California cleaning business license and insurance requirements

California cleaning business license and insurance requirements

Kim Mercado
By Kim Mercado
Dec 15, 2023
1 min read

In the Golden State of California, with the largest population and economy in the U.S., there’s a lot of demand for cleaning services that can sparkle homes and offices.

As you prepare to launch your own cleaning business in this vibrant market, it’s important to understand the specific licenses, permits, and insurance requirements to help your business shine.

Jump ahead to learn about:

How to start a cleaning business in California

1. Register your business with the state

The first step in registering any business in California is to check on the state website for state requirements. If you’re a sole proprietorship, you don’t have to register it with the state. These are the typical steps involved when registering a cleaning business:

  • Choose a business structure. Determine the business structure of your business, such as an LLC, sole proprietorship or corporation.
  • Register your business name. Choose a unique name for your cleaning business and register it with the California Secretary of State to ensure it is not already used.
  • Register your business. Depending on your business structure, you may need to register with state agencies. For example, if your cleaning business is an LLC, corporation or partnership, you will likely need to register with the California Secretary of State.

2. File a fictitious business statement or DBA

If you’re running a business in California under a name different from your legal name, you’ll need to file a “doing business as” (DBA) form, also known as a fictitious business statement. Regardless of your business structure, you must file a DBA if you are not operating under your legal name.

You file the DBA form with the county clerk where your business operates. The filing cost varies by county — usually $10-$100.

3. Apply for an Employer Identification Number (EIN)

If your business employs people, operates as a multi-member LLC, is part of a partnership, or is a corporation, you must have an EIN for tax purposes. This is essential for paying employees, managing your business taxes, opening bank accounts, and applying for credit.

Getting an EIN is simple. Just go to the IRS website and follow the instructions. You’ll need to provide a name for your business and some basic information like your business address. There may be a small fee involved.

4. File for a business license

In California, there’s no statewide requirement for a general business license. However, local cities and counties may have their own rules.

Local authorities will examine your business’s specific services and determine if you need licensing. Contact the city or county clerk’s office where your business will operate for details.

5. Obtain a sales tax permit if selling goods

Both residential and commercial cleaning services are not subject to sales tax in California. However, if your cleaning business sells tangible goods, such as cleaning supplies or equipment, you’ll likely need a Sales Tax Permit from the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration (CDTFA). This permit allows you to collect and remit sales tax on your sellable items.

Local California cleaning business license requirements

After meeting the state’s requirements, you must also ensure you’re meeting local regulations. Each municipality will demand additional licensing, insurance, experience, permitting and training per its specific guidelines.

Los Angeles

Setting up shop in the City of Angels? You are required to obtain a business license to operate a cleaning business. You can apply for a business license online through the Los Angeles Office of Finance website.

San Diego

Before you kickstart any operations for your cleaning business in San Diego, it’s mandatory to secure a business tax certificate. You can do this by filling out an application at the City Treasurer’s office and paying the appropriate filing fee for your business.

San Francisco

In San Francisco, you must register your cleaning business with the city. You can register your business online through the San Francisco Business Portal.

Specialized services in California

Cleaners who specialize in services like carpet cleaning, pressure washing, upholstery cleaning, and similar services may need to obtain a contractor’s license that is specific to their type of business in the area where they operate. This specialized services license or permit can typically be acquired through entities like the Contractors State License Board or the County License Board.

Here are a few specialized cleaning businesses that will require local permits:

Each local municipality is different, so checking early in the process is prudent.

Insurance requirements for cleaning businesses in California

Part of being a smart business owner is adequately protecting your business from financial loss. This is where California business insurance steps in, especially for small companies, as it can be the difference between staying in business or closing shop. Here are some common types of insurance you should consider:

  • General Liability. This coverage offers protection against third-party injuries, client property damage and advertising injuries. Learn more about General Liability for cleaning businesses.
  • Tools & Equipment. This policy can help cover the cost of repairing or replacing your gear in case it gets damaged or stolen.
  • Workers’ Compensation. Do you operate a cleaning company in California with at least one part-time or full-time employee? You must get Workers’ Comp insurance. This policy helps cover lost wages and medical expenses if an employee is injured on the job. Learn more about Workers’ Comp for cleaners.
  • Commercial Auto. Get coverage specifically for vehicles used for business purposes, helping cover accidents and liability. Most personal vehicle insurance doesn’t cover work-related activities.
  • Errors and Omissions. Helps protect small business owners against legal costs related to negligence or professional mistakes.

Having adequate insurance isn’t just about protection — it helps with acquiring specific permits and licenses and attracting clients.

How NEXT helps California cleaning businesses

With NEXT, securing insurance for your cleaning business is quick and seamless.

Just answer a few simple questions through our online application. You’ll see coverage options, get a quote, and access your certificate of insurance, all in less than 10 minutes. It’s fast, easy, and affordable.

Get started with your free online quote today.

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Kim Mercado
About the author
Kim Mercado is a content editor at NEXT's blog, where she writes and edits posts for small business owners. She enjoys helping entrepreneurs solve their business challenges and learn about insurance. Kim has contributed to Salesforce, Samsara and Google.

You can find Kim trying new recipes and cheering the 49ers.

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