The answer to this question depends on the type of work being performed.

A home improvement license is required to perform “home improvement” work in Maryland.  “Home improvement” means “the addition to or alteration, conversion, improvement, modernization, remodeling, repair, or replacement of a building or part of a building that is used or designed to be used as a residence or dwelling place…”, and includes “construction, improvement, or replacement of a driveway, shelter, fence, garage, landscaping, deck, pier, porch, or swimming pool”, “connection, installation or replacement of a dishwasher, disposal, or refrigerator with an icemaker to existing exposed household piping lines”, and installation of an “awning, fire alarm, or storm window.” MD Bus. Reg. Code § 8-101.

A person may not act or offer to act as a contractor in Maryland for home improvement work unless the person has a home improvement license, and may not sell, or offer to sell a home improvement unless the person has a home improvement license or salesperson license. MD Bus. Reg. Code § 8-601. A contractor who holds a home improvement license is not required to also hold a construction license issued under Title 17 of the Maryland Code, Business Regulation Article. Title 17 requires anyone who does “construction business” to possess a construction license issued by the Clerk. “Construction business” is defined as follows:

  • 17-601 [Definitions].
  • In this subtitle the following words have the meanings indicated.
  • “Construction license” means a license issued by the clerk to do construction business.

(c) “Do construction business” means to agree to:

(1) pave or curb a sidewalk, street, or other public or private property;

(2) excavate earth, rock, or other material for a foundation or other purpose; or

(3) do work on or in a building or other structure that requires the use of a building material, including:

(i) paint;

(ii) stone;

(iii) brick;

(iv) mortar;

(v) wood;

(vi) cement;

(vii) structural iron;

(viii) structural steel;

(ix) sheet iron;

(x) galvanized iron;

(xi) metallic piping;

(xii) tin;

(xiii) lead;

(xiv) electric wiring; or

(xv) any other metal.

Subject to certain exceptions, “a person must have a construction license whenever the person does construction business in the State.” MD Bus. Reg. Code §17-602(a)[Requirement of a License]. A construction license is required to perform any of the above-referenced functions in a building or home.

Between the definition of “home improvement” work under Title 8 and various categories of “construction business” defined in Title 17 of Maryland’s Business Regulation Article, a license is required for many of the tasks a handyman is typically called upon to remedy.

One of many reasons not to perform home improvement work without a license in Maryland, in addition to being guilty of a criminal misdemeanor subject to a fine not exceeding $1,000 or imprisonment not exceeding 6 months or both, is that an unlicensed contractor may be legally prohibited from filing a lawsuit to recover unpaid money from a property owner (regardless of whether the work was properly and completely performed).

Michael J. Bramnick, principal at Bramnick Creed, LLC handles construction law matters and is available for consultations. Mike’s phone number is (301) 945-7800 and he can be reached by email at