UPDATED JULY 2017: What a difference a few years make. This blog was originally published in 2014. We have updated the links to the various resources made available by the state licensing agencies regarding whether reciprocity is available or not and, in some cases, the application for reciprocity.
Is a licensed contractor in good standing in State A permitted to offer to contract for or to perform work requiring a contractor’s license in State B? A number of states have reciprocity agreements with each other pursuant to which a contractor license applicant holding a contractor’s license in good standing in a comparable classification in State A (recognized by the licensing agency as a reciprocity state) may have the trade portion of the written licensing exam waived in State B. Even with reciprocity, the license applicant generally must comply with all of State B’s other licensing requirements, including submitting a license application and passing the law portion of the written licensing exam. What this could mean is that even though the contractor is properly licensed in State A, the contractor is not properly licensed in State B.
In an abundance of caution, contractors should always carefully review the states’ licensing agency’s/regulator’s websites — different state agencies may issue licenses to contractors, electrical contractors, plumbing contractors, etc. — to determine whether a license is required for the trade(s) the contractor would like to contract for and to perform in that state. Not all states license contractors, some require licenses for only certain trades or simply require the contractor to register with the regulatory agency. If it is unclear whether a license is required, contractors should always carefully consider whether to seek confirmation from the licensing agency/regulator – on a blind basis if the contractor is concerned that the licensing agency’s/regulator’s answer may pose a problem for its current operations. If it is unclear whether the contractor might qualify for reciprocity, again, contacting the licensing agency for confirmation may save the contractor time and money if it turns out that it is exempt from the trade portion of the written licensing exam.
If a license is required, some state’s licensing laws may prohibit offering to contract to perform a trade if a license would be required to perform the trade. By way of example only, California defines “contractor” very broadly to include “any person who undertakes to or offers to undertake to, or purports to have the capacity to undertake to, or submits a bid to, or does himself or herself or by or through others, construct, alter, repair, add to, subtract from, improve, move, wreck or demolish any building, highway, road, parking facility, railroad, excavation or other structure, project, development or improvement … or fabrication into, any structure, project, development or improvement herein described of any material or article of merchandise. this term includes a subcontractor and specialty contractor.” The California Contractors State License Board is authorized to investigate and to issue citations, including civil penalties, to unlicensed individuals acting in the capacity of a contractor who are not otherwise exempted from the licensing requirements, California’s Contractors’ State License Law, Bus. & Prof. Code § 7000 et seq. In addition, unlicensed activity could qualify as a misdemeanor (Bus. & Prof. Code §§ 7118.4, 7118.5, 7118.6, 7121.6, 7121.7, 7027.1, 7028, 7028.1, 7028.15, 7028.17) and felony charges may filed against anyone who illegally uses another person’s contractor license or who tries to mislead consumers into believing that he or she is a licensed contractor.
Last but certainly not least, the state may prohibit an unlicensed contractor from enforcing its contractual rights under a contract which requires it to be a licensed contractor and yet hold it responsible for any shoddy or incomplete work and subject to claims by the owner and/or general contractor. By way of example only, the Florida Supreme Court, in Earth Trades, Inc. v. T&G Corp., Case No. SC10-1892 (Jan. 24, 2013), recently reinforced a state law that provides that “[a]s a matter of public policy, contracts entered into on or after October 1, 1990, by an unlicensed contractor shall be unenforceable in law or in equity by the unlicensed contractor.” Fla. Stat. § 489.128(1) (2005); compare to Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code § 7031. The Court found that “[u]nder the amended version of [Fla. Stat. §] 489.128, the fault of the person or entity engaging in unlicensed contracting is not substantially equal to that of the party who merely hires a contractor with knowledge of the contractor’s unlicensed status.” Accordingly, “the defense that parties to a contract are in pari delicto was not available to the unlicensed contractor governed by section 489.128, Florida Statutes;” under the in pari delicto doctrine, a party who has participated in wrongdoing may not recover damages resulting from the wrongdoing.
