What is a Subcontractor Agreement?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

A subcontractor agreement is an agreement which specifies the terms of a relationship between a contractor and subcontractor, including the type of work the subcontractor is being hired to perform. Some contractors may use generic legal forms which can be filled in with details for each subcontractor while others may prefer to work with an attorney to draft an agreement which is specific to a given situation. These agreements clearly delineate the expectations and rights of both parties to the contract.

Roofers and roofing crews are often covered under subcontractor agreements.
Roofers and roofing crews are often covered under subcontractor agreements.

When people hire a contractor for a project, this original contractor is known as the main or prime contractor. The responsibility for the work ultimately lies on the prime contractor, but the contractor can opt to hire subcontractors to perform part of the work. This can include people with special skills who can perform tasks better than the prime contractor along with people who may work more cheaply or quickly than the prime contractor is able to do. For each of these subcontractors, a subcontractor agreement is needed.

A subcontractor agreement specifies the terms of a relationship between a contractor and subcontractor, including the type of work the subcontractor is being hired to perform.
A subcontractor agreement specifies the terms of a relationship between a contractor and subcontractor, including the type of work the subcontractor is being hired to perform.

The subcontractor agreement describes the type of work someone is being hired for, the specifications and standards which must be met when the work is performed, and the expected time frame for the project. The agreement can get extremely detailed; for example, it can specify paint brands and colors for a painting job, or the type of wiring used for an electrical wiring job. Having all of this information clearly recorded can be critical in the event of a dispute about the work, as one party or the other can use the subcontractor agreement as supporting evidence for a claim.

Subcontractors are frequently hired to work on construction sites.
Subcontractors are frequently hired to work on construction sites.

In the agreement, specifications about compensation are also provided. This may be on an hourly basis or on a stipend, depending on the type of work. Behavior standards may also be covered in the contract and the contract can also describe people who will be working with the subcontractor. When a roofer is hired to put a roof on a new house, for example, both the roofer and the roofing crew are covered in the subcontractor agreement.

Electricians may work as subcontractors on a construction project.
Electricians may work as subcontractors on a construction project.

Contractors like to create some protections for themselves since they are liable for work performed by subcontractors. In turn, subcontractors also need some legal protections to ensure that they are compensated for their work, that their tools will be protected on the work site, and so forth. The subcontractor agreement creates a legal relationship between these parties and also provides people with legal options in the event of a dispute.

A subcontractor agreement may be so detailed that it specifies paint brands, types and colors.
A subcontractor agreement may be so detailed that it specifies paint brands, types and colors.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments

anon82147

if you have a subcontractor hired and has an accident with a van in the construction, running over a worker in the contractor, who is responsible, to pay the injured person? the subcontractor's company or the one that has hired the driver.

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