Understanding Contractor Licensing in the D.C. Area

Written by Angie's List Staff
Updated June 15, 2021
humane society truck sitting outside Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.
In the nation’s capitol, a license is required for any work contract exceeding $300 in cost. (Photo submitted to Angie's List)

A state licensing guide for contractors working in Virginia, Maryland and Washington, D.C.

Although navigating the ins and outs of finding a licensed contractor can be tricky, it is essential to take your time to do your research.

For a Washington, D.C., resident in the hunt for a good contractor, choosing between a local company versus one in Maryland or Virginia requires understanding the laws that govern contractors in each state. In most cases, states have different requirements for contractor licensing.

If you decide to gather estimates from different companies in two or more of the states, it’s important to know the laws governing contractors in each one.

Here’s the breakdown on basic qualifications for contracting work in the three different states:


A contractor who performs any work over $1,000 must be licensed by the state. Licensing also is required for individuals and businesses working with asbestos and lead abatement as well as gas fitting.


In Maryland, a license is required for any home improvement work as well as any asbestos and lead abatement work. However, general construction contractors do not require a license. Typically, general construction contractors oversee or provide materials for the renovation, but don’t perform the work themselves.

The individuals actually working on your home improvements should, however, be licensed. Maryland HVACR contractors must also be licensed, with the “R” standing for refrigeration — a slight variation from just the HVAC requirements in D.C. and Virginia.

Washington, D.C.

In the nation’s capitol, a license is required for any work contract exceeding $300 in cost. In addition, if you’re having trouble with asbestos poisoning and/or a flighty fridge, you want to make sure your contractor is licensed to properly deal with that, too.

Tips to Remember

Before you set off on your search, review this quick summary of the most important things to remember when hiring a contractor:

Across Maryland, Washington, D.C., and Virginia, any electrical, plumbing, HVAC or refrigeration work must be completed by a licensed contractor.

Across Maryland, Washington, D.C., and Virginia, asbestos and lead issues should be taken care of by a licensed contractor.

Licensing requirements vary by state for home improvements depending on the amount of the renovation.