Illustration of phone showing North Dakota Contractor Licensing Guide

North Dakota legally requires any contractor working on jobs exceeding $4,000 to first obtain a license. Contractors include anyone performing construction, repair, alteration, or demolition work on roads or structures, including public, commercial, and private residential properties. 

Fortunately, North Dakota’s contractor licensing requirements are straightforward and generally involve an application, certificate of insurance, workforce safety training, and a filing fee. 

We’ll lay out all of the requirements below so that you can get your North Dakota contractor’s license and start taking on jobs. 

How to get a contractors license in North Dakota

There are just six simple steps to get a contractor’s license in North Dakota: choose a license, register your business, fill out an application, provide proof of insurance, present evidence of safety compliance, and pay a filing fee. 

We’ve got details about all of these steps below so you can get on your way. 

1. Determine what license you need

North Dakota offers four different contractor licenses—Class A, B, C, and D—that vary in the contract amount they allow for a single job. 

  • Class A: Contracts over $500,000. Filing fee: $450.
  • Class B: Contracts up to $500,000. Filing fee: $300.
  • Class C: Contracts up to $300,000. Filing fee: $225.
  • Class D: Contracts up to $100,000. Filing fee: $100.

In addition to a general contractor’s license, there are also specific licenses required for electricians, plumbers, and asbestos contractors

2. Register your business name with the Secretary of State

North Dakota requires that business entities (like sole proprietors, partnerships, and LLCs) register their business with the Secretary of State. Make sure you follow the state guidelines for business entity registration

3. Fill out a contractor license application

Use the North Dakota Online Services portal to register a business account and fill out the online contractor application. In addition to providing information about your business, you’ll also be required to provide a statement under oath testifying to your qualifications to work as a contractor.

4. Provide a certificate of insurance

Demonstrate that you carry insurance (including liability coverage) by providing a certificate that lists your business name. 

Additionally, the certificate holder should be listed as follows:

North Dakota Secretary of State

600 E Blvd. Ave. Dept 108

Bismarck, ND 58505

5. Present a statement from Workforce Safety & Insurance (WSI)

A statement from Workforce Safety & Insurance (WSI) demonstrates that you are in good standing with respect to workforce safety and insurance requirements. 

More information is available on the WSI website or by contacting WSI by phone at (701) 328-3800.

6. Pay the filing fee for your specific license

Depending on the license you’ve chosen, you’ll need to pay the corresponding filing fee. North Dakota accepts payment from major credit cards or checks made payable to the North Dakota Secretary of State. 

Learn more: Contractor license requirements for all 50 states

Who needs a contractors license in North Dakota?

Essentially, anyone who is working in a construction-related field (regardless of trade or specialty, public or private projects) must obtain a contractor’s license in North Dakota—unless none of their individual contracts are worth more than $4,000.

Do you need a license to file a mechanics lien in North Dakota?

While almost all contractors need to carry a license, the state doesn’t explicitly require licensing to file mechanics liens. This means that contractors who don’t carry licenses might be able to file a mechanics lien for unpaid work.

But, just because North Dakota doesn’t require a license to file a mechanics lien doesn’t mean you shouldn’t carry one. If you file a lien and the customer still doesn’t pay, you might have to foreclose upon the lien to get paid. Once you take the case in front of a foreclosure court, the court might not look so fondly upon your unlicensed status.

Learn more: North Dakota Mechanics Liens: Everything You Need to Know + Free Forms

Penalties for unlicensed contracting in North Dakota

North Dakota considers unlicensed contracting a Class A Misdemeanor. This means working without a license could result in steep fines and even jail time. 

So, even though an unlicensed contractor might retain lien rights, working without the appropriate contractor license is likely an unwise move.

Protecting your payments in North Dakota

The last thing you need as a new contracting business is a hit to your cash flow due to fines and fees. But, protecting cash flow requires more than just carrying the correct licenses. Contractors who plan to build successful businesses will also protect their payments by preserving their lien rights. 

North Dakota doesn’t have any requirements for contractors, subs, or suppliers to send a preliminary notice on jobs to preserve lien rights, but they should anyway. This document serves as a professional introduction between the contracting company and the project owner, informing them of who the company is and their role on the job. They also help put the company name in front of the people writing the checks.

While preliminary notices might not be a requirement, North Dakota does mandate that contractors, subs, and suppliers send a Notice of Intent to Lien at least 10 days prior to filing a mechanics lien for the lien to be valid. 

Should the preliminary notice or notice of intent not produce a payment, contractors must watch the 90-day deadline that North Dakota puts on mechanics liens. Contractors, subs, and suppliers have 90 days from last furnishing to file a lien for recovering payment.

Learn more: How to File a North Dakota Mechanics Lien | A Step-by-Step Guide

And enforcement is another animal altogether. Contractors, subs, and suppliers have up to three years from the date of filing to enforce a lien. That window can be significantly shorter, however, if the project owner files a Demand to Foreclose on the claimant. Things can get even dicier, as the state requires the claimant to file a Notice of Intent to Enforce at least 20 days before taking enforcement action. Truly, there is no time to spare when it comes to protecting payments in North Dakota. 

Getting licensed is simple and easy

Overall, the contractor licensing process in North Dakota is simple, easy, and relatively affordable. Getting licensed opens up the possibility for you to work on significantly more lucrative contracts, so the time to start is now.

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