News Story

Putting Up Gutters and Putting Down Tile Will Cost You in Michigan

State licensing laws on minor alterations among the most burdensome in the nation

Earning extra money replacing gutters or putting in new bathroom tile will cost you a lot of time and money thanks to Michigan’s licensing laws.

Without a certificate from the government, a lot of contracting work is illegal.

Michigan's licensing apparatus requires most general contracting workers to pay $235, take 60 hours of state-approved education, pass two exams and be over 18 years of age. Tiling, pouring terrazzo and putting up gutters are covered as maintenance and alteration contractors. Michigan is one of only 10 states that requires a license for this type of work and has the fourth highest licensing burden in the country, according to the Institute for Justice, a libertarian public interest law firm.

The Institute for Justice released a study recently looking at licensing mandates around the nation. The report says that a lot of licensing is "irrational" and "a war against work."

Liz Smalley from Michigan's Office of Regulatory Reinvention said that some licensing is not overburdensome and protects consumers. However, she acknowledged that the state "has a regulatory environment that is in need of reform."

"Over the years, occupational regulations have been added and compounded without any attempt to review what is necessary and healthy for an efficient policy that encourages job growth and economic development," Smalley said in an email.

Smalley has worked with the state Occupational Licensing Advisory Rules Committee, which recently suggested 18 occupations that should be deregulated. 

The state requires licensing for those doing carpentry work, but also siding, gutters, roofing, insulation and tile and marble. Only five states require any education for this type of general contracting work. Michigan also requires individuals to be of "good moral character." It is unclear how that is objectively measured.

Teri Francis, with the Builders License Training Institute in Williamsburg, said state approval for maintenance and alteration contractors helps them be protected by the laws.

"The license is required for anyone who is working on other people's homes (residential) if the project amounts to $600 or more," Francis said. "That includes time and materials. If a person is working on their own home, the license is not required."

Francis said Michigan licensing law is "now up to par" and that benefits include discounts from some lumber yards as well as marketing aspects.

Smalley wrote that her office recommends eliminating the 60 hours of education and that the exam must only be taken once.

Michigan licensing law also requires painters to pay a fee, take exams and be approved while barbers, are required to spend 2,000 hours in training — more than lawyers in the state.

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.