Subcontractor Default Insurance

May 6, 2024
subcontractor default insurance

It is unfortunately not uncommon for subcontractors to default on a job. This can happen for many reasons, such as a worker failing to complete the assigned work in time, not meeting a client’s required quality standards, or even experiencing financial difficulties or other hardships that make them unable to fulfill their contractual obligations.

Subcontractor defaults pose a serious threat to construction projects, often leading to delays, disputes, additional costs, necessary rework, and potential legal liabilities. 

To mitigate risks that can come with subcontractor defaults, project owners must remain proactive and committed to vetting their subcontractors before they select a hire. Follow our guidance when it comes to understanding the importance of subcontractor default insurance to remain compliant.

What Is a Subcontractor Default Insurance?

Subcontractor default insurance, also referred to as SDI, is a kind of insurance coverage aimed to protect general contractors, project owners, and other hiring parties from financial losses resulting from subcontractor defaults. 

Because a default by even one subcontractor can cause delays, additional costs, or potential legal disputes to arise on a construction project, it’s important to ensure that every subcontractor on a job is protected by SDI. Doing so will help ultimately mitigate the financial risks associated with these defaults, providing financial protection for all stakeholders.

How Does Subcontractor Default Insurance Work?

Like other insurance policies, subcontractor default insurance works via an agreement between two parties: an insurer and an insured. In this case, the project owner or general contractor would be the insured and would find an insurance broker or provider to purchase a policy from. In exchange for monthly premiums paid by the GC or project owner, the insurer will provide financial safety and protection in the case that claims related to the policy are made. General contractors will typically purchase SDI policies on an annual basis to secure broad coverage for subcontractor defaults that could occur across multiple projects. 

If a subcontractor were to default on a job covered by SDI, the policyholder would file a claim with their provider, detailing the nature and extent of the losses or damages. The policy provider would then evaluate the claim and, if approved, reimburse the insured party for the covered losses, up to the policy limits. After paying a claim, the insurer can also pursue recovery efforts against the defaulting subcontractor to try and recoup some of the incurred losses. 

Who Pays for Subcontractor Default Insurance?

In many cases, project owners will require the general contractor on a project to get subcontractor default insurance as part of its requirements, and will often include subcontractor default insurance cost as part of the project budget. In some cases, such as where SDI is not listed as a requirement, the general contractor will be responsible for purchasing SDI to protect themselves and their projects, bearing the premiums as part of the project’s overhead costs. 

What Does Subcontractor Default Insurance Cover?

Subcontractor default insurance provides coverage for losses incurred because of subcontractor defaults, typically reimbursing the general contractor or project owner on a job for any costs associated with completing the unfinished work. 

Let’s walk through a subcontractor default insurance example. Say that one of your subcontractors seems to be doing a fine job on the project you hired them for, but one day they let you know that they have declared bankruptcy and cannot commit to finishing the work, making it so that you’ll have to extend your project timeline. Your SDI policy should cover the costs associated with replacing them and completing the project, as well as the increased labor costs, equipment rentals, and even penalties you’ll face for missing project milestones.

What Is the Advantage of Subcontractor Default Insurance in Lieu of Subcontractor Bonds For a CM?

Another risk management strategy for securing protection against possible project defaults is the use of subcontractor bonds. Subcontractor bonds, usually either covering bids (commitment to a job), performance (completion of the job), or payment (ensuring they’ll pay all suppliers and other workers as needed) are sometimes required by project owners. A major difference here is that the subcontractor themself will usually pay for a bond’s premium. While bonds will provide some protection against subcontractor defaults, SDI typically comes with a few advantages for project owners. 

Let’s walk through some benefits of purchasing subcontractor default insurance vs. bonds:

  • Subcontractor bonds generally only cover specific kinds of defaults, meaning that SDI typically provides broader coverage.
  • The claims process is more straightforward with an SDI policy, as compared to having to make claims against individual bonds for every subcontractor default incurred.
  • The financial and administrative burden of obtaining individual bonds for various subcontractors can stack up, whereas SDI can cover many workers under one policy. 

What Are the Benefits of Subcontractor Default Insurance?

Ultimately, subcontractor default insurance protects construction project stakeholders from possible subcontractor defaults, such as project delays or failure to complete the work. Ensure that your construction projects get completed successfully by requiring subcontractor default insurance every time – and verifying compliance through an SDI COI. 

How Our Team of Experts Keeps You Protected From Defaults

Have questions about SDI, compliance, or certificates of insurance (COIs)? We’re the team for you. Reach out today to learn more from our team of industry experts. 

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