Retainage is a portion of a contract’s total price that is withheld until project completion. This withholding is intended to ensure that the quality of the contractor’s work is adequate. If the final inspection finds problems with the contractor’s work, the retainage will continue to be held by the client until the targeted issues have been rectified. Since the amount of retainage (typically 10%) may comprise the entire profit of a contractor, it is considered a powerful incentive to ensure that a project is completed in accordance with the wishes of the client. The retainage amount should not be so large that the contractor is forced to finance a project.

A retainage is more likely to be imposed by a client on a new contractor, since there is more uncertainty about the contractor’s performance. Retainage is less likely to be imposed when the client needs to have a project completed within an unusually short period of time. Waiving the retainage clause in a contract is considered a major incentive to entice a contractor to work for a client.

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