Generally, the time of payment to an architect may be specified in the contract for architectural services. If there is no express contractual provision establishing the time of payment under a contract, compensation for architectural services is ordinarily due on the completion of the architect’s services.
The parties can agree on the time of payment and in certain cases, the agreement may stipulate that payment will be made when the client is financially able to make payment. However, this is not a liberty to the client to delay payment inordinately and courts will construe such an agreement to mean that payment is to be made within a reasonable time. “So, too, in the absence of circumstances showing it to be perpetual, a forbearance to sue for an indefinite time is regarded as calling for a reasonable period.”[i] Thus, the architect need to wait for only a reasonable time even if the client at that time still does not regard itself as financially able to proceed.[ii] The client’s failure to obtain financing may be seen as affecting the time of payment to the architect, rather than the architect’s right to payment.
In some instances, the option for partial payment is available. For instance, in the case of building or construction contracts, partial payments are made as the work progresses. Such payments are made either periodically or upon the completion of specified stages of the work. In such cases, the contract is divisible if it is clear from the contractual terms as a whole that each progress payment is intended to be so allocated as to be full consideration for a specific portion of the work. Thus, payment provisions are severable in architectural contracts where a specific percentage of the architect’s total fee is apportioned to the completion of particular work performed by the architect.
[i] Mock v. Trustees of First Baptist Church, 252 Ky. 243, 248-249 (Ky. 1934)