California Minor Work Exemption: A Comprehensive Guide

What is the Minor Work Exemption?

The Minor Work Exemption in California allows certain types of construction work to be performed without a contractor’s license.

This exemption, outlined in California Business & Professions Code Section 7048, applies when the aggregate contract price for labor, materials, and all other items is less than $500. The work is considered of casual, minor, or inconsequential nature​​.

Designed by the Contractors State Licensing Board (CSLB), the minor work exemption is a specific piece of construction law that allows for small-scale projects to be completed without the need to complete the usual licensing requirements for that type of work.

How Does the Minor Work Exemption Work?

The minor work exemption is a specific and narrow piece of legislation that allows ONLY small jobs to be performed without a license.

The Minor Work Exemption takes effect on a construction project when the total cost of labor and materials for a single construction project is less than $500.

This exemption does not apply if the work is part of a larger project or if the division of work is made in contracts of less than $500. This is an obvious attempt to skirt the laws put in place to prevent this very thing​​​​.

Many GCs have tried to outsmart the CSLB and break their projects up into smaller “projects”, and many GCs have failed. Do not try to outsmart the law – you will get caught!

Types of Jobs That Fall Under The Minor Work Exemption

The types of jobs that fall under the protective umbrella of the Minor Work Exemption include the basic construction tasks that require minimal expertise and that will have minimal consequences in the case of failure or use.

The typical types of construction tasks that fall under the Minor Work Exemption include painting of small rooms or homes, minor electrical and plumbing work, drywall installation, and minor carpentry. The main construction role where you’ll see the minor work exemption applied often is in the daily minor tasks of working as a handyman or maintenance person.

When To Use The Minor Work Exemption

The exemption allows people with construction expertise to undertake small-scale projects without the need for a contractor’s license. Usually this means a handyman or maintenance person who does many of the jobs a Class B or Class C license holder would do, only on a much smaller scale.

If you’re a handyman or a maintenance professional, the minor work exemption is for you, but it can also apply to construction contractors who are licensed in other areas who want to take on jobs that would otherwise require a Class A, B or C contractor license, such as minor plumbing work or wiring a light fixture.

By using the minor work exemption, a general contractor can, for example, expand their range of services to include minor, routine work on the properties they’ve built. Since they’ve already got a relationship with their client, having built their project, they can earn a little bit of extra money by working in a maintenance role for the customer, helping to maintain the facilities without needing an extra license.

Jobs Where The Minor Work Exemption Applies


Jobs Where The Minor Work Exemption Does NOT Apply


Minor Work Exemption: What General Contractors Need To Know

Even Gen Cons can take advantage of the minor work exemption in California for jobs under $500. This includes projects where they are the main contractor.

However, there are crucial legal stipulations to consider. Here are the main areas to look out for as a general contractor looking to take advantage of the minor work exemption.

For general contractors, compliance with the exemption’s criteria is crucial to avoid legal issues. One of the main things general contractors have tried in the past is to break down larger projects into smaller ones to fall under the $500 cap where the minor work exemption triggers.

The minor work exemption is obviously a potential cost-saving tool that many unscrupulous general contractors have tried to abuse. As one may expect, duping the CSLB is a fool’s game, and ultimately these Gen Cons were caught trying to skirt the law. Once caught, they faced extreme punishments – with many losing their general contracting license.

If you’re a general contractor, DO NOT try to split your project up into many different, smaller projects, in order to save on licensing costs. It is very easy for authorities to find these projects and put the pieces together and put you in a world of hurt.

Do I Need A License To Do Construction In California?

The Minor Work Exemption is exactly what it sounds like – an exemption to the rule involving ONLY the most minor construction jobs. When in doubt, assume you need a license!

ANY construction job that costs over $500 in materials and labor requires a CSLB license to perform the work. That means only the smallest, most minor jobs can qualify. Even painting a room can easily cost more than $1000 – meaning you need a C-33 Painting and Decorating contractor’s license.

When in doubt, err on the side of caution and make sure the project is under $500 in value, or make sure you get a license to perform the job. The consequences of doing construction work without a license in the state of California are severe!