Is my Money Safe with Eldridges?


Like all firms of solicitors, Eldridges Solicitors is regulated by the SRA (Solicitors Regulation Authority) who require us to have a set of policies to support the Solicitors Accounts Rules, which were overhauled in November 2019 and reduced from 52 rules to a less prescriptive 13 rules. The Solicitors Accounts Rules set out the requirements for firms authorised by the SRA to receive or deal with money belonging to clients, including trust money or money held on behalf of third parties.

Our accounts team have had extensive training on both the old rules and the new rules and collectively have over 50 years’ experience with looking after client money.

An authorised accountant audits us every year. They check our ledgers, our bank statements, bills, files and withdrawals to ensure that everything matches and the Solicitors Accounts Rules are being complied with.

In order for Eldridges to protect client money, we have to consider the following points every time we make a withdrawal from the Client Account:

1. Has the client provided Eldridges with enough money to make the payment?
2. Is that money cleared and available for use?
3. Do we have the clients’ written permission to use the money for the purpose for which it is being held?
4. Has the withdrawal been authorised by the fee earner?
5. Have relevant checks been made on the beneficiary of those funds to ensure that we are not paying a fraudster?

Only once all of these five points have been checked, and evidenced to the accounts team, will they process the payment and only a partner of the firm can sign a cheque or authorise an electronic payment.

We take the protection of your money very seriously.

The key for any business or individual is to exercise caution at all times when sending anyone your money. Use a telephone number that you have used before to confirm bank details if you are unsure, and make cheques payable to Eldridges Solicitors Client Account. Make sure that you get a receipt if you are paying in cash and if you are unsure of anything, ask.

The staff at Eldridges are here to help.

Frequently asked questions:

Q. Why will we not accept account details solely by email?
A. Emails are all too often and too easily hacked. This is why we always telephone you on the contact details that we have been provided at the start of the matter to check your bank details before sending you any amount of money.

Q. Why do we ask for account details so early on in the matter or on a matter where we are unlikely to need them?
A. Sometimes there is a small balance due back to the client and we aim to return it within five weeks of the matter completing. BY providing this information to us at the start of the matter reduces the time taken in obtaining bank details further down the line or having to send a cheque.

Q. Why are we asking seemingly unnecessary questions about the source of funds or the beneficiaries?
A. The information we gather is vital for us to comply with the Solicitors Accounts Rules and additional rules in relation to the Money Laundering Regulations. Firstly, we are required by law to be satisfied that all money coming through our accounts is coming from legitimate sources and so have to show evidence of this on our files. Secondly, we need to ensure complete protection of your money whilst it is in our possession and so need full evidence that any beneficiaries are absolutely entitled to the money.

Q. Will we use money paid on account to make a payment on an unrelated matter of another client?
A. Absolutely not! Each client’s money is shown separately within our accounts software and ledgers are never overdrawn.

Q Why can’t I use my credit card to pay for my new property?
A Unfortunately some credit cards have a ‘Clawback’ facility where they can ask the providers Bank for a refund should the customer make a complaint about not having received the service promised. Therefore, whilst we can accept credit card payments for our costs and other services we provide, we cannot accept it for monies that we are paying out on your behalf as it is very important that our client accounts do not get overdrawn.

Q Can my proceeds of sale or settlement be sent to my account abroad?
A We are happy to send monies abroad as long as we are satisfied that you are entitled to the proceeds. Please do note however that not all countries have a relationship with our Bank and so electronic transfers are sometimes unavailable. This can be dealt with on a case-by-case basis.

Q It seems like I am paying endless monies on account, but have nothing that accounts for the payments.
A Point 3 of the article above, states that we cannot make a payment from client account without the clients written permission so you should never be unsure of where your money is being spent. However, on conveyancing matters, we will always send you a completion statement that sets out funds received and payments made before the completion date. On probate matters, this is called an estate account and is provided to the executors on conclusion of the matter. On other matters we will detail any payments or receipts on the interim or final bill. Please do note that we have detailed accounts for each client at all times and can provide records to you if requested.

Q I need to pay off my credit card as soon as I sell my house. Can you pay this for me from the sale proceeds?
A Unfortunately Solicitors Accounts Rule 3.3 states that we must not act like a Bank and must only use your money for regulated services that we are providing to you. We therefore cannot make any payments to third parties that are unrelated to the actual matter.

Q I am a joint owner of a property, but we wish to split the proceeds of sale unequally. Can you do this?
A We will only pay the proceeds of sale according to how the property is held on the documentation that we are holding. Therefore, if there is no Declaration of Trust stating that one party is entitled to more of the money, then we will have to pay the money out to you on a 50/50 basis. Additionally, if you do not have a joint account, then we will have to be supplied with both of your accounts so that we can split the money. In some cases, we will advise that you both obtain independent legal advice and have an agreement drawn up whilst the conveyancing process is in motion. Once this has been independently agreed and signed, then we will be able to use this as evidence for the unequal payments.

Q You have held my purchase funds for a while now. Will I get interest payments?
A Our interest policy is set out within our Terms of Business and will be delivered to you under cover of a letter at the very start of your instruction. Our accounts software has the facility to make the interest calculations and any interest due is paid out, usually on a quarterly basis, to any file that falls into the criteria detailed in our interest policy.

Joni Ade – Accounts Manager

21 January 2020