Common licensing requirements for landscape contractors

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If you are just getting started in the landscaping business, you may be wondering what all you need to operate.

In most states, you need to obtain a landscape contractor license in order to perform landscaping work. Typically, the requirement for licensing comes into force for conducting certain activities or for a project over a certain amount. Bidding on public and private landscaping projects usually entails that the contractor is duly licensed.

The criteria that you have to satisfy to launch a landscaping business vary significantly between different states. However, there are a number of steps that are similar. Often, they include obtaining on-the-job training and experience, providing necessary business documentation and providing a surety bond, among other steps.

Here you can find some of the basics about getting a landscape contractor license across the U.S.

Make sure you meet the requirements for practical experience

In order to become a landscape contractor, you don’t need to fulfill official post-secondary education requirements. However, obtaining training in landscape design or horticulture is certainly a plus.

You must satisfy your state’s criteria in terms of hands-on professional experience. The number of practical hours required varies depending on the licensing authorities. They will look for proof that you have sufficient skills in planning, landscape design, irrigation, planting and hardware use, as well as knowledge of safety measures and aesthetic approaches.

Pass the licensure examination

States that require a landscaping license typically demand applicants to pass an exam that proves they’re suitability for the job. This is one of the common steps that you have to take, but the specificities of the learning program and the exam parameters vary across states. You may need to pay an exam fee or a licensing fee prior to obtaining your license documents.

State authorities are interested in verifying that licensed landscape contractors are well-versed in their landscaping knowledge and can manage related safety issues. Other common topics that may be tested during the licensing exam include ecology, fertilizers, soil use, drainage and erosion control.

Obtain a contractor license bond

A number of states such as Oregon and North Carolina require landscape contractors to provide a contractor license surety bond. The purpose of the bonding is to provide an additional layer of protection for the state and the contractor’s customers. The bond guarantees that the landscaper will perform his/her contractual obligations in time and in good quality. In this sense, it is a proof of the landscaper’s financial responsibility.

To get bonded and meet your state licensing requirement, you have to cover a small percentage of the bond amount needed – the bond premium. Thus, if you have to get a $10,000 bond to become a landscape contractor in North Carolina, you may need to pay only $100 to $300 to obtain it. The better your personal and business finances are, the smaller your bond cost will be.

Go the extra mile

Obtaining a professional certification is not officially needed. However, becoming certified may be quite helpful in developing your business. It showcases to potential customers that you possess a certain level of skills and experience in the field. In addition, it also allows you to become a full-fledged member of your professional community.

One of the most popular options for getting the certification is with the National Association of Landscape Professionals (NALP). It has diverse options that are tied to experience and testing results. Some of them include certified manager, exterior and interior technicians, horticultural technician, lawn care manager and lawn care technician. Each of the certifications entails showcasing relevant on-the-job experience and successfully passing the examination. You can also get an official accreditation for your business.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This article was written by Todd Bryant. Bryant is the president and founder of Bryant Surety Bonds. He is a surety bonds expert with years of experience in helping contractors get bonded and start their business.

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