Is It Time to Get Rid of Retainage?

Businessman passing bill to another person

While retainage has been part of the construction industry for decades, its concept, use (and abuse) have been under more discussion during the past 10 years.

June 15, 2020
David K. Taylor - Construction Executive

Many debate the pros, cons and claims of retainage—when one party to a construction contract withholds a percentage (typically 5%-10%) from an otherwise approved contractor pay application, and which typically is not paid until a project is substantially complete. If an owner withholds retainage from a prime contractor, typically the contractor will in turn withhold retainage from its subcontractors.

While retainage has been part of the construction industry for decades, its concept, use (and abuse) have been under more discussion during the past 10 years.

Based on heavy lobbying from primary subcontractor groups, state legislatures have passed laws to regulate retainage in commercial projects. Lenders have become more careful about loans and are frequently involved in retainage discussions. Bonded projects are subject to criticism when a surety does not step in and, like the mythical insurance company, write a check.

Reprinted courtesy of David K. Taylor, Construction Executive, a publication of Associated Builders and Contractors. All rights reserved.

Mr. Taylor may be contacted at dtaylor@bradley.com



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