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How To Get A Landscaping Business License

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Business Advice

Obtaining a landscaping license is crucial to running a successful landscaping business. Read our comprehensive guide to learn about the different types of licenses, state requirements and tips to make the process smoother.

Landscaping is an attractive market, offering you the potential to own and operate your own company in a growing industry that’s projected to generate more than $175 billion this year, alone. Before you can get in on the action and start your own landscaping business, you need to set yourself up for success by securing the licenses required to operate a landscaping company in your state.

There are several steps to becoming a licensed landscaper and navigating the licensing process can feel overwhelming, so we’ve compiled a comprehensive guide with everything you need to know about obtaining the landscaping licenses you may need. We’ll show you the different types of licenses needed for operating a lawn care business, help you determine the licensing requirements in your state, and provide tips to help you get what you need so you can get your business up and running in no time.

Understanding the Importance of a Landscaping License

First things first, let’s look at why you need licensing.

When you’re starting a business, you have no time (or budget) to waste and you may be wondering why you need to bother with getting a license to do work you’re likely already familiar with doing.

Here’s the deal with licensing: Depending on where you live and what you do, it’s a necessary part of doing business, much like insurance, required by state and/or local laws.

Licensing is well worth your time and effort on multiple fronts. In addition to ensuring legal compliance, which is critical to operating a legitimate business, licensing benefits your business in several ways:

  • Like insurance, licensing protects your landscaping business, your employees and your customers.
  • Having the required licenses illustrates that you are a qualified landscaping contractor. That distinction sets you apart in an industry that has a relatively low barrier to entry and helps to build trust and credibility with your clients.
  • Operating as a licensed landscaper gives you access to opportunities that may otherwise be out of reach. You’ll be able to offer new services, for instance tree trimming, pesticide control or siding and decking, and take advantage of networking and job opportunities offered through state and local municipalities and boards.

Different Types of Landscaping Licenses

Landscaping may seem like a fairly straight forward business, and while it is, it’s ripe with nuances and service areas that can carry their own licensing requirements. For instance, you may be required to have a license for simply operating a landscaping business, one to provide lawn care services and another to spray hazardous pesticides.

Requirements vary significantly by state and region, and as if that’s not confusing enough, what’s required can change and evolve over time and it’s business owners’ responsibility to keep up and comply.

Here’s a closer look at what you need to know before you dive into securing a license:

Landscaping Contractors License

It’s likely that you’ll need a landscape construction professional or contractor license to provide services as an employee or owner of a licensed landscaping business. This license, which may require you to pass an exam, allows you to provide services, such as planning, installing and maintaining lawns, shrubs, trees, water features, and decking and patios.

Some states also require licenses for specific services, such as applying restricted-use pesticides.

Business License for Landscaping

Many states require an operating license for landscape business owners.

Consider setting up a business entity, such as a Sole Proprietorship or LLC, rather than licensing your business under your own name. You’ll need to set up a federal tax number known as an Employer Identification Number (EIN) for your business.

State-Specific Requirements for Landscaping Licenses

Each state is unique in its licensing requirements, ranging from not requiring a license at all, leaving it to local levels to dictate what’s required, or having a laundry list of must-haves. Some states, including California, require a license for all projects that cost over a specified amount, and some go by the square footage of a project. For a list of licensing requirements by state, refer to this handy guide.

Steps to Obtaining a Landscaping License

Once you’re ready to become a licensed landscape company owner, follow these three steps to ensure you have what you need, when you need it.

Step One: Research State and Local Regulations

The fastest and most efficient way to determine what your state and local regulations are is to check your state licensing department. You can also refer here to see a concise list of what’s required state by state, including associated fees and exams.

Step Two: Gather Necessary Documentation

Before submitting a license application, gather documentation, which, depending on the state, may include:

  • Federal and State Taxpayer ID – if you don’t yet have one set up, see here.
  • Proof of insurance
  • Certifications
  • Proof of experience and/or education
  • Landscaping license bond
  • A surety bond
  • Passing grade on any required exams
  • Background check
  • Fees

Step Three: Complete the Application and Pay Fees

Planning ahead will save you from sticker shock when it comes time to submit your application and pay the necessary fees. Hint: It can get costly. For instance, Hawaii businesses can expect to pay $50 application fee, $75 examination fee, and a $415 or $545 license fee.

You may need to submit your application in person at the county clerk’s office. If you aren’t sure, check with your area’s Small Business Bureau.

Navigating the Application Process Successfully

Landscaper to landscaper, we’re here to help you move through the licensing process as quickly and painlessly as possible. Here are some tips and tricks.

  • Determine the scope of your landscaping business. What services do you intend to provide?
  • Make no assumptions about what’s required. Instead, do your homework to understand what’s required in your state and local area.
  • Factor the costs of required certifications, licenses and insurance into startup costs.
  • There’s no one-size-fits-all landscaper insurance policy. Consider the types available to your business, including General liability insurance, Workers’ compensation insurance, Commercial auto insurance, Business property insurance and a Business Owner’s Policy.
  • If your state requires you to take an exam to secure a license, take advantage of practice exams like this one so you know what to expect and can maximize your study and prep time.
  • If you need to beef up your education and experience qualifications or want to expand the scope of your business, consider getting certified. The National Association of Landscape Professionals offers several certification and certificate courses.
  • Remember licensing isn’t a one-time deal. Check expiration dates and continuing education requirements on your licenses and add reminders to your calendar so you aren’t late on renewing and maintaining your landscaping licenses.

Questions? We have Answers.

What Do I Need to Get a Landscaping License in California?

California has among the most stringent licensing requirements. In short, you’ll need a C-27 landscaping contractor license. You must show four years of experience or one year of experience and a related four-year degree from a college or university. You must also submit a surety bond and show proof of workers’ compensation insurance if you intend to employ others. California requires you to pass trade, business and law exams before securing a license.

Does a Landscaper Need a License in North Carolina?

Yep, a landscaping contractor license is required in NC, too. See here for the specifics.

Do You Need a License to Do Landscaping in Nevada?

Yes, but only if you do work worth more than $1,000 or require a building permit. A lawn maintenance service may not require a license, but some work, such as planting trees and laying sod or hydroseeding requires licensing. The Nevada State Contractors Board provides details on what’s required and how to secure it.

Do Landscapers Need a License in Oregon?

According to Oregon’s Landscape Contractors Board, two licenses are required to do landscaping work in Oregon— a construction professional license and a landscape contracting business license. Here are more details.

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Getting Started on Your Landscaping License Journey

If you made it here, you’re well on your way to getting started on licensing your landscaping business. You should have a better understanding of why it’s important to comply with licensing requirements and feel good about how to do it.

Starting and operating a landscaping business is a lot of work, but you’re in good company. We’re here to help, sharing insights we’ve learned in our business, like the info and tips we provided in this Guide to Getting a Landscaping Business License and other industry and business resources on our blog. Once your business is up and running, LMN can help you successfully operate as a licensed contractor and take your business to the next level with easy-to-use technology and tools that help you manage everything from budgeting and estimating to hiring high quality help.

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