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General Contractor Licensing in Washington DC

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Before beginning work on contracted construction work in the District of Columbia, General Contractors, Construction Managers and Home Improvement Contractors must hold a Basic Business License from the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA).  Licenses are issued by the DCRA Corporations Division.  Additionally, some business types are required to register with the DCRA and remain in good standing with the Corporations Division during the 2-year license period.

The DCRA does not have any work experience, education or examination requirements for contractors applying for a Basic Business License.  However, they do require that contractors prove financial responsibility, hold the proper forms of insurance, and maintain an agent who is a resident of Washington DC to handle financial and legal correspondence for the contractor’s business.  There are also different license classes, which determine the amount of insurance the contractor is required to hold.  These license classes also limit the size of the project that the contractor is permitted to work on.

*If the contractor wishes to hire or work with a subcontractor in the District of Columbia, they must make sure that the subcontractor holds the proper license from the DC Board of Industrial Trades.

License Types and Classifications in Washington DC

The DCRA offers the following Basic Business License types to contractors in Washington DC:

  • General Contractor License- allows contractor to perform work on commercial, residential, institutional, industrial and government buildings and structures.  The scope of work includes building, improving, repairing, remodeling, demolition, land development, heavy construction and new building construction.
  • Construction Manager License- allows contractors to coordinate work between one or multiple General Contractors and design professionals.  While this license type is responsible for coordinating and managing projects, they allow contractors and designers to operate independently and control their own, individual operations.
  • Home Improvement Contractor License- allows contractors to work on residential projects.  The scope of work includes remodeling, repairing, altering, converting, adding-onto and modernizing residential buildings, properties and accessory structures.

Additionally, contractors must choose a license classification, which limits the value and size of the project contractors may work on.  Home Improvement Contractors are not required to choose a license class.  The DCRA offers the following license classes to General Contractors and Construction Managers:

  • Class A- does not limit the value of the projects that contractors may secure.  Contractors are free to work on projects of any value and size
  • Class B- limits contractors to projects of $10,000,000 or less
  • Class C- limits contractors to projects of $5,000,000 or less
  • Class D- limits contractors to projects of $2,000,000 or less
  • Class E- limits contractors to projects of $500,000 or less
*The license classes offered help the DCRA determine the amount of insurance a General Contractor or Construction Manager must carry.

Process to Obtain a General Contractor License in Washington DC

  1. Contractors must decide the type of business they plan to operate; i.e. sole proprietor, partnership, limited liability company (LLC), corporation, etc.
  2. If the contractor’s business is a partnership, LLC or corporation, they must register their business with the DCRA Corporations Division and prove that they are in good standing
  3. Contractors must choose someone who is a resident of Washington DC to act as a resident agent on behalf of their business.  This person is responsible for receiving and handling financial and legal notices for the contractor’s business
  4. If the contractor is using a fictitious business name (a name other than the contractor’s legal name), they must register their trade name with the Corporations Division
  5. Contractors must prove that they are financially responsible by completing a Clean Hands Self-Certification
  6. Contractors must register and file for a Combined Business Tax Registration to obtain a FEIN
  7. Contractors must obtain a Certificate of Occupancy or Home Occupation for their office location/business address
  8. Contractors must hold the proper forms of insurance, including general commercial liability, in the amount specified for their license  type/class.  Home Improvement Contractors are required to post a surety bond in addition to holding liability insurance
  9. If the contractor is applying for a Home Improvement Contractor License they must obtain a certified Police/Criminal History Report for themselves.  General Contractors, Construction Managers and Home Improvement Contractors are all subject to a background investigation upon submitting their application
  10. All contractors must complete and submit an application for a Basic Business License to the DCRA Corporations Division along with all the required documents and fees

 

 

 Preparing to Submit an Application

The first step in getting a Basic Business License from the District of Columbia is to decide the type of license and classification the contractor wants to apply for, as well as the type of business structure they plan to operate, such as:

  • Sole Proprietorship
  • Partnership (including general partnerships, limited partnerships and limited liability partnerships)
  • Limited Liability Company (LLC)
  • Corporation

 

All contractors must read and familiarize themselves with the laws and regulations related to construction in Washington DC.  The District of Columbia has strict policies regarding lead-based paints.  For more information, please visit:
http://ddoe.dc.gov/lead

If the contractor chooses to operate a partnership, LLC or corporation, they must register their business with the DCRA Corporations Division and obtain a certificate of good standing.  There is a filing fee of $220 for this service.  These business types must remain in good standing with the Corporations Division throughout their license period.  Sole proprietors are not required to go through this process.  For more information on registering, please call the Corporations Division at:

202-442-4432

All business types are required to register their business name with the DCRA Corporations Division if they are using a fictitious name, other than the contractor’s legal name.  For more information on Trade Name Registration, contact the Corporations Division at:

202-442-4432

All business types are also responsible for choosing someone to act as a Resident Agent, or Attorney-in-Fact.  This person must live in, and maintain an office in Washington DC.  They will be responsible for receiving any financial or legal notices on behalf of the contractor’s business.  All contracting businesses that are registered with the DCRA Corporation Division, including sole proprietors, and contractors who are residents and non-residents of Washington DC must choose and maintain a Resident Agent throughout their license period.

