Washington Retainage Overview

Retainage serves two general purposes: (1) To provide an incentive to the contractor or subcontractor to complete the project; and (2) To give the owner some protection against problems like liens, contractual defaults, delays, and more. In most states, laws exist to regulate how the parties use the retainage concept, mostly protecting some parties against abuse of the tool from others. The following are resources, legal information, and frequently asked questions about Washington’s retainage requirements. The Washington retainage statutes are reproduced below on this page.

Washington Retainage for Private Projects FAQs

Washington Retainage FAQs

Does Washington limit the amount of retainage that can be withheld from a contractor?

Washington does not specify retainage rules for private projects in its retainage statute.

How long can a party withhold retainage in Washington?

Washington does not specify retainage rules for private projects in its retainage statute.

Does Washington require retained funds be deposited in a special account? Can securities be substituted for retainage?

Washington does not specify retainage rules for private projects in its retainage statute.

How can I make a claim to recover retainage in Washington?

Washington does not specify retainage rules for private projects in its retainage statute.

Is there a specific notice required to recover retainage in Washington?

Washington does not specify retainage rules for private projects in its retainage statute.

Washington Retainage for Public Projects FAQ

Washington Retainage FAQs

Does Washington limit the amount of retainage that can be withheld from a contractor?

Contractor may request that the retainage be reduced to the value of the work remaining uncompleted on the project. Retainage withheld from subcontractors cannot exceed 5%. If the contract is less than or equal to $35,000, the public entity and contractor can agree to withhold 50% of the contract price instead of requiring a bond.

How long can a party withhold retainage in Washington?

Statute is not clear but appears that retainage shall be released 35 days after completion of the project.

Does Washington require retained funds be deposited in a special account? Can securities be substituted for retainage?

5% retainage is required to be placed in a trust fund for payment of claims arising under the contract.

How can I make a claim to recover retainage in Washington?

This is not specified for public projects in the Washington retainage statute.

Is there a specific notice required to recover retainage in Washington?

This is not specified for public projects in the Washington retainage statute.

Washington Retainage Statutes

Getting informed about prompt payment laws is important. An examination of Washington’s retainage laws, the rules and regulations related to the amount and timing of allowable retained payments, is important to know your rights and responsibilities as a party on a construction project. Washington’s specific laws can be found in: Wash. Rev. Code § 60.28.011, § 60.28.010(5) and § 39.08.010; and are reproduced below.

Retainage Statute on Private Projects

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Retainage Statute on Public Projects

§60.28.011:

(1)

(a) Except as provided in (b) of this subsection, public improvement contracts must provide, and public bodies must reserve, a contract retainage not to exceed five percent of the moneys earned by the contractor as a trust fund for the protection and payment of: (i) The claims of any person arising under the contract; and (ii) the state with respect to taxes, increases, and penalties imposed pursuant to Titles 50, 51, and 82 RCW which may be due from such contractor.

(b) Public improvement contracts funded in whole or in part by federal transportation funds must rely upon the contract bond as referred to in chapter 39.08 RCW for the protection and payment of: (i) The claims of any person or persons arising under the contract to the extent such claims are provided for in RCW 39.08.010; and (ii) the state with respect to taxes, increases, and penalties incurred on the public improvement project under Titles 50, 51, and 82 RCW which may be due. The contract bond must remain in full force and effect until, at a minimum, all claims filed in compliance with chapter 39.08 RCW are resolved.

(2) Every person performing labor or furnishing supplies toward the completion of a public improvement contract has a lien upon moneys reserved by a public body under the provisions of a public improvement contract. However, the notice of the lien of the claimant must be given within forty-five days of completion of the contract work, and in the manner provided inRCW 39.08.030.

(3) The contractor at any time may request the contract retainage be reduced to one hundred percent of the value of the work remaining on the project.

