I think subcontractors complain too much about retentions. From experience, I think the subcontractor is often its own worst enemy.

I have had experience of remedial works not being carried out for years and years, no matter what inducements are made to the subcontractor in default. It is not always possible to use others and charge it back as there are either insufficient funds to do so or it could jeopardise the warranty agreement.

There is a compelling argument for using a management contract that provides for individual final certificates for each subcontract. This means the process of getting defects completed and thereby getting their money released is entirely in the subcontractor’s hands.

Contractors and subcontractors have to become more professional in dealing with defects and retentions – it is always left for someone who is not busy at that particular moment and does not know anything about the contract. Even if it is someone who was originally involved in the project, they have often moved on to another job and therefore have no time available to deal with the situation properly. The best situation I have seen is for a separate department to be set up that is totally responsible for defects and releasing retentions.

Peter Whitbread