All contractors must complete a Basic Business License Application to obtain a General Contractor, Construction Manager or Home Improvement Contractor License.  General Contractors performing work on existing residential buildings and structures are not required to also hold a Home Improvement Contractor Basic Business License.  However, if the General Contractor also plans to build or work on new home improvement jobs, a Home Improvement Basic Business License is needed, in addition to the General Contractor Basic Business License.  All contractors are required to submit at least one Home Improvement Salesperson application in addition to their Basic Business License application for General Contractor, Construction Manager or Home Improvement Contractor.

For a copy of the Basic Business License Application, call or visit the DCRA Business License Center at:

1100 4th Street SW
2nd Floor
Washington DC 20024

Phone Number: 202-442-4400

Complete the application using the DCRA secure online Application Submission and Issuance system, at:
https://cpms.dcra.dc.gov/OSUBI/Default.aspx

Along with the license application, contractors are required to complete the following steps and obtain the following documents:

  • Contractors must prove that they are financially responsible by completing the Clean Hands Self-Certification portion of the application.  This section asks the contractor to certify that they do not owe more than $100 to the District of Columbia in taxes, outstanding fines or parking tickets.
  • All applicants are required to provide a registered tax number, such as a Social Security Number for Sole Proprietors, or a Federal Employee Identification Number (FEIN) for all other business types.  Contractors must provide this number on their license application.  An FEIN number is obtained by registering with the Office of Tax and Revenue.  Visit the office in-person, register online, or by calling the Tax Customer Service Center:

    110 4th Street SW
    Suite W270
    Washington DC 20024

    Website: http://otr.cfo.dc.gov/service/business-taxpayers

    Phone Number: 202-727-4829

*The application process for obtaining an FEIN may take up to 30 days.
  • Contractors must prove that their office location and business activities do not conflict with building or zoning codes in the District of Columbia.  This is achieved by obtaining a Certificate of Occupancy (C of O) or Home Occupation (HOP) from the Office of Zoning Administration.  This certificate must be submitted with the completed license application.  If the contractor’s office is located inside an existing office building in Washington DC, and the building owner has a C of O for the entire building, the contractor may use the C of O number and issuance date with the permission of the building owner or management company.  For more information, contact the Zoning Administrator at:202-442-4576
    *The application process for obtaining a C of O or HOP may take up to 30 days.
  • All contractors are required to hold general commercial liability insurance.  Those applying for a Home Improvement Contractor License must hold liability insurance in the amount of $50,000 to $100,000 with $10,000 to $25,000 for property damage.  Those applying for a General Contractor or Construction Manager License must obtain liability insurance based on their license class.  Refer to the chart below to determine the appropriate insurance amount:
    License Class Insurance Amount
    Class A $2.5 million per occurrence covering both bodily injury and property damage
    Class B $1.5 per occurrence covering both bodily injury and property damage
    Class C $500,000 per occurrence with a $1 million combined aggregate limit for bodily injury and property damage
    Class D $500,000 per occurrence with a $1 million combined aggregate limit for bodily injury and property damage
    Class E $500,000 per occurrence with a $1 million combined aggregate limit for bodily injury and property damage

    Contractors are required to submit their liability insurance certificate along with their completed application.  All insurance certificates must be issued to the contractor’s exact business name and address (as it is registered with the Corporations Division).  The business address on the certificate and license application must match.  P.O. Box addresses are not acceptable.  Insurance certificates must also state the location and description of the contractor’s business activities (i.e. “General Contractor” “Washington DC”).  The insurance certificate must list the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs as the certificate holder.

  • Home Improvement Contractors are required to post a surety bond in the amount of $25,000.  This bond must be posted with an insurance company that is licensed to conduct business in the District of Columbia.  It must cover the Home Improvement Contractor for the entire 2-year license period.  Home Improvement contractors also have the option of posting a cash bond with the DCRA.  Those applying for a General Contractors or Construction Manager Basic Business License are not required to post a surety bond.
  •  Home Improvement Contractors are required to obtain a certified copy of their Police/Criminal History Report and submit it with their license application.  Reports are needed for all key people in the contractor’s business, including partners, presidents, vice presidents, secretaries and treasurers.  The Criminal History Report must be from the district in which the contractor lives.  If the contractor is a resident of Washington DC, a report may be obtained from the DC Metropolitan Police Department’s Police Criminal History Report Division at:

    300 Indiana Avenue NW
    Room 3055
    Washington DC 20001

    Phone Number: 202-727-4245

    *Those applying for a General Contractor or Construction Manager License are not required to complete this step.
  • Along with their license application, all contractors are required to submit 2 different samples of written contracts/receipts.  The contractor must make and submit 3 copies of each pre-printed contract and submit them along with their license application.  They must also submit a list of all salespersons working with their company along with a corresponding Home Improvement Salesperson application for each salesperson they plan to work with.  At least one Home Improvement Salesperson application is required for all Basic Business License applicants.
  • All contractors are required to submit 2 digital passport photos and a clear and legible copy of their driver’s license along with their license application.  The DCRA Business Licensing Center offers photographing services for anyone who plans to submit their license application in-person.