Additional State Resources – State Reciprocity Guidelines:
- Alabama Licensing Board for General Contractors – Reciprocity; Alabama Board of Electrical Contractors’ Reciprocal State Contact Information; Alabama Board of Electrical Contractors’ Memorandum re: Reciprocity with Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee or Virginia; Alabama Board of Electrical Contractors’ Electrical Contractor Application Information and Instructions By Examination or Reciprocity Agreement
- Alaska Division of Labor Standards and Safety – Reciprocal Electrician Journeyman License
- Arizona Registrar of Contractors – Application Form for a New Contractor License; Arizona Revised Statutes Section 32-4302 Out-of-state applicants; military spouses; reciprocity; Application to Waive a Trade Exam
- Arkansas State Licensing Law for Contractors; Arkansas Contractors Licensing Board Contractors License Application Reciprocity Information
- California Contractors State License Board’s Reciprocity Program
- Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies – Electrical Board: applications and Forms – Electrician Licensure by Reciprocal Agreement
- State of Delaware, Division of Professional Regulation – Frequently Asked Questions – Do you have reciprocity?; State of Delaware Board of Electrical Examiners – Application for Licensure – Electrician;
- District of Columbia Board of Industrial Trades – Electrical – Application Instructions and Forms for All License Types in the Electrical Trades in the District of Columbia; District of Columbia Board of Industrial Trades – Plumbing and Gasfitting – Application Instructions and Forms for All License Types in the Plumbing and Gasfitting Trades
- Florida Department of Business & Professional Regulation – Frequently Asked Questions – Endorsement; Florida Department of Business Professional Regulation – Certified Electrical Contractor – Endorsement (ECLB2)
- Georgia State Licensing Board of Residential and General Contractors – Frequently Asked Questions –If I am granted a license under examination exemption, will I be able to receive a reciprocal license in another state?; Georgia Construction Industry Licensing Board, Division of Electrical Contractors – Frequently Asked Questions – Does Georgia have reciprocity with other states? and Electrical Contractors Reciprocity Application
- Hawaii Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs, Professional and Vocational Licensing – Contractors – Frequently Asked Questions – Does Hawaii have reciprocity agreements with other states?; Hawaii Department of Commerce & Consumer Affairs, Professional and Vocational Licensing – Electricians and Plumbers – Frequently Asked Questions – Does Hawaii have reciprocity agreements with other states?
- Idaho Division of Building Safety – Licenses that Idaho Will Reciprocate; Idaho Stat. Section 54-1007 Issuance of licenses – Reciprocity (Electrical Contractors and Journeymen)
- Indiana Professional Licensing Agency – Plumbing Commission – Frequently Asked Questions – Journeyman and Contractor Plumbers – Does reciprocity exist for journeyman and contractor plumbers?
- Indianapolis Business & Neighborhood Services – Electrical Reciprocation Information
- Kentucky Administrative Regulations – 815 KAR 35:060 Licensing of Electrical Contractors, Electricians, and Master Electricians Pursuant to Kentucky Revised Statutes Section 227A.060 – Section 1 Application and Procedure
- Louisiana State Licensing Board for Contractors – Reciprocity and Examination Endorsement Agreement;State Plumbing Board of Louisiana – Does my license from out of state reciprocate in Louisiana?
- Maine Electricians’ Examining Board – Master Electrician – Reciprocity; Maine Electricians’ Examining Board – Journeyman Electricians – Reciprocity
- Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation – Licensing FAQs for Applicants – Home Improvement Commission – 17. Reciprocity; Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation – Plumbers Reciprocal Application; Maryland Department of Labor Licensing and Regulation – Applying for Licensure and Reciprocal Licensing Requirement – Maryland Board of Master Electricians
- Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs – Reciprocity Licenses; Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs – Electrician – 2. Eligibility for Licensing
- Minnesota Department of Labor & Industry – Obtain a personal electrical license through reciprocity; Minnesota Department of Labor & Industry – Individual Electrical License Reciprocity Application; Minnesota Department of Labor & Industry – Plumbing reciprocity
- Mississippi State Board of Contractors – Reciprocity
- Montana Department of Labor and Industry – State Electrical Board – FAQ – What states are reciprocal with Montana?; Montana Department of Labor and Industry – Board of Plumbers – FAQ – What states in Montana reciprocal with AND can I work in Montana as a plumber with my Idaho/North Dakota/South Dakota/Oregon Journeyman license?
