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Clients think they should hold a retention.

The tiny sub contractor at the bottom of the food chain knows he will never see it.

But why should a retention be necessary?

The client will say that he needs to hold money back to pay for anything that needs to be put right.

But retentions are not used for that. They are used to short change the company that did the work.

Strictly speaking, if the client enters into a contract for, say, a house with a basement and at the end he gets the key and for the first time he is able to check the outcome, one can understand the risk until that moment - especially since the workforce might not have even done the work but run away with a deposit.

But our work is far simpler than that.
  1. When we start on site and bring our tools we have clearly started. If we show you we have ordered the reinforcing steel your engineer specified it will arrive.

  2. If you have a basement slab, you have it. It was checked and approved by Building Control for thickness and correct steel. There is nothing more to discuss. The many tonnes of hardening concrete is not going anywhere.

  3. When we pour the walls to half height it is the same. Checked. Done. Not going anywhere.

  4. When we pour the walls to full height we have usually nearly finished.

  5. We might still have the upstand to do, to tidy up and to leave. And just before we leave with our tools is when we would like our last payment.

The point is it is easy for anyone to see that our work is done or it isn't. Building Control have a record of their approval at various stages to continue and pour the concrete. You don't need the protection of a retention.

The answer is not to hold a retention. The answer is to enter into a Value Engineering agreement putting client and worker on the same team. That gives the client the ability to keep an eye on everything and to sack his workers if he isn't happy.

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The point, as I see it, is that retentions simply don't exist in construction any more.

There are amounts the entity above will not pay the entity below, and if the entity above can fool the entity below into thinking they might be paid then they are called retentions.