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Licensing requirements for residential building work

When you need a contractor licence and the other licences and registrations required in NSW.

If you run a residential building and construction business in NSW, you require a contractor licence to cover the scope of work that your business contracts to perform. This resource explains when a contractor licence is required, who requires a licence and identifies other licences and registrations you might require.

When do you require a contractor licence?

A contractor licence is required where you contract or advertise to do “residential building work” which is more than $5,000 (including GST) in labour and materials.

If you perform “specialist work” of any value, you are required to hold a contractor licence. Specialist work includes electrical work; plumbing, draining and gas fitting work; and air conditioning and refrigeration work (except plug-in appliances).

You are not required to have a licence if you are contracting to do commercial work, unless the work is specialist work, as identified above.

What is residential building work?

Residential building work has a broad meaning. If you carry out, supervise or coordinate work, such as new construction, repair work, renovations (including kitchen and bathroom upgrades), decoration and protective treatment, work involving cupboards and vanity units, paving and driveways, pergolas, and carports, you are performing residential building work.

Residential building work is further defined in When does the Home Building Act apply.

How do I apply for a licence?

To apply for an individual contractor licence (or qualified supervisor certificate) you will need to complete an application form and lodge it at a Service NSW centre. You can book an appointment online.

An application fee will be payable at the time of lodgement and you will also be required to provide documentation supporting your application, such as:

  • details of relevant qualifications – your trade certificate, or other proof that you have the technical qualifications needed for the type of work you want to do;
  • referee statements to verify your experience (required for general building work applications, i.e. builder);
  • any other documents identified in the contractor application;
  • proof of identity for individual licence and certificate holders, including:
    • at least one document with your photo and date of birth.
    • at least one document with your current address.
    • one passport quality photo to be kept on file with Fair Trading.
    • proof of eligibility to obtain insurance under the Home Building Compensation Fund. Note: proof of identity documents must either be current or up to 12 months old at the time they are presented as specified in each list.

Special requirements for companies and partnerships

All entities carrying out residential building work or specialist work need to have licences in their own name, no matter whether you are an individual, partnership or company. You cannot trade under a company or partnership name using your personal licence.

Not only must the company or partnership hold a licence, that company or partnership must nominate a qualified supervisor who holds an individual contractor licence or a qualified supervisor certificate in the same class of work the partnership or company is licensed for. Fair Trading may require you to nominate more than one qualified supervisor depending on the size of your company or partnership.

The nominated supervisor must be an employee of the licence holder or a member of the partnership or a director of a company holding the contractor licence. Find out more about company and partnership licences and who are acceptable supervisors.

Applications for a company or partnership licence can be lodged online or in person at a Service NSW centre.

Grounds for refusal of license

Your license may be refused if you:

  • don’t have the required qualifications or experience.
  • fail to provide relevant information to Fair Trading.
  • have been disqualified from holding a licence.
  • owe money to Fair Trading because of a judgement.
  • hold a provisional licence or certificate.
  • are an apprentice or trainee.
  • have not complied or are unable to comply with insurance requirements.
  • are bankrupt or were bankrupt within three years before the date of the application.
  • are or were a director or a person concerned in the management of a company that:
    • is or was the subject of a winding up order; or
    • for which a controller or administrator has been appointed; or
    • when a controller or administrator was appointed (within three years prior to your application for renewal). This includes where you ceased being a director or a person concerned in the management of a company within 12 months prior to the external administration.
  • are subject to an unsatisfied Tribunal order.
    have had an unreasonable number of complaints, penalty notices, formal cautions or paid insurance claims.
  • have made false statements in your application.
  • have a close associate (who is not a fit and proper person to hold a licence) who exercises a significant influence over you or the operation and management of your business.
  • are an unfit or improper person to hold a licence or certificate.

What happens if I do work without a licence?

If you do residential building work or specialist building work without a licence, you can be fined up to $110,000. You must also ensure that you do not do work that is beyond the scope of your licence, e.g., you should not lay bricks if you only hold a licence to do wall and floor tiling.

Are there other licences or registrations I need?

If you carry out certain activities that pose a safety risk, like asbestos removal, demolition work or other high risk work activities (e.g., scaffolding, dogging and rigging work, and operation of specified machinery) your business, if not subcontracting the work to an appropriately licensed contractor, will require a licence for those activities. Safe Work NSW issues these licences.

If you are the principal contractor for works on Class 2, 3 or 9c buildings, additional building practitioner registration may also be required. Find out more about building practitioner registration for these works.

To find out more, contact HIA's Workplace Services team

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