Understanding Back Charges in Construction

As a construction company owner, one of the challenging aspects of running your business may be dealing with back charges. Back charges are fees or penalties that a contractor charges to a subcontractor or supplier for incomplete or faulty work, materials, or services.

Back charges are common in construction projects, and it’s essential to understand what they are and how to manage them to protect your business’s financial interests. In this blog post, we will discuss everything you need to know about back charges in construction.

What are Back Charges?

Firstly, let’s define what we mean by back charges. Back charges are fees that a contractor charges to a subcontractor or supplier for incomplete or faulty work, materials, or services. When there is a delay, defect or issue in the work done by a subcontractor or supplier, the contractor has to rectify it, and in turn, may charge for these ‘back charges’.

Types of Back Charges

There are two types of back charges: general back charges and specific back charges.

General back charges are usually related to the overall cost of a project. For example, if a subcontractor’s work causes a delay in the timeline of the project, the general back charge may be for the hourly rate of the team that couldn’t work because of the subcontractor’s fault.

Specific back charges, on the other hand, apply to a particular issue in the subcontractor’s work or service. For instance, if the subcontractor did not complete a part of the job correctly, they would receive a specific back charge for fixing that particular issue.

How to Manage Back Charges

To manage back charges efficiently, it’s important to have a clear contract. Your contract should outline all the project specifications, including standards for materials and work, timelines, deadlines, and cost breakdowns.

It’s crucial to track all work completed and materials used by subcontractors and suppliers. Accurate record-keeping can help you identify any discrepancies or issues easily. Moreover, prompt communication with the subcontractors or suppliers will enable you to address any concerns promptly and effectively to avoid them turning into back charges.

The Role of Insurance

Insurance can be helpful in managing back charges if the subcontractor or supplier does not pay them. In cases where the subcontractor or supplier cannot or will not pay the back charges, insurance can cover all or a portion of the cost.

What to Do When You are Charged a Back Charge

If you are a subcontractor or supplier and are charged a back charge, it’s essential to understand the reason behind it. Request detailed information from the contractor on the charges and dispute any charges that you believe are unjustified. Communicating effectively and promptly with the contractor can resolve many back-charge disputes amicably.


In conclusion, understanding back charges is pivotal for construction company owners to avoid financial issues. By having clear communication, a detailed contract, and accurate record-keeping, the trouble of back charges arising can be minimized. The key takeaway is to have transparency from both the contractor and subcontractor, and promptly address concerns to avoid back charges. With these tips and insights, you can handle back charges effectively and secure your business’s financial well-being.