Contractor License Exemptions

Anyone associated with a project can file an application for a permit; however, the Code of Virginia requires that we issue a permit only when a properly licensed contractor is identified for the project. State code provides for some exemptions from the requirement to have a licensed contractor. These types of exemptions are the most common:

  • Residential Owner Occupant Exemption

  • Business Occupant

  • Residential Rental Unit Owner

Each exemption has important requirements that must be met to qualify. We review exemption requests closely to make sure all the conditions are met.

Even if you invoke an exemption, you are responsible for compliance with construction codes just as if you are a licensed contractor. In most cases you will be required to submit construction documents (building plans) for review and approval before a permit is issued.

The details below provide some guidance on whether or not you qualify for an exemption.

If you believe you qualify for an exemption, you will be required to file a written statement that you are not subject to licensure or certification as a contractor or subcontractor.

Code of Virginia § 54.1-1111. Prerequisites to obtaining business license; building, etc., permit.

 A. Any person applying to the building official or any other authority of a county, city, or town in this Commonwealth, charged with the duty of issuing building or other permits for the construction of any building, highway, sewer, or structure, or any removal, grading or improvement shall furnish prior to the issuance of the permit, either (i) satisfactory proof to such official or authority that he is duly licensed or certified under the terms of this chapter to carry out or superintend the same, or (ii) file a written statement that he is not subject to licensure or certification as a contractor or subcontractor pursuant to this chapter.

The information on this page relates to the italicized lines of the regulation above.

Residential Owner Occupant Exemption

This exemption is available for "Any person who performs or supervises the construction, removal, repair or improvement of no more than one primary residence owned by him and for his own use during any 24-month period." 

  • “Residential property” meaning a single- or two-family dwelling
  • “Person” means that the exemption is not available where a corporation is the owner. 
  • “For his own use” means the person residence must live in the building or occupy it upon completion. 
  • “During any 24-month period” means the exemption cannot be invoked within 2 years of the activity associated with a previous exemption. The two-year period starts on the completion date of a previous project.
  • The exemption does not extend to any people hired to perform work; any subcontractor must have the proper license class and classification for the work performed. 
  • This exemption can only be used every 24 months not just in Roanoke but anywhere in Virginia.
  • Not being a contractor, the owner will not meet any exemption from the requirement for construction documents (building plans).   Approved construction documents will be needed before a permit is issued.

Residential Rental Unit Owner

This exemption is available for "Any person who performs or supervises the repair or improvement of residential dwelling units owned by him that are subject to the Virginia Residential Landlord and Tenant Act (§ 55.1-1200 et seq.)." 

  • The unit(s) must be occupied by a tenant or tenants to be subject to the landlord and tenant act. 
  • “Person” means the owner or someone employed by the owner as a W-2 employee (not a contractor). 
  • This exemption does not apply to work related to creating the rental unit.
  • This exception does not extend to any people hired to perform work; any subcontractor must have the proper license class and classification for the work performed.  

Business Occupant 

This exemption is available for "Any person who performs or supervises the repair or improvement of industrial or manufacturing facilities, or a commercial or retail building, for his own use."  

  • “Person” means someone who is the owner of a business or is a “W-2” employee of the business, but not someone who is contracted.
  • “For his own use” means the person actively operates a business from the property.
  • The business can either lease or own the property. 
  • This exemption does not extend to any people hired by contract to perform work; any subcontractor must have the proper license class and classification for the work performed.
  • Not being a contractor, the owner will not meet any exemption from the requirement for construction documents (building plans).   Approved construction documents will be needed before a permit is issued.