Specialty Contractor Laws

Where You Need a Lawyer:

(This may not be the same place you live)

At No Cost! 

 Specialty Contractor Laws

Are you aware that some forty different trades exist in the construction industry?

There is much more knowledge, education, experience, and specialized expertise required for trade contractors than for general contractors. There is a point of entry for learning a trade (e.g., electricity, HVAC, mechanical, framing, drywall, etc.), followed by understanding safety implications, code requirements, government regulations, and the depth of products that need to be installed.

Specialized contractors must also have the basic construction management skills of the general trades, but these skills are also more challenging.

Specialized contractors are extremely knowledgeable and experienced with the task they are hired for, which is why they are vital to the success of any construction project, whether they are commercial or residential.

What Is a Specialty Contractor?

A specialty contractor is a type of craftsman specializing in a specific construction or trade area. They generally require a business license to practice their craft and hold themselves out as specialists in their field. It is common for people to hire specialty contractors to perform very specific tasks or to maximize their budget.

Specialty contractors are typically independent contractors since their work can be very specific. They may, however, work as an in-house specialist for a larger company. Depending on the client’s construction needs, they can be hired separately or as part of an overall team.

Since specialty contractors specialize in one specific construction area, project owners hire a specialty contractor to maximize their budget and obtain the best quality of work for their money.

A specialist contractor can be hired independently or as part of a larger team of contractors, depending on the project’s scope and the specificity of the Owner or General Contractor. Because they are licensed to perform a specific task, specialty contractors can also be responsible for long-term maintenance, repair, and upkeep of whatever they are hired to install.


Considering the potential harm of construction, each state has a strong interest in regulating specialty contractors. Licensing requirements set minimum standards of competence and insurance coverage to reduce the risk of harm. Specialty contractors may be restricted in the type of work they are authorized to perform and may not be able to hire subcontractors. Plumbing, concrete, swimming pool, landscaping, roofing, and HVAC contractors are common types of specialty categories.

To apply for a specialty contractor license, you are required to demonstrate competency, whether through education, references, or both, in the field to which you are applying. A variety of contractor license classifications may require passing specialized state trade exams.

Moreover, you may be required to provide a surety bond, proof of insurance, or financial statements in order to demonstrate your financial capability to operate the specialty business.

How Do Specialty Contractors Use Their Skills?

A variety of tasks can be performed under a special contract, including:

  • Wiring and electrical systems
  • Lighting systems
  • Systems for heating and cooling
  • Fixtures
  • Alarms
  • Plumbing

Specialty contractors specialize in installing various systems, but they may also perform maintenance, repairs, and upgrades. Generally, any type of work that requires a license to be performed is classified as specialty contractor work under the majority of state and local business laws.

Construction is one of the most heavily regulated industries in the United States, and this is also true for contractors working in specialized fields. Each state has its own contractor licensing laws, specialty classifications, and specialty contractor application requirements.

What Are the Consequences of Non-Compliance?

Through state-run task forces and awareness campaigns, state and local governments have revamped efforts to prevent the operation of unlicensed contractors. Specialty contractors who operate without a license may face harsh civil and criminal penalties, ranging from fines to imprisonment.

Are Specialty Contractors Liable for Unsatisfactory Work?

Yes. Many claims are filed each year against specialty contractors for injuries and property damage caused by negligence.

For a specialty contractor to be held liable for negligence, they must prove they had a duty of care towards the party, that they breached this duty of care, and that their breach resulted in measurable losses.

In the case of a specialty contractor who knew they were supposed to install an insulated wire but instead installed an uninsulated wire, they might be liable for any damage or injuries the wires may cause in the future (such as an electrical fire).

Specialty contractors may be legally affiliated with larger companies. In such cases, it may be necessary to hire their employer or business manager through vicarious liability laws. Also, they can be held liable if they conduct business without a license.

Lastly, breach of contract claims are commonly filed against specialty contracts. A breach of contract lawsuit could be filed if a specialty contractor fails to complete the project within the timeframe stated in the contract.

Differentiating Between General Contractors and Specialty Contractors

It is important to understand the difference between general contractors and specialty contractors. They are both equally important to a successful project. However, their responsibilities are different. As opposed to a general contractor, who oversees a construction project’s overall status and completion, a specialty contractor specializes in a specific task.

A self-performing general contractor can also be employed to do particular installation tasks, but if they do not have the necessary licenses to complete the task, then a specialty contractor is required.

Depending on the project, specialty contractors can be hired to handle more than one task. It is not uncommon for a general contractor or project owner to employ a specialty contractor with dual licenses that allow them to complete electric and heating or cooling installations rather than hiring two separate specialty contractors to do each.

What Is the Relationship Between General Contractors and Specialty Contractors?

The parties should hold each other accountable for their agreements and stay focused on their specific tasks while working collaboratively. If a specialty contractor is hired separately from a general contractor, they may not necessarily answer to each other, but they must cooperate for the benefit of the project.

Suppose a general contractor is responsible for paying a specialty contractor for the job. In that case, creating a contract outlining how the specialty contractor will receive down payments for labor and payment after the task is completed is a good idea. To avoid disputes about when the specialty contractor should be paid, and the amount of down payment, general contractors and specialty contractors should communicate openly.

A specialty contractor has a Class C license that certifies they have specific skills in one specialty or niche. Subcontractors are often hired for specific projects. Compared to general contractors, they are experts in their field, and their work is more restricted based on their license. Among their specialties are: electrical, plumbing, building, pool, mechanical, HVAC, solar, sheet metal, solar, marine, drywall, irrigation, marine, pollutant storage, and more.

General and specialty contractors work together to get a project done.

Do I Need a Lawyer if I Have Legal Issues Involving a Specialty Contractor?

A building or construction project can often benefit from the services of a specialty contractor. It is possible, however, to have legal disputes or disagreements with a specialty contractor.

You may wish to contact a qualified contract lawyer in your area if you have any questions or inquiries regarding a dispute with a specialty contractor. An attorney can advise you about your legal options for recovering damages and can represent you in court if necessary.


16 people have successfully posted their cases

Find a Lawyer