Becoming a licensed California landscaper makes it possible to take on better projects and potentially increase your income. According to the California Landscape Contractors Association, a licensed landscape contractor earns an average of $72,000 a year.
To get this license, you’ll need to pass two exams and pay the required fees. Although the requirements for landscaping contractors in California are fairly strict, the benefits of becoming licensed are well worth the effort and investment.
In this guide, we’ll walk you through the process of obtaining the necessary license and insurance to get your landscaping business up and running in the Golden State.
- How to become a landscaper in California
- What are the requirements to get a landscaping license in California?
- How much does it cost to get a California landscaping license?
- Insurance requirements for California landscapers
How to become a landscaper in California
California requires landscapers to have adequate training, education or experience before they can begin working independently. Getting a C-27 license is one of the most important steps in this process. You’ll also need to pay the required fees for your license and obtain insurance to protect your business.
Although these steps can seem intimidating at first, this guide will walk you through the process, so you know exactly what you need to fulfill the requirements for professional landscaping in California.
What are the requirements to get a landscaping license in California?
California has strict requirements to become a licensed landscaper. In addition to applying for a California landscaping license, you need to pass two exams that cover the many aspects of running a landscaping business.
C-27 license for California landscaping contractors
Similar to general contractors in California, landscapers need a contractor license to operate. The specialty class C license for landscaping contractors is the C-27 license.
Issued by the Department of Consumer Affairs’ Contractors State License Board, the C-27 landscaping contractor license covers all work that improves grounds “aesthetically, architecturally, horticulturally or functionally.” With this license classification, you can construct, maintain, repair or install landscaping projects. It also allows for subcontracting landscaping work.
To get your C-27 license, you’ll need:
- To be at least 18 years of age
- A Social Security number or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN)
- Four years of journeyman-level experience
- A professional reference who can attest to your experience, such as a foreman or supervisor
You may be able to substitute a related college degree for up to three years of work experience. California contractor license reciprocity options are available for licensed landscapers from Arizona, Louisiana and Nevada.
Depending on the type of work you do, you may also need a Maintenance Gardener Pest Control Certification from the California Department of Pesticide Regulation.
California landscaping contractor exams
Like all contractors in the state, landscaping contractors must pass two exams to obtain a license: a law and business exam and a trade exam.
The law and business exam will test you on business management and construction law. This exam includes eight major sections:
- Business organization
- Business finances
- Employment requirements
- Bonds, insurance and liens
- Contract requirements and execution
- Licensing requirements
- Public works
The trade exam focuses on landscaping skills and abilities. It covers six major landscaping categories:
- Planning and estimating
- Construction preparation
- Hardscape installation
- Drainage, irrigation, lighting and plant installation
- Maintenance and repair
Both of these are multiple-choice, closed-book exams. The California contractor licensing board provides helpful study guides with suggested resources to review before the test:
How much does it cost to get a California landscaping license?
The California contractor licensing board requires the following fees for landscaping licenses:
- License application: $330
- License fee: $200
You’ll also have to get fingerprints taken at a Live Scan site before you can receive your license. The fees for this process total around $50.
Landscaping license bond
In order to obtain a landscaping license, CA contractors must have a $15,000 bond written by a surety company licensed through the California Department of Insurance. This bond covers possible damage, license law violations and unpaid wages for employees.
Insurance requirements for California landscapers
All California landscaping contractors with employees must have workers’ compensation insurance. If you don’t have any employees, you can file a Workers' Compensation Insurance Exemption form, but you won't have wage protection and other benefits if you get hurt on the job. Liability insurance is also required if you own a limited liability company (LLC.)
Although the state only requires California business insurance for certain situations, most landscapers get insurance coverage to protect their business from financial risk. In addition, clients often require that a landscaper has adequate insurance before a work project can begin.
The following types of landscaping insurance are highly recommended for contractors in California.
General liability insurance
General liability insurance provides coverage for damage to someone else’s property as well as accidents that injure someone other than you or your employees.
Workers’ compensation insurance
The state requires all businesses with employees to have workers’ comp insurance. It helps to cover medical bills and lost wages if you or one of your employees gets hurt on the job.
Professional liability insurance
If a client accuses you of making a mistake, professional liability insurance can help with reimbursement and legal defense costs.
Commercial auto insurance
If you use a vehicle for work, commercial auto insurance can help with costs related to collision repairs, medical expenses and other damage-related costs.
Tools and equipment insurance
Tools and equipment insurance provides protection for the gear you use on the job. You’ll get help with repair and replacement costs for damaged or stolen gear.
Commercial property insurance
If you own or lease any property for your landscaping business, including storage space, commercial property insurance can help cover costs related to damage or vandalism.
How NEXT supports California landscapers
NEXT makes it easy to protect your landscaping business. With our online services, we’ll help you assemble an insurance package that’s customized just for you. That means you’ll only pay for the insurance your business needs for financial protection and fulfilling California licensing requirements.
Once you’ve selected your insurance policies and applied for coverage, you can get a Certificate of Insurance instantly. The whole process takes less than 10 minutes and provides the proof of insurance coverage you need to compete for the best landscaping projects.
Because we specialize in small business insurance, NEXT is the best place to get coverage. We’ve helped thousands of contractors get affordable landscaping insurance from the convenience of a computer or mobile device.