Standard 7: Trustworthiness and safeguarding clients’ money
Standard 7 relates to keeping records of client money and holding a client account. It goes hand in hand with Standard 1 and Standard 9 of the Code: acting with honesty and integrity and maintaining the reputation of architects.
A client must be able to trust that funds paid to their architect will be used for the purpose for which those sums were paid. Due to the strong link to acting with honesty and integrity, a breach of Standard 7 is very likely to seriously and irrevocably undermine public confidence in the profession.
The practice of architects holding client money is not very common, but when this is necessary the architect should have robust arrangements in place to ensure good administration and record keeping and to minimise risks such as loss or misuse of client money, and fraud. Clear records should be maintained of all money held by the architect, and funds must be kept in a designated interest-bearing bank account called “client account.” This should be separate from any personal or business accounts and the architect should ensure that this money is not withdrawn to make payments unless it is made on behalf of the client. Such authorisation should be recorded in writing and a clear record kept.
We have seen complaints where architects have attempted to navigate financial problems with the use of client money. For example, where an architect experiencing financial difficulties uses a sum of money received for a client’s project for a different professional transaction. Even if the architect intends to pay it back upon receipt of further funds, this is considered a serious misuse of client money and a failure to be trustworthy.
Complaints relating to Standard 7 are rare, but when they are found proved at a Professional Conduct Committee they are likely to result in serious outcomes such as erasure from the Register. For this reason you should refrain from holding client money if you are unsure or unable to act as required of you by the Code. You should always seek advice from ARB if you are unsure how to proceed.
We hope you found this advice useful. We are here to support you through regulation and the Professional Standards team is on hand to provide further advice and guidance on professional obligations under the Code. Contact us if you have any concerns or queries and we will be happy to help.