If you’re considering starting a contracting business or taking on new projects in Utah, getting licensed is one of the first steps you’ll need to take. This guide to Utah contractor licensing requirements contains everything you need to know to do construction work legally in the Beehive State.
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Who needs a contractor license in Utah
A lot of Utah’s licensing requirements are confusing, but there’s one thing that’s clear: Just about every construction-related business needs to carry a license issued by the state. According to the Utah Construction Trades Licensing Act:
A person engaged in the construction trades licensed under this chapter, as a contractor regulated under this chapter, as an alarm business or company, or as an alarm company agent, shall become licensed under this chapter before engaging in that trade or contracting activity in this state unless specifically exempted from licensure.Section 58-55-301
Simply put, if you’re running a business related to the construction trades, you need a license.
How to get a Utah contractors license
There are many license types available to contractors in Utah, and they all go through the Department of Occupational and Professional Licensing (DOPL). While you’d think having all those licenses under one roof would make licensing a breeze, it’s not that straightforward.
A General Contractor’s license isn’t just a general contractor’s license in Utah. There are seven categories a general contractor could fall into, including:
- B100 – General Contractor
- R100 – Residential/Small Commercial Contractor
- E100 – General Engineering Contractor
- P200 – General Plumbing Contractor
- P201 – Residential Plumbing Contractor
- E200 – General Electrical Contractor
- E201 – Residential Electrical Contractor
To apply for any of these general contractor licenses, you must meet the following requirements:
- Complete a 30-hour pre-licensure course through Associated Builders and Contractors Inc, Utah Home Builders Association, or Associated General Contractors of Utah.
- Carry a general liability insurance certificate with coverage of $100,00 for each incident and $300,000 in total, with DOPL listed as the certificate holder.
- Register your business entity with the Utah Division of Corporations
- Obtain a Federal EIN from the IRS
- If you have employees, carry workers compensation insurance, unemployment registration from the Utah Department of Workforce Services, and state withholding tax registration from the Utah State Tax Commission.
- Possess two years of experience in the construction industry. This means accumulating 4,000 hours of paid work experience at any time in your life in the industry.
- Pass a two-part examination consisting of Utah Business and Law as well as industry-specific questions (view the exam handbook for more info); OR possess one year of licensed experience in another state; OR be a qualifier on a Utah Contractor License prior to May 9, 2017. (Note: The exam is offered in both English and Spanish.)
- Plumbing and electrical contractors must have a Master-level license holder on staff as well.
Once you have all of those requirements in the bag, you’ll be able to fill out this application and send it to DOPL for review.
Specialty contractors have similar hurdles to jump through on their way to licensing in Utah. And there are even more license types available for these contractors:
- S202 – Solar Photovoltaic Contractor
- S220 – Carpentry & Flooring Contractor
- S230 – Masonry, Siding, Stucco, Glass, and Rain Gutter Contractor
- S260 – Asphalt & Concrete Contractor
- S270 – Drywall, Paint, and Plastering Contractor
- S280 – Roofing Contractor
- S310 – Foundation, Excavation, and Demolition Contractor
- S330 – Landscape & Recreation Contractor
- S350 – HVAC Contractor
- S354 – Radon Mitigation
- S370 – Fire Suppression Systems Contractor
- S410 – Boiler, Pipeline, Waste Water, and Water Conditioner Contractor
- S440 – Sign Installation Contractor
- S510 – Elevator Contractor
- S700 – Limited Scope Contractor
The only significant change in the process from the general contractor requirements listed above is that the pre-licensure course is only 25 hours. In fact, even the application is the same.
Penalties for unlicensed contracting
As you might’ve guessed from the volume of license types and the stringent guidelines, Utah takes its contractor licensing requirement very seriously.
According to Utah Code 58-55-501 et seq., being caught contracting without a license is punishable with a fine of up to $1,000. Second offenses can cost as much as $2,000. Any further issues can cost you as much as $2,000 per day spent contracting without a license.
That’s a lot of scratch; It’s probably best to just get a license and keep the state off of your back.
Do you need a license to file a lien?
Utah’s mechanics lien law doesn’t explicitly require contractors to carry a license as a condition to file a lien if payment doesn’t come through on a project. With that said, it’s never a good idea to contract for work that requires a license if you don’t hold one.
Consider this: Even though the law doesn’t prevent you from filing a lien, you might have to foreclose on it. How fondly will the court look upon your case if you’re working without a license even though the state requires one? The best advice is to carry any license the state requires before you start work on a project.
Protecting your payments in Utah
It would be a shame to lose out on thousands of dollars for something as silly as not carrying the license required by the state. It would be a downright travesty to lose out on your payments simply because you didn’t protect them and preserve your right to a mechanics lien. And to do so, Utah contractors need to keep their eyes on some specific deadlines.
Whether you’re a general contractor, a sub, a specialty trade, or a supplier, you’ll have to send a preliminary notice in order to protect your right to a mechanics lien. Regardless of the tier, Utah gives you up to 20 days to send your notices. But don’t look at this step as just another requirement: Preliminary notices serve as a professional introduction between your company and the folks writing the checks — those are the people you want to remember your name.
Should a payment dispute arise, all contracted tier levels have up to 90 days from notice of completion to file a mechanics lien. If the notice isn’t filed, contractors may extend that window to 180 days from completion of work — a deadline that could be tricky on larger, long-running projects. Past that 180-day mark, it’s too late to file a lien.
Finally, if the payment dispute doesn’t pan out favorably, contractors might have to enforce the lien. All tiers have up to 180 days from the date that they filed the lien. And you’ll also have to file a lis pendens with the county where the embattled property is located.
Regardless of the type of contractor or the tier level, it’s important to understand that Utah isn’t messing around with its licensing requirements or mechanics lien laws. But if you stay on the right side of both of them, you’ll be able to run a legitimate, prosperous business for years to come.