San Diego homeowners spend an average of $2,600 annually on home repair, remodeling, and improvement activities. Considering that handymen in the city typically charge lower rates than licensed contractors, hiring one to handle minor repairs and maintenance can significantly cut down your household expenditure. Nonetheless, you should always ask certain questions, such as how much the handyman charges and the scope of services that they provide, to ensure that you hire the right professional for the job. These questions are listed below and will be discussed in detail in this article:
- Are You Licensed to Practice as a Handyman in the City of San Diego?
- How Much Do You Charge Compared to Handymen in the City of San Diego?
- Do You Require a Permit to Complete This Work in the City of San Diego?
- What Works Can You Do Legally as a Handyman in the City of San Diego?
- Do You Carry the Necessary Insurance Policy for Handymen in the City of San Diego?
The licensing and regulation of home repair, building, and construction-related professionals in the City of San Diego is handled at the state level by the California Contractors State License Board (CSLB). Per the requirements of this board, any individuals in the city that wish to provide any type of construction-related activity worth more than $500, including the cost of materials and labor required for the job, must possess an appropriate CSLB-issued contractor license.
As such, handymen in the city are exempt from possessing state-issued occupational licenses, provided that they do not perform jobs that are worth more than $500. Note that any handyman that violates this licensing regulation by working on a project worth more than $500 without possessing an appropriate contractor will be charged with committing a misdemeanor offense. This carries a statutory penalty of up to $5,000 in fines, six months in jail, or a combined punishment of fines and jail time for first-time offenders, with repeat offenders facing steeper punishments. In addition, offenders may also receive administratively-issued penalties of anywhere between $200 and $15,000 per offense.
Note that, even though there are no mandatory state-level occupational licensing requirements for handymen in San Diego, these professionals must register for a locally-issued Business Tax Certificate with the San Diego Office of the City Treasurer before they can legally operate. This registration is typically due no later than 15 days from when the handymen intend to commence business in the city, and it can be done online or by mailing a completed Business Tax Application Form to:
- Office of the City Treasurer
- Business Tax Program
- P.O. Box 122289
- San Diego, CA 92112-2289
The business tax application form can also be filed in person at:
- Civic Center Plaza
- 1200 Third Avenue,
- Suite 100
- San Diego, CA 92101
Queries concerning the San Diego business tax filing and registration process can be directed to the Office of the City Treasurer at (619) 615-1500 or via email. You can also contact the California Contractors State License Board at (800) 321-2752 to make inquiries concerning the state-level handyman licensing exemptions.
Before deciding on a handyman in San Diego to hire, you should always request and compare cost estimates for your intended job from at least three different handymen in the city. Doing this gives you an idea of how much you should expect to pair for the job and also helps you spot possibly fraudulent handymen that charge way above market rates for their services. Note that the estimate you will receive for your repair job is determined by a number of factors, such as the nature and scope of the job, the type of materials that will be used, the cost of these materials, and the job's labor intensity.
San Diego handymen earn an average wage of $46,950, annually. The table below compares and contrasts the average hourly wages of handymen and other general maintenance and repair workers in San Diego with those of workers in this industry across the State of California and major American cities:San Diego Handyman Average Hourly Wage$22.57California Handyman Average Hourly Wage$23.61Los Angeles Handyman Average Hourly Wage$22.77Phoenix Handyman Average Hourly Wage$20.64Chicago Handyman Average Hourly Wage$23.38Houston Handyman Average Hourly Wage$20.96New York City Handyman Average Hourly Wage$24.50
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Permits are typically required for building and construction-related activities in San Diego, and these include home remodeling and alterations, as well as repairs to mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems in the city. Examples of common handyman works that require permits are:
- Replacing furnaces
- Installing exhaust fans, forced air units, and air conditioner units
- Resetting/re-connecting electrical meters
- Adding electrical circuits
- Miscellaneous wiring jobs
- Repairing water or sewer piping and gas lines
- Repairing or replacing drains
- Installing water softeners
- Constructing or repairing fences that are more than seven feet in height
- Work involving retaining walls that are more than three feet in height when measured from the top of the footing to the top of the wall
Permits for these building and construction-related activities are handled by the San Diego Development Services Department (DSD), and they must be obtained before the work in question commences. Permit applications can be made via the department's OpenDSD online permitting portal, and first-time applicants will be required to register a user account before accessing this portal. To this end, the DSD provides interested parties with a user guide that can be used to get information and assistance on the proper utilization of its permitting portal.
Permit applications can also be made by completing a General Application (Form DS-3032) and submitting this form to:
- City Operations Building
- 1222 First Avenue
- San Diego, CA 92101
- Hours: 7:00 a.m. - 11:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. - 4:00 p.m., Mondays to Thursdays
- Hours: 10:00 a.m. - 11:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. - 4:00 p.m., Fridays
Depending on the nature of the project, additional forms and documents, such as construction, plumbing, electrical, or mechanical plans, may be required. In situations where these additional documents are required, they will have to be provided in an approved PDF format and also validated before the permit application form is submitted. Also, considering that permits are typically only issued to homeowners, property owners, and licensed contractors, you may be required to submit a separate Owner-Builder Verification (Form DS-3042) if you wish your handyman to pull permits on your behalf. Finally, once the requested permits have been issued, the DSD may conduct inspections of the work at different stages to ensure that it complies with all applicable provisions of the city's municipal code.
Inquiries concerning the San Diego permitting processes and requirements can be directed to the city's Development Services Department in person via the contact address provided above or by calling (619) 446-5000.
