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Vermont is known for a lot of things: maple syrup, cheddar cheese, Ben and Jerry’s ice cream, and beautiful fall foliage. What better state could exist as a base for your contracting business? But there’s more to starting a construction company in Vermont than lettering a pickup truck and hanging up a sign. You’ll have to ensure you’re playing by Vermont contractor license regulations and rules.

But regardless of the state you live in, starting a business is hectic and busy. And sorting through tons of web searches to decipher which rules apply and which don’t is a waste of time. This guide will help you avoid that, as it pulls all of the most important and applicable Vermont contractor license regulations into one post.

Working in another state? Check out the Ultimate Guide to Contractor Licensing in Every State.

Who needs a contractor license in Vermont?

The first thing Vermont contractors have to determine is if they even need a state-issued license. And the answer to that question? It depends.

When it comes to general contractors, the State of Vermont doesn’t issue or require GCs to carry a license. However, for some specialty trades like electrical and plumbing contractors, there are licensing requirements that they must meet.

And just because there aren’t state-issued licenses for general contractors and most sub-trades doesn’t mean that these contractors are off the hook. Some counties and municipalities might have their own requirements that contractors have to meet in order to work within their borders (though even these regulations can be a bit lax in The Green Mountain State).

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

Vermont isn’t the only state that prefers to take a more hands-off approach to contractor licensing. And, like Vermont, such states are pretty relaxed regarding mechanics lien laws and licensing. In fact, Vermont’s mechanics lien laws make no specific requirements about licensing, meaning unlicensed contractors do potentially have lien rights.

But just because you have lien rights doesn’t mean you should skirt the licensing process. Consider this scenario: You’re performing work that requires a license, but you don’t have one. You take a contract to completion, but the project owner refuses to pay. You’re able to file a mechanics lien, but the owner still won’t pay. Should you have to enforce your lien in court, how will that court look upon your unlicensed status as you attempt to foreclose on someone’s property? Probably not fondly. 

How to get a contractor license in Vermont

For the trades that require them, getting a contractor license in Vermont involves a combination of experience, examination, and paperwork. Lots of paperwork. 

But here’s the kicker: While the following licenses are required by the state, they aren’t contractor licenses at all. They’re trade licenses, and they’re required to perform the work involved in that trade. So while they’re not contractor licenses, they’re absolutely required to run certain contracting businesses in Vermont.

Plumbing contractors 

Licensing for plumbing contractors in Vermont is a function of the Department of Public Safety Division of Fire Safety. This agency regulates all plumbing licenses, from apprenticeship through mastery.

Plumbing work in the state of Vermont must be performed under the supervision of a master plumber. This means that a plumbing contractor must either be a master plumber or employ someone who carries a master-level license. 

To apply for a master plumber license, the applicant will have to fill out this application and meet the following requirements:

  • Hold a Vermont journeyman license for at least 12 months, or one of the folllowing:
    • Hold an out-of-state journeyman license for at least 12 months, proving schooling and experience
    • Hold an out-of-state license equal to the Vermont master license, proving schooling and experience
    • Hold a reciprocal military license with proof of required courses and 12,000 hours of experience
    • Provide proof of documented successful completion of instruction with at least 14,000 hours of experience
  • Legal identifying information, including name, date of birth, Social Security information, and mailing address
  • Employment information as it pertains to the licensing requirements
  • References to qualifications
  • Education information
  • Experience
  • Affidavit of Applicant, including signed and notarized application
  • Answer compliance questions regarding background and child support
  • Complete Employer Affidavit of Experience
  • Pay $120 initial application fee

Electrical contractors

Like plumbing contractors, electrical contractors in Vermont need to pursue licensing through the Department of Public Safety Division of Fire Safety. This division handles all levels of electrical licensing.

Contractors performing electrical work in the State of Vermont must work under the supervision of a master-level electrician. The person who carries the license can be the company owner, a company officer, or an employee.

