Contractors building new homes, buildings or structures must generally be licensed in one of 3 categories: Residential-Basic, Residential-Light Commerical or General. There are a number of exemptions from licensing, including specialty contractors, handymen, contractors licensed under chapter 14 (electricians, plumbers), those performing work for projects under $2,500.
Specialty Contractors are not required to have a state residential or general contractors license
There are a number of specialty contractors that are not required under the rules of the State Board of General and Residential Contactors. Pool and Spa contractors (outdoor environmental) and residential kitchen and bath designers are just two examples. These specialty contractors are permitted to perform the work covered by the scope approved by the Board AND the specialty contractor may perform work which would otherwise require a state license provided that (A) the entire contract is for which predominately relating to the specialy and (B) the work for which a license is required is incidential to and an integral part of the exempt work, and the non-exempt work does not exceed the greater of $10,000 or 25% of the entire contract.
Unlicensed Contractors are unable to enforce their contractors
Contractors who perform work which requires a license (and is not part of a specialty or under the $10,000 or 25% rule) may find that their contracts are unenforceable. This is an important provision for home owners when dealing with unlicensed contractors. If you determine that your contractor is required to hold a state contractors license but is unlicensed, you should consult legal counsel to determine the best course of action.
Owners Acting As Their Own Contractor Have a Limited Exception
Owners have a limited exception to act as a contractor and to hire subcontractors provided they meet certain requirements including only 1 project every 2 years and that the property is not intended for sale or lease. This is very important for property investors and flippers. If you buy property with the intent to "flip" the property after remodeling or making other construction improvements, there is a serious risk that you do not qualify for the owner exception. Violating this exception could expose you to a number of serious sanctions. You should consult legal counsel before acting as your own contractor.
Be wary of contractors who advertise they are "licensed" and "insured"
Often contractors who are not licensed by the state claim to be "licensed." Handymen and specialty contractors not only are not required to be licensed by the State Board of General and Residential Contractors, in many circumstances, they are unable to qualify for a residential license. Unscrupulous unlicensed contractors claim to be "licensed" because they hold a business license from the county. A business license is for occupational tax purposes and does not indicate qualifications to construct. A contractor licensed by the State of Georgia holds an actual pocket license card. The contractor's license can also be verified online with the Secretary of State's website