(a) After completion of all contract work other than landscaping, the contractor may request that the public body release and pay in full the amounts retained during the performance of the contract, and sixty days thereafter the public body must release and pay in full the amounts retained (other than continuing retention of five percent of the moneys earned for landscaping) subject to the provisions of chapters 39.12 and 60.28 RCW

(b) Sixty days after completion of all contract work the public body must release and pay in full the amounts retained during the performance of the contract subject to the provisions of chapters 39.12 and 60.28 RCW.

(4) The moneys reserved by a public body under the provisions of a public improvement contract, at the option of the contractor, must be:

(a) Retained in a fund by the public body;

(b) Deposited by the public body in an interest bearing account in a bank, mutual savings bank, or savings and loan association. Interest on moneys reserved by a public body under the provision of a public improvement contract must be paid to the contractor;

(c) Placed in escrow with a bank or trust company by the public body. When the moneys reserved are placed in escrow, the public body must issue a check representing the sum of the moneys reserved payable to the bank or trust company and the contractor jointly. This check must be converted into bonds and securities chosen by the contractor and approved by the public body and the bonds and securities must be held in escrow. Interest on the bonds and securities must be paid to the contractor as the interest accrues.

(5) The contractor or subcontractor may withhold payment of not more than five percent from the moneys earned by any subcontractor or sub-subcontractor or supplier contracted with by the contractor to provide labor, materials, or equipment to the public project. Whenever the contractor or subcontractor reserves funds earned by a subcontractor or sub-subcontractor or supplier, the contractor or subcontractor must pay interest to the subcontractor or sub-subcontractor or supplier at a rate equal to that received by the contractor or subcontractor from reserved funds.

(6) A contractor may submit a bond for all or any portion of the contract retainage in a form acceptable to the public body and from a bonding company meeting standards established by the public body. The public body must accept a bond meeting these requirements unless the public body can demonstrate good cause for refusing to accept it. This bond and any proceeds therefrom are subject to all claims and liens and in the same manner and priority as set forth for retained percentages in this chapter. The public body must release the bonded portion of the retained funds to the contractor within thirty days of accepting the bond from the contractor. Whenever a public body accepts a bond in lieu of retained funds from a contractor, the contractor must accept like bonds from any subcontractors or suppliers from which the contractor has retained funds. The contractor must then release the funds retained from the subcontractor or supplier to the subcontractor or supplier within thirty days of accepting the bond from the subcontractor or supplier.

(7) If the public body administering a contract, after a substantial portion of the work has been completed, finds that an unreasonable delay will occur in the completion of the remaining portion of the contract for any reason not the result of a breach thereof, it may, if the contractor agrees, delete from the contract the remaining work and accept as final the improvement at the stage of completion then attained and make payment in proportion to the amount of the work accomplished and in this case any amounts retained and accumulated under this section must be held for a period of sixty days following the completion. In the event that the work is terminated before final completion as provided in this section, the public body may thereafter enter into a new contract with the same contractor to perform the remaining work or improvement for an amount equal to or less than the cost of the remaining work as was provided for in the original contract without advertisement or bid. The provisions of this chapter are exclusive and supersede all provisions and regulations in conflict herewith.

(8) Whenever the department of transportation has contracted for the construction of two or more ferry vessels, sixty days after completion of all contract work on each ferry vessel, the department must release and pay in full the amounts retained in connection with the construction of the vessel subject to the provisions of RCW 60.28.021 and chapter 39.12 RCW. However, the department of transportation may at its discretion condition the release of funds retained in connection with the completed ferry upon the contractor delivering a good and sufficient bond with two or more sureties, or with a surety company, in the amount of the retained funds to be released to the contractor, conditioned that no taxes may be certified or claims filed for work on the ferry after a period of sixty days following completion of the ferry; and if taxes are certified or claims filed, recovery may be had on the bond by the department of revenue, the employment security department, the department of labor and industries, and the material suppliers and laborers filing claims.

(9) Except as provided in subsection (1) of this section, reservation by a public body for any purpose from the moneys earned by a contractor by fulfilling its responsibilities under public improvement contracts is prohibited.