Per the regulations of the California Contractors State License Board (CSLB), handymen in the City of San Diego can legally perform any type of building and construction-related work as long as the total cost of the job is not more than $500. Note that this figure includes the cost of labor and any materials that the job may require. Any handyman that wishes to bid for, or work on, a job worth more than $500 must obtain a contractor license from the CSLB in a classification that is relevant to the particular service that they wish to provide.
Considering that handymen in San Diego are not required to possess an occupational license, it is necessary to ensure that the handyman you hire is qualified to provide your required repair or remodeling service. You can do this by requesting references of past clients from the handyman and contacting these references to get their reviews on the handyman's work. Consider it a red flag of your intended handyman cannot provide you with at least three local verifiable references. Also, if the cost of your project is estimated to exceed $500, you should strongly consider hiring a licensed contractor to handle it. Provided below are cost estimates for common home repair and remodeling services that handymen in San Diego typically offer to interested residents of the city:Artwork hanging$50 - $150Cabinet repair$90 - $400Drain unclogging$70 - $180Driveway sealing$80 - $250Drywall repair$90 - $400Electrical appliance installation$100 - $200Faulty fixture repair/replacement$75 - $200Gutter cleaning$90 - $330Home childproofing$150 - $400Lawn care/landscaping maintenance$55 - $300Patio/deck painting$200 - $450Snow removal$55 - $200TV mounting$50 - $200Residential handyman services$71 - $83.50 per hour (labor only)Commercial handyman services$74 - $87 per hour (labor only)
Ensuring that the handyman you hire in the City of San Diego is properly insured is of utmost importance. According to the California Department of Industrial Relations, an average of 384 fatal work-related injuries has occurred annually across the state between 2010 and 2019, with more than 450 on-the-job fatalities reported in 2019 alone. Retaining the services of an uninsured handyman means that you will be held financially and legally liable for any accidents and injuries, whether fatal or non-fatal, that occur during your home repair or remodeling job.
As such, even though handymen in San Diego are not legally required to carry liability insurance, you should only hire handymen that do. Request a copy of the handyman's insurance certificate and contact the issuing organization to confirm its authenticity. Also, find out the scope of the coverage that the handyman's insurance policy provides and make sure that it not only includes third-party bodily injuries and property damage but is also adequate for the nature of your project.
Note that, per the provisions of Section 3700 of the California Labor Code, if your handyman has any apprentices or assistants that will be involved in the repair job, then they must carry workers' compensation insurance for these individuals. Inquiries concerning state-mandated workers' compensation requirements can be directed to the San Diego office of the state's Division of Workers' Compensation at:
- 7575 Metropolitan Drive
- Suite 202
- San Diego, CA 92108-4424
- Phone: (619) 767-2082
In March 2018, a collaborative undercover operation by the California Contractors State License Board (CSLB) and the San Diego Sheriff's Department resulted in the arrest of 14 handymen that had violated the CSLB's $500 monetary limit for handymen. A similar operation by the CLSB and the San Diego District Attorney's Office in 2019 also netted 26 handymen involved in the same offense. When searching for suitable handymen in the City of San Diego, it is important to look out for signs that you may be dealing with a scammer. In addition to trying to perform jobs worth more than $500, other signs of a possible handyman scam in the city include:
- Unsolicited offers of home repairs and remodeling
- Insistence on full payment before any work, usually in cash
- High-pressure sales tactics
- Refusal to provide written contracts
The following tips can help you avoid falling victim to the actions of fraudulent handymen in San Diego:
- Be wary of unsolicited handymen and offers of cheap home repair and remodeling work
- Look up reviews and testimonials on any handyman that you wish to employ online via third-party websites like the Better Business Bureau, Yelp, and Google Review
- Get estimates for your repair or remodeling project from at least three different handymen in the city before deciding on the one best suited to your budget. Note that the cost of the job should not be the sole deciding factor for your hiring decision
- Request references from your preferred handyman and reach out to these references to get their opinions on the handyman
- Make sure that any handyman you intend to hire is not featured on the CSLB's Most Wanted List
- Verify the handyman's insurance status
- Never pay the full cost of your repair job upfront
- Be wary of handymen that brush off the importance of written contracts. It is equally important to read and understand any contracts that you are given before signing them
- Always hire a state-licensed contractor to handle any home repair or remodeling jobs that are worth more than $500. You can confirm the licensing status of contractors in San Diego by calling (800) 321-2752 or by utilizing the CSLB's online license check portal
Suspected or confirmed handyman and contractor scams can be reported to the Affirmative Civil Enforcement Unit of the San Diego City Attorney's Office via an online complaint form or by contacting the unit in person at:
- 1200 Third Avenue
- Suite 1100
- San Diego, CA 92101-4103
- Phone: (619) 533-5800
Scams can also be reported to the San Diego Police Department at (619) 531-2000 or (858) 484-3154 or by contacting the San Diego County District Attorney's Office at:
- Hall of Justice
- 330 W. Broadway
- San Diego, CA 92101
- Phone: (619) 531-4040
Alternatively, complaints can be submitted to the San Diego County District Attorney's Office by completing and mailing a Citizen Report and Informal Complaint Form, along with copies of any relevant supporting documents, to:
- Office of the District Attorney
- Consumer Protection Unit
- P.O. Box 121011
- San Diego, CA 92112-1011
Note that matters reported to the aforementioned offices may be referred to other agencies for appropriate regulatory or enforcement action, and there is no guarantee that you will get monetary compensation after filing these reports. Nonetheless, you can seek compensation for the actions of fraudulent handymen by filing a lawsuit with the Civil Division of the San Diego County Superior Court. However, you should always get legal advice from a licensed attorney before pursuing this option. You can find licensed attorneys in the city via the Lawyer Referral and Information Service provided by the San Diego County Bar Association.