- Nebraska State Electrical Division – Application for Reciprocal License
- Nevada State Contractors Board – Contractor’s License Application Exam Reciprocity Information
- New Hampshire Office of Professional Licensure and Certification – Electricians’ Board – Licensing Requirements – Reciprocal Licensing
- New Mexico Regulation and Licensing Department – Electrical Continuing Education & Reciprocity – Reciprocal Agreement
- North Carolina Licensing Board for General Contractors – 13. Does the Board reciprocate with other states?; North Carolina State Board of Examiners of Electrical Contractors – Chapter 87, Article 4, Section 87-50 Reciprocity
- North Dakota State Electrical Board – Reciprocal License Agreements
- Ohio Department of Commerce – Kentucky Reciprocity Application (Electrical, HVAC, Refrigeration); Ohio Department of Commerce – Division of Industrial Compliance – Construction Industry Licensing Board – Things You Should Know About Your License – Reciprocity with Other States
- Oklahoma Construction Industries Board – Guidelines for Electrical License through Reciprocity;
- Oregon Department of Consumer and Business Services – Reciprocal General Journeyman (J); Oregon Department of Consumer and Business Services – Reciprocal General Supervising Electrician (S); Oregon Department of Consumer and Business Services – Reciprocal Electrical and Plumbing License Application
- South Carolina Contractors’ Licensing Board – General Contractors and Mechanical Contractors – Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Initial Application for Licensure – I am applying for a license through reciprocity with Georgia. Georgia licenses the individuals – not the entities. What should I list in the applicant field on the application?; South Carolina Contractors’ Licensing Board – Applications/Forms
- South Dakota Department of Labor & Regulation – Plumbing Commission – Reciprocal Agreements with Other States; South Dakota Department of Labor & Regulation – Electrical Commission – Reciprocal Licensing Agreements
- Tennessee Department of Commerce & Insurance – Board for Licensing Contractors – Contractors & Home Improvement – Reciprocal Information; Tennessee Department of Commerce & Insurance – Board for Licensing Contractors -License & Bidding Requirements – Summary – Reciprocal Agreements
- Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation – Electricians – Electrical Safety and Licensing Frequently Asked Questions – V. Reciprocity; Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation – Air Conditioning and Refrigeration Contractors – Air Conditioning and Refrigeration Contractors Frequently Asked Questions – 9. Does Texas reciprocate with any stats and, if so, which states?
- Utah Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing – Utah Contractor Reciprocity (Endorsement) Cross Reference Information; Utah Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing – Utah Contractor Reciprocity (Endorsement) Cross Reference Charts;
- Vermont Department of Public Safety, Division of Fire Safety – Electrician’s License Application Instructions
- Virginia Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation – Applicants; Virginia Board for Contractors – Reciprocal Licensing/Examination Agreements with Other Jurisdictions
- Washington State Department of Labor & Industries – Plumber – Requirements for applying for a plumber examination or reciprocal certificate; Washington State Department of Labor & Industries – Application for Plumber Examination, Reciprocal, Medical Gas Endorsement, or Temporary Permit; Washington State Department of Labor & Industries – Reciprocal States; Wash. Admin. Code Section 296-17-31009 Reciprocal Agreements
- West Virginia Division of Labor FAQs – Does West Virginia offer Reciprocity in order to obtain a license?
- Wisconsin Department of Safety & Professional Services – Licensing of Electricians and Electrical Contractor Questions
- Wyoming Department of Fire Prevent and Electrical Safety – License and Exam Applications – Reciprocal
Photo: stcynine, Taken Dec. 4, 2008 – Creative Commons