Oregon requires that “anyone who works for compensation in any construction activity” obtain a license. The list of contractors who need a license includes roofers, carpenters, electricians, plumbers, home inspectors, and many more. While there are a few exceptions—like for gutter cleaning or power washing—the bottom line is that nearly everyone working in construction needs to go through the Oregon contractor licensing process.
Fortunately, obtaining a license is not difficult if you know the steps, like registering your business, getting insurance, and filling out an application. We’ve got all of the details you need, so read on if you’re looking to get licensed as a contractor in Oregon.
How to get an Oregon contractor’s license
Licensing for contractors in Oregon is handled by the Construction Contractors Board (CCB). There are a number of different licenses to choose from, and Oregon refers to each of these options as “endorsements,” which vary depending on the type of work you’ll be doing as well as the structures you plan to work on.
Keep reading for a quick overview of the process to get the proper endorsement that you need to do contract work in Oregon and protect your payment rights.
1. Complete pre-license training and take an examination
Before beginning the contractor licensing process, you are responsible for completing 16 hours of law and business training (called “Responsible Managing Individual” training or RMI for short). Once the training is complete, you must pass an open book test.
2. Determine your endorsement type
Your license specifies what kind of structures you are qualified to work on. With different endorsements, you qualify to work on different types of residential and commercial construction projects—but the qualifications and criteria for each endorsement vary. Contracting businesses can work on many different types of projects as long as they have the required endorsements, so some businesses may hold several endorsements at once. However, those businesses need to ensure they are fully bonded and insured for all of the different project types they work on.
Here are some of the endorsements that Oregon offers:
- Residential General Contractor (RGC)
- Residential Limited Contractor (RLC), will not exceed $40,000 in annual volume
- Residential Developer (RD)
- Commercial General Contractor Level 1 (CGC1), has eight years of construction experience
- Commercial General Contractor Level 2 (CGC2), has four years of construction experience
- Commercial Developer (CD)
- Residential Specialty Contractor (RSC)
- Home Services Contractor (HSC), home services warranty agreement
- Residential Locksmith Services Contractor (RLSC)
- Home Inspector Services Contractor (HISC)
- Home Energy Performance Score Contractor (HEPSC)
- Residential Restoration Contractor (RRC)
- Commercial Specialty Contractor Level 1 (CSC1), has eight years of construction experience
- Commercial Specialty Contractor Level 2 (CSC2), has four years of construction experience
A full list of endorsements—as well as bond and insurance requirements—is available on the Oregon Construction Contractors Board website.
Trade contractors, the process of applying for a contractor’s license is the same as for general contractors. Each company must have an RMI that takes the business class and passes the test.
Trade contractors need to have at least one licensed plumber, electrician, or technician, depending on the selected field. Trade contractors also need to pull separate business licenses as well.
Both individual and business licenses for trade contractors (electrical, plumbing, boiler, elevator, and manufactured dwellings) are issued through the Building Codes Division.
Landscaping contractors apply for licensing from the Landscape Contractors Board. The contractor must have two licenses, one for an individual and one for the company.
3. Register your business
You’ll need to file information about your business name and structure (e.g. sole proprietorship, LLC, or corporation) with the Oregon Secretary of State by following the steps listed on registering a business in Oregon.
4. Provide proof of insurance and bonds
In Oregon, contractor bond requirements are determined by whether the contractor is doing residential or commercial work (or a combination) in addition to the contractor’s trade being general, specialty, or limited. If a contractor is doing both residential and commercial work, they must hold two surety bonds.
Any contractor in Oregon needs both insurance and a surety bond to obtain a license. Here’s exactly what you need to submit:
- Proof of a CCB surety bond in the required amount. You can refer to the complete list of Oregon bond requirements.
- Evidence of general liability insurance in the required amount. Check the liability insurance requirements to ensure you have the right amount of insurance, which should list Construction Contractors Board as the Certificate Holder.
- Documentation of worker’s compensation insurance if you plan to have employees. Refer to the Oregon worker’s compensation insurance requirements for more details.
With proof of insurance, you’re ready to fill out your application for a license.
5. Complete an application
Fill out the correct application for your endorsement type, pay the application fee ($325 a two-year license), and be prepared to provide state and federal tax numbers for your registered business.
Use the following applications depending on your endorsement:
The CCB will process your application, and you can go through the renewal process when you’re license is set to expire.
Licensing in cities and municipalities
In Portland, the largest city in Oregon, contractors are required to register with Metro, which is a local government covering most of the Portland metropolitan area.
Companies must submit a form and pay a fee to be licensed, and then they are subject to additional income taxes and transit authority payments, based on how much work they do in the Portland area. Any company that performs work in Portland, no matter where they are located, has to be licensed with Metro and is subject to local taxes.
In Salem, the state capital, contractors are not required to have any additional licensing.
Many of the smaller cities and municipalities around the state require business licenses for contractors. They often need to be purchased before a company can pull permits on a project. The fees for these licenses are usually minimal and all that is required is to complete an application.
Always check the website for the city you’ll be working in for its specific licensing requirements.
Oregon contractor licensing penalties
Oregon contractor licensing requirements are taken very seriously by the state. State statute allows the Construction Contractors Board to assess civil penalties for companies that perform construction work without a license. Oregon Inspectors regularly visit job sites and gather the names of the companies working on site to confirm that they are licensed.
In addition, the principals of companies that work without a license are placed on a blacklist of sorts, and the Contractors Board encourages consumers not to hire them.
Do you need a license to file a lien in Oregon?
In order to perfect or collect on a mechanics lien in Oregon, the entity filing it must be a licensed contractor.
This does not apply to design professionals or other companies that have lien rights due to the type of work they provide.
Protecting your payments in Oregon
Since only licensed contractors can enforce their lien rights, it pays to get licensed in Oregon.
Residential contractors are required to provide preliminary notices at the time a contract is signed. The state has specific forms that must be used for these notices, which can be found on the CCB website.
In Oregon, most commercial contractors are not required to provide preliminary notices — but it’s a good idea to foster good communication and protect your payments from the get-go by sending a preliminary notice on every project, even if it’s not required.
Keep track of your lien deadlines as well: The deadline for filing a lien in Oregon is 75 calendar days from the last day worked on the job.
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