Contracting Without a License in Colorado

Contracting without a license in Colorado can subject a person to criminal penalties.

A person contracts without a license when he or she:

  • engages in certain contracting or construction activities that require a special license or permit to perform; and
  • performs the work without the proper license or permit.

Required Licenses in Colorado

Colorado does not require state licenses for general contractors but does require specific state licensure for both:

  • plumbers; and
  • electricians.

General contractors are licensed and permitted at the local level rather than the state.

Penalties for Contracting Without a License

A first-time offense for plumbers and electricians who perform work without a license is charged as a Class 2 misdemeanor in Colorado.

A subsequent offense is a Class 6 felony.  The penalties for both can significantly affect your life and freedoms.

Below, our Colorado criminal defense lawyers discuss the following frequently asked questions about contracting without a license for Colorado residents:

Construction

1. What is the offense of contracting without a license under Colorado law?

Contracting without a license can result in criminal penalties against a person if committed in Colorado.

A person contracts without a license when he or she:

  • performs contracting or construction services that requires a permit or specialized licensure to engage in; and
  • the person engages in the work without the proper permit or license.

2. Does Colorado require licenses for all types of contractors?

General contractors do not require special licenses from the state in Colorado. However, these do:

  • plumbers;[1] and
  • electricians[2].

This includes even novice or "journeyman" plumbers and electricians. If a person works as either of these without a proper state license, he or she can face criminal charges.

The State of Colorado has specific requirements for how novice plumbers and electricians are to be trained and have different licensing requirements for different levels of experience.

2.1 How are general contractors' licenses handled in Colorado?

General contractors are different. They instead face individual regulations at the local level. Examples of local regulation of general contractors is represented in the table below:

Colorado City or Municipality

Contractor Licensing Department

Aspen

City of Aspen Building Department

Aurora

City of Aurora Public Works Department

Boulder

City of Boulder Planning & Development Services

Colorado Springs

Pikes Peak Regional Building Department

Denver

Denver's Permitting and Licensing Center

Fort Collins

City of Fort Collins Building Services

Golden

Golden Building Division

Grand Junction

Mesa County Department of Public Works

Littleton

Littleton Building Department

Longmont

City of Longmont Building Inspection

Pueblo

Pueblo Regional Building Department

Vail

Vail Building Safety Inspection Services

Penalties for operating without a license for general contractors are handled at the local level. General contractors should consult with an attorney to determine these local penalties.

2.2 Does Colorado require a license to work on my own home?

Colorado law does not require a person to have a license to work on his or her own home, even when that work is plumbing or electrical.3

However, depending on the project, a person may need local government approval and a permit to complete the work. Failure to obtain approval could result in civil penalties, or even a requirement that the project be torn down.

3. What are the penalties for contracting without a license in Colorado?

Depending on the type of contractor, different Colorado code sections deal with the penalties for contracting without a license.

3.1 What are the penalties for plumbers who fail to follow the law?

Plumbers who perform work without a license are charged under CRS 12-58-116. For a first-time offense, he or she may be charged with a Class 2 misdemeanor in Colorado. Penalties range from:

  • a minimum of 3 months up to a maximum of 12 months in jail; and/or
  • a minimum fine of $250 or a maximum fine of up to $1,000.4

A subsequent offense is a Class 6 felony, with penalties ranging from:

  • a minimum of 1 year up to a maximum of 18 months in Colorado State Prison; and/or
  • a minimum fine of $1,000 up to a maximum fine of $100,000.5

3.2 What are the penalties for electricians who fail to follow the law?

Electricians who perform work without a license are charged under CRS 12-23-119. For a first time offense, he or she may be charged with a Class 2 misdemeanor in Colorado. Penalties range from:

  • a minimum of 3 months up to a maximum of 12 months in jail; and/or
  • a minimum fine of $250 or a maximum fine of up to $1,000.6

A subsequent offense is a Class 6 felony, with penalties ranging from:

  • a minimum of 1 year up to a maximum of 18 months in Colorado State Prison; and/or
  • a minimum fine of $1,000 up to a maximum fine of $100,000.7

4. What impact will a criminal charge have on my application for a license in the future?

All applicants for a plumbing or electrician license are required to disclose if they have been convicted of a felony in the past.8 The impact of a felony conviction for contracting without a license could make it extremely difficult to obtain a proper license in the future.

4.1 Who regulates the approval or denial of applications for a license?

The State Plumbing Board handles applications for plumber license applications.9 The board creates rules for and regulates the conduct of the state's plumbers.

The State Electrical Board handles applications for electrician license applications.10 All applications for electricians travel through this agency.

4.2 Will the Plumbing Board and Electrical Board automatically deny my application because of my charges?

No. While either board may deny your license based upon previous criminal charges, it does not have to do so. This means that you can work with the appropriate board to obtain the license you need.

The board will consider certain factors in its determination, such as:

  • the seriousness of the prior offenses;
  • the nature of the conduct leading to the charge for contracting without a license;
  • the person's qualifications; and
  • other factors which may be important.

5. Are there defenses to this charge that I can raise?

A person can raise certain defenses to avoid a conviction for contracting without a license, or reduce the charges he or she faces:

  • the person is not a plumber or electrician;
  • the person is working on his or her own home;
  • the person has a valid license; or
  • the person honestly and reasonably believed his or her license was in good standing (not always a complete defense).

These defenses can help deter an overzealous Colorado prosecutor as well as protect your reputation and ability to gain a license in the future.

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Call us for help...

For questions about contracting without a license or to confidentially discuss your case with one of our skilled Colorado criminal defense attorneys, do not hesitate to contact us. (For cases in California, please visit our page on Business & Professions Code 7028 - Contracting without a license in California).

We represent clients in and around Denver, Colorado Springs, Aurora, Fort Collins, Lakewood, and several nearby cities.


Legal References:

  1. CRS 12-58-116 (Unauthorized practice--penalties)(Plumbers).
  2. CRS 12-23-119 (Unauthorized practice--penalties)(Electricians).
  3. Colorado.gov - Does a Homeowner Need a Contractor License?.
  4. CRS 18-1.3-501 (Misdemeanors classified--drug misdemeanors and drug petty offenses classified--penalties--definitions).
  5. CRS 18-1.3-401 (Felonies classified--presumptive penalties).
  6. Same as 3.
  7. Same as 4.
  8. Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies (Information Regarding Felony Conviction).
  9. Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies. State Plumbing Board.
  10. Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies. Electrical Board.

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