For more information about applying for a General Contractor or Construction Manager Basic Business License, please visit:

http://dcra.dc.gov/service/get-general-contractorconstruction-manager-license

 

For more information about applying for a Home Improvement Contractor Basic Business License, please visit:

http://dcra.dc.gov/service/get-home-improvement-contractor-license

 

Submitting an Application

Before submitting the Basic Business License application, be sure that the application is completely filled out and that all the required documents are in order.  For questions, contact the DCRA Business Licensing Center at:

202-442-4400

 

The total cost to apply for a General Contractor or Construction Manager Basic Business License is $654.50.  This includes:

  • $500 License Fee
  • $70 Application Fee
  • $25 Endorsement Fee
  • $59.50 Technology Fee (which is calculated at 10% for all electronic licensing, permitting and registration services)

The total cost to apply for a Home Improvement Contractor Basic Business License is $288.20.  This includes:

  • $167 License Fee
  • $70 Application Fee
  • $25 Endorsement Fee
  • $26.20 Technology Fee (which is calculated at 10% for all electronic licensing, permitting and registration services)

 

Contractors may submit their Basic Business License application (along with all documents and fees) ONE of the following ways:

  1. Online– using the DCRA’s secure Application and Issuance system.   Some licenses types and classes may be available for immediate printing when using the online submission services.  When submitting online, fees are payable using a debit card or major credit card.  Use the link below for online application submission:
    https://cpms.dcra.dc.gov/OSUBI/Default.aspx
  2. In-Person- at the DCRA Business License Center.  No appointment is needed.  Applications are processed in the order that they are received, on a first-come-first-served basis. When applying in-person, fees are payable using a debit card, major credit card (American Express is not accepted at the Business License Center), check or money order.  For in-person application submissions, visit the DCRA Business License Centers, located at:

    1100 4th Street SW
    2nd Floor
    Washington DC 20024

  3. By Mail- however, it should be noted that online and in-person applications are processed faster.  Applications submitted by mail may take up to 30 days to process.  When applying by mail, fees are payable using check or money order, written out to “DC Treasurer.” Mail the completed application along with all the required documents and fees to:

    Wells Fargo Bank
    DC Government Wholesale Lockbox 91380
    7175 Columbia Gateway Drive
    Columbia, MD 21046

 

Once the DCRA receives the contractor’s Basic Business License Application, all applicants are subject to a 30-day background investigation.  This usually takes place once the DCRA has verified and accepted the contractor’s application, supporting documents and processed the fees.

Once the contractor receives their Basic Business License, they are authorized to bid and start work on construction projects in the District of Columbia.  If the contractor plans to work with any subcontractors in Washington DC, they must be properly licensed by the DC Board of Industrial Trades; otherwise, the contractor is at risk of fines and penalties.

 

How Long is a Washington DC General Contractors License Valid?

General Contractor, Construction Manager and Home Improvement Contractor Basic Business Licenses are good for a period of 2 years in the District of Columbia.  It is the responsibility of the contractor to renew their license before the expiration date printed on the license.  All contractors will receive a renewal notice in the mail prior to their expiration date.  Be sure to allow plenty of time for processing when submitting the renewal application.  Contact the DCRA if a renewal notice is not received.

The renewal notice will contain an invoice which explains the contractor’s renewal fees and instructions for renewal.  Many license types and classes are able to renew online.  If the license is capable of being renewed online, the invoice will contain a 6 digit PIN number that will allow the contractor to renew their license through the DCRA website.

For more information on Basic Business License renewal in Washington DC, contract the DCRA Business License Center at:

202-442-4400

 

Table of Fees

Fee What is it For? When is it Due?
$220 Registration with the DCRA Corporations Division (for Partnerships, LLCs and Corporations ONLY) Upon completing the registration process
$500 License Fee for General Contractor/Construction Manager Basic Business License Upon submitting the Basic Business License Application
$70 Application Fee for a General Contractor/Construction Manager Basic Business License Upon submitting the Basic Business License Application
$25 Endorsement Fee for a General Contractor/Construction Manager Basic Business License Upon submitting the Basic Business License Application
$59.50 10% Technology Fee for a General Contractor/Construction Manager Basic Business License Upon submitting the Basic Business License Application
$167 License Fee for a Home Improvement Contractor Basic Business License Upon submitting the Basic Business License Application
$70 Application Fee for a Home Improvement Contractor Basic Business License Upon submitting the Basic Business License Application
$25 Endorsement Fee for a Home Improvement Contractor Basic Business License Upon submitting the Basic Business License Application
$26.20 10% Technology Fee for a Home Improvement Contractor Basic Business License Upon submitting the Basic Business License Application