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It is common in building agreements for the “employer” to hold back some monies due to the builder/contractor under the contract. This money is known as “retention money”.

The money belongs to the contractor. However, the “employer” is anxious to determine that no defects exist in the works which would allow the employer to deduct the cost of rectifying the defects from money due to the contractor. Until that determination is made the employer “retains” some of the money due to the contractor.

Given the collapse in the Irish construction industry it is now a serious problem to safeguard such retained money. If the money is kept by the employer with its own money it will be very difficult, if not impossible, to prevent the money from being lost in any insolvency of the employer. The remedy for this is to insist that the money be placed in a separate bank account (to the credit of the employer). Trust money (as this is) which is not mixed with the trustee’s money is not lost in an insolvency.

Even if the retention money was not required, under the terms of the contract, to be lodged in such a separate account, there is no reason why it cannot be done belatedly, before any insolvency is triggered.