(10) Contracts on projects funded in whole or in part by farmers home administration and subject to farmers home administration regulations are not subject to subsections (1) through (9) of this section.

(11) This subsection applies only to a public body that has contracted for the construction of a facility using the general contractor/construction manager procedure, as defined under RCW 39.10.210. If the work performed by a subcontractor on the project has been completed within the first half of the time provided in the general contractor/construction manager contract for completing the work, the public body may accept the completion of the subcontract. The public body must give public notice of this acceptance. After a forty-five day period for giving notice of liens, and compliance with the retainage release procedures in RCW 60.28.021, the public body may release that portion of the retained funds associated with the subcontract. Claims against the retained funds after the forty-five day period are not valid.

(12) The definitions in this subsection apply throughout this section unless the context clearly requires otherwise.

(a) “Contract retainage” means an amount reserved by a public body from the moneys earned by a person under a public improvement contract.

(b) “Person” means a person or persons, mechanic, subcontractor, or materialperson who performs labor or provides materials for a public improvement contract, and any other person who supplies the person with provisions or supplies for the carrying on of a public improvement contract.

(c) “Public body” means the state, or a county, city, town, district, board, or other public body.

(d)  “Public improvement contract” means a contract for public improvements or work, other than for professional services, or a work order as defined in RCW 39.10.210.

§ 60.28.010(5):

(5) If the public body administering a contract, after a substantial portion of the work has been completed, finds that an unreasonable delay will occur in the completion of the remaining portion of the contract for any reason not the result of a breach thereof, it may, if the contractor agrees, delete from the contract the remaining work and accept as final the improvement at the stage of completion then attained and make payment in proportion to the amount of the work accomplished and in such case any amounts retained and accumulated under this section shall be held for a period of thirty days following such acceptance. In the event that the work shall have been terminated before final completion as provided in this section, the public body may thereafter enter into a new contract with the same contractor to perform the remaining work or improvement for an amount equal to or less than the cost of the remaining work as was provided for in the original contract without advertisement or bid. The provisions of this chapter 60.28 RCW shall be deemed exclusive and shall supersede all provisions and regulations in conflict herewith.

§ 39.08.010:

(1)

(a) Whenever any board, council, commission, trustees, or body acting for the state or any county or municipality or any public body must contract with any person or corporation to do any work for the state, county, or municipality, or other public body, city, town, or district, such board, council, commission, trustees, or body must require the person or persons with whom such contract is made to make, execute, and deliver to such board, council, commission, trustees, or body a good and sufficient bond, with a surety company as surety, conditioned that such person or persons must:

(i) Faithfully perform all the provisions of such contract;

(ii) Pay all laborers, mechanics, and subcontractors and material suppliers, and all persons who supply such person or persons, or subcontractors, with provisions and supplies for the carrying on of such work; and

(iii) Pay the taxes, increases, and penalties incurred on the project under Titles 50, 51, and 82 RCW on: (A) Projects referred to in RCW 60.28.011(1)(b); and/or (B) projects for which the bond is conditioned on the payment of such taxes, increases, and penalties.

(b) The bond, in cases of cities and towns, must be filed with the clerk or comptroller thereof, and any person or persons performing such services or furnishing material to any subcontractor has the same right under the provisions of such bond as if such work, services, or material was furnished to the original contractor.

(2) The provisions of RCW 39.08.010 through 39.08.030 do not apply to any money loaned or advanced to any such contractor, subcontractor, or other person in the performance of any such work.

(3) On contracts of thirty-five thousand dollars or less, at the option of the contractor the respective public entity may, in lieu of the bond, retain fifty percent of the contract amount for a period of thirty days after date of final acceptance, or until receipt of all necessary releases from the department of revenue, the employment security department, and the department of labor and industries and settlement of any liens filed under chapter 60.28 RCW, whichever is later.

(4) For contracts of one hundred thousand dollars or less, the public entity may accept a full payment and performance bond from an individual surety or sureties.

(5) The surety must agree to be bound by the laws of the state of Washington and subjected to the jurisdiction of the state of Washington.