California landscaping license and insurance requirements

California landscaping license and insurance requirements

Ashley Henshaw
By Ashley Henshaw
Feb 5, 2024
7 min read

A California landscaping license makes it possible to take on larger projects and potentially increase your income.

A licensed landscape contractor in California earns an average of $72,000 a year, according to the California Landscape Contractors Association. To get this license, you’ll need to pass two exams and pay the fees.

Jump ahead to learn more a licensed landscaping business in the Golden State, including:

How to get your California landscaping license

California requires landscapers to have adequate training, education or experience before they can begin working independently. The most important step in this process is getting a landscaping license, also referred to as a C-27 license. You must also submit the necessary fees for your license and obtain insurance to protect your business.

Although navigating these steps can seem intimidating at first, the information in this guide will walk you through the process. This way, you’ll know the requirements to work as a professional landscaper in California.

California landscaping contractors license requirements

California has strict requirements to become a licensed landscaper. In addition to applying for a California state contractor license, you must pass two exams covering many aspects of running a landscaping business.

C-27 license for California landscaping contractors

Like 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 (CSLB), 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.
  • Four years of journeyman-level experience.
  • A professional reference who can attest to your experience, such as a foreperson 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 and Nevada, according to the CSLB.

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.

oct 2021 2b

Insurance for California landscape license contractors

California business insurance can help protect your business from financial risk. In addition, clients may ask whether you have adequate insurance before hiring you for a landscaping project.

The following types of landscaping insurance are available for contractors in California.

General liability insurance 

Liability insurance is required if you own a limited liability company (LLC). General liability insurance in California can provide 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 CSLB mandates all California landscaping contractors with employees to 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.

This coverage can help pay for medical bills and lost wages if you or one of your employees gets hurt on the job.

Commercial auto insurance 

If you use a vehicle for work, commercial auto insurance provides coverage for related expenses, like property damage and medical expenses after an accident.

Tools and equipment insurance 

Tools and equipment insurance can help pay for repair and replacement costs for damaged or stolen work 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.

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 the following sections:

  • Business organization and licensing
  • Business finances
  • Employment requirements
  • Insurance and liens
  • Contract requirements and execution
  • Public works
  • Safety

The trade exam focuses on landscaping skills and abilities. It covers the following landscaping categories:

  • Planning and estimating
  • Construction preparation
  • Hardscape installation
  • Drainage, irrigation, lighting and plant installation
  • Maintenance and repair
  • Safety

Both of these are multiple-choice, closed-book exams. While the California contractor licensing board is not affiliated with schools or application preparation courses, it offers helpful study guides with suggested resources to review before the test:

How much does a California landscaping license cost?

The California contractor licensing board requires the following fees for landscaping licenses:

  • License application: $450
  • License fee: $200

You’ll also submit to having fingerprints taken at a Live Scan site before receiving your license. The fees for this process total around $32.

To obtain a landscaping license, CA contractors must have a $25,000 bond written by a surety company licensed through the California Department of Insurance. However, you must file a $100,000 bond if you’re applying for a license as a limited liability company (LLC). The bond covers possible damage, license law violations and unpaid wages for employees.

How NEXT helps support California landscapers

NEXT specializes in small business insurance. We’ve helped thousands of small business owners and contractors get affordable landscaping insurance via web or mobile device.

Apply for coverage, choose your insurance policies and 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 projects.

Start a free quote with NEXT.

banner get business insurance in 10
Ashley Henshaw
About the author

Ashley Henshaw was a contributing writer at NEXT. She specializes in small business topics, covering everything from insurance and branding to web hosting and cryptocurrency.

Her work has appeared in The Huffington Post, AOL City's Best, Citysearch, USA Today, The San Francisco Chronicle and Livestrong.

What we cover
Chat with Us

Mon – Fri | 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. CT

© 2024 Next Insurance, Inc. 975 California Ave, Palo Alto, CA 94304, United States
Better Business Bureau
Issuance of coverage is subject to underwriting. Not available in all states. Please see the policy for full terms, conditions and exclusions. Coverage examples are for illustrative purposes only. Your policy documents govern, terms and exclusions apply. Coverage is dependent on actual facts and circumstances giving rise to a claim. Next Insurance, Inc. and/or its affiliates is an insurance agency licensed to sell certain insurance products and may receive compensation from insurance companies for such sales. Policy obligations are the sole responsibility of the issuing insurance company. Refer to Legal Notices section for additional information.

Any starting prices or premiums represented before an actual customer quote are not guaranteed and are representations of existing premiums of active policies as of December 6, 2023. To the extent permitted by law, applicants are individually underwritten, not all applicants may qualify. Individual rates and savings vary and are subject to change. Discounts and savings are available where state laws and regulations allow, and may vary by state. Certain discounts apply to specific coverages only.