation fee
- The license fee is based on annual gross receipts:
- Less than $25,000: $15 fee
- Between $25,000 and $100,000: $25 fee
- Over $100,000: $0.25 per thousand
You can submit the application online or mail it in to this address:
City of Columbia
Business License Division
PO Box 6015
Columbia, MO 65205
How to get a contractors license in Independence
Independence, Missouri takes its contractor licensing very seriously. The city mandates that contractors apply, take the appropriate exams, and meet specific criteria. Licensing falls under the control of Community Development.
The licenses that Independence issues include:
- Class A General Contractor
- Class B Building Contractor
- Class C Residential General Contractor
- Class D Journeyman Electrical Contractor
- Class D Journeyman Mechanical Contractor
- Class D Journeyman Plumbing Contractor
- Class D Master Electrical Contractor
- Class D Master Mechanical Contractor
- Class D Master Plumbing Contractor
Among these licenses, Independence has some license-specific requirements to meet:
- Class A, B, and C:
- must provide a Certificate of Competency from within the last 5 years, with a score of 70% or higher, or
- or current Contractor License with Johnson County, KS, or another city with the same requirements (to be vetted by Building Official), or
- Bachelor’s degree in engineering, architecture, or construction science from an accredited college or university
- Class D Master:
- Certificate of Competency from within the last 5 years, or
- Current Contractor License with Johnson County, KS, or another city with the same requirements (to be vetted by Building Official)
- Class D Journeyman:
- Certificate of Competency from within the last 5 years, or
- Current Contractor License with Johnson County, KS, or another city with the same requirements (to be vetted by Building Official), or
- Documented proof of 3 years of related work activity as an apprentice or journeyman
Would-be contractors can start the application process online by using this application.
Penalties for unlicensed contracting in Missouri
Most of the rules and regulations around Missouri contractor requirements are determined by the individual municipalities throughout the state.
Along those same lines, those individual municipalities will also set their own fines, fees, and legal charges for contractors found contracting work without a license. Expect fines to accumulate for each day spent working without a license, and up to one year in jail for a first offense.
Protecting your payments in Missouri
While Missouri contractor licensing requirements are incredibly important, construction business owners have other points to keep in mind as well. For one, protecting cash flow by making your lien rights a priority is critical. In order to do so, contractors, subs, and suppliers need to keep their eyes on certain deadlines and documents that Missouri lien law requires.
As an example of the critical documentation and attention to deadlines, Missouri lien law requires contractors, subs, and suppliers to send certain notices. General contractors must send a disclosure notice to their clients before their first payment, otherwise, they give up their rights to a mechanics lien. Also, subs must send a Notice of Intent to Lien 10 days prior to filing a lien, and they must also have written consent from the owner before beginning work. For suppliers, 10 days before sending an NOI applies, but if the dispute involves equipment rentals, that deadline extends to within 15 days.
It’s also critical to pay attention to the deadline for filing a mechanics lien. For example, GCs and subs have up to 6 months from last furnishing to file a mechanics lien. For suppliers, the deadline to file a mechanics lien changes a bit; they have 6 months to file a lien, but only 60 days if the lien involves removing rented equipment — this could actually benefit the rental company, as it allows less time for equipment to “disappear.”
And it’s not just filing the lien that matters. Should the subcontractor continue to struggle to get paid, they need to keep their eyes on the deadline to enforce the lien. In Missouri, that deadline is 6 months from the date it was filed for contract tier participants. After that date, the deadline closes and the mechanics lien expires, leaving the contractor, sub, or supplier without the most powerful payment tool available to contractors: a mechanics lien.
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