The process of getting a master-level electrician license is relatively straightforward. First, applicants will have to complete this application, and the requirements are:

  • Hold a Vermont electrical journeyman license for two years, proving your qualifying experience, or one of the following:
    • Provide proof of a Maine or New Hampshire master-level license for reciprocity
    • Provide a certified letter from the issuing state for a universal reciprocity license, and prove any schooling required for the license
    • Provide military documents proving 12,000 hours of experience for military reciprocity
    • Provide proof of 16,000 hours of experience through Employer Affidavit (supplied with the application)
  • Legal identifying information, including name, date of birth, Social Security information, and mailing address
  • Employment information as it pertains to the licensing requirements
  • References to qualifications
  • Education information
  • Experience
  • Affidavit of Applicant, including signed and notarized application
  • Answer compliance questions regarding background and child support
  • Complete Employer Affidavit of Experience
  • Pay $150 initial application fee, which is good for three years

How to get a Vermont contractor’s license at the local level

Some of the local cities and counties in Vermont might have their own contractor licensing requirements. These regulations can range from nothing at all to requiring the contractor to take an exam and register the business with the city. 

The following are the most populated cities in the state, as well as their requirements for contractors.

Burlington

Contractors working in Burlington, Vermont, don’t have any specific hoops to jump through for licensing. The city prefers to leverage its building permits program in order to regulate contractors. As of May 2021, applicants can use the City of Burlington, VT, permit portal to apply for a permit online.

South Burlington

South Burlington, VT, contractors aren’t required to carry any special city-issued licenses. However, as the city relies on building permits for contractor regulation, all permit applications go through the South Burlington Fire Department. Applications for permits are available on the department website.

Rutland

When it comes to contractor licenses in Rutland, VT, things are pretty laid back. In fact, the city’s building permit requirements aren’t clearly laid out. For more information, it’s best to contact the building department directly.

Penalties for unlicensed contracting in Vermont

The penalties for unlicensed contracting in Vermont aren’t entirely clear. Just as each municipality has the right to develop its own licensing requirements, it has the right to develop its own penalties, as well.

However, the Division of Fire Safety does have fairly cut-and-dry rules about unlicensed contracting. The fine for performing electrical or plumbing work without a license will be no more than $500. Other than that, regulation and penalties are fairly minimal.

How to protect your payments in Vermont

Vermont’s rules and regulations regarding contractor licensing might be a far cry from those in other states, but the challenges contractors face are the same across the industry. Protecting their cash flow from the effects of slow payment (or in some cases, nonpayment) is just as important in New England as it is anywhere else. The best way to protect that cash? Preserving lien rights.

Contractors in Vermont don’t have to do much to preserve their rights to a mechanics lien; the state doesn’t even require contractors to send preliminary notices or notices of intent to lien. But just because a state doesn’t require these documents doesn’t mean Vermont contractors shouldn’t send them.

Preliminary notices serve as a professional introduction between a contractor and the folks cutting the checks. These documents explain who the contractor is, their role on the job, and that they know their lien rights. Notices of intent to lien are equally as important, as they’re the warning shot fired across the bow that says, “I know my lien rights, and I’m not afraid to use them.” Both of these documents, while not required to protect lien rights, can be critical toward protecting cash flow.

But it’s never just about the documents, either. Vermont contractors, subs, and suppliers do have to keep their eyes on certain deadlines and regulations. For instance, all contract participants have up to 180 days from when payment became due for the last furnishing of labor or materials to file a Vermont mechanics lien with their local county recorders office. This is slightly different from other states which start the countdown from the date of last furnishing; Vermont lets the bill come due before it starts the clock.

Also, Vermont contractors, subs, and suppliers have up to 180 days from filing the mechanics lien to initiate enforcement action on their liens, and they cannot extend the deadline. Contractors must also obtain and record a Writ of Attachment within the same 180-day window. Without both components, the contractor can kiss their lien rights goodbye. 

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