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The Law & Verbal Agreements

By: Garry Crystal - Updated: 14 Mar 2020 | comments*Discuss
Verbal Agreements Legal Binding

Many people are not aware that verbal agreements are in many cases as legally binding as written contracts. Verbal contracts can be upheld by a court if someone decides to breach the agreement, although without written terms and conditions it may be difficult to prove.

Conditions of a Verbal Agreement

Under law there are two basic terms that constitute a binding agreement. The verbal agreement will be binding if there was an agreement on the services to be performed and an agreement was reached on remuneration for this service. This agreement can be reached by a verbal exchange in person, via telephone or via an email.

There are certain contracts and agreements that must be made in writing and these will include the sale of property, tenancy agreements, copyright transfer, and contracts for consumer credit. In some cases, verbal agreements will not be upheld in court, not because of the lack of a written agreement but because the terms of the verbal agreement were not clarified.

Written Agreements

For any agreement concerning an exchange of services it is a wise idea to have some form of contract or written statement. The contract or statement should include the terms and conditions of the agreement and is particularly helpful if a dispute between the parties occurs.

Complete Verbal Agreements

In order for a verbal agreement to be legally binding the agreement must have reached completeness. This means that all terms and conditions have been reached and agreed regarding services and terms of pay. Agreements will be incomplete when there are still further terms and conditions to be agreed. Agreements in principle will not usually be upheld in court and will not usually be considered complete verbal agreements.

Verbal Agreements and Disputes

If either party has decided to break a contract then the matter can be taken to the legal courts. In most cases the dispute may rest on the justification of the terms of the verbal agreement. There are a few ways that a judge will try and establish the terms of the agreement. These could include investigating what actually happened in practice. This can include the services that were actually undertaken and if any money whatsoever was paid for any services.

Enforcing a Verbal Agreement

Apart from taking the matter to court there are other ways to enforce a verbal agreement. If money is owed then the matter can be passed on to a collection agency to try to enforce the matter for you. The disgruntled party can also apply pressure themselves by sending letter, emails and making telephone calls to the person who is in breach of contract. Copies of all emails and letters should be kept in case the matter does reach the law courts.

Payment before Service

One way of avoiding this sort of dispute ever occurring may be to ask for some form of payment before supplying a service. Although the customer may not always agree to this it may be an option to consider. In some cases if a person is going to breach a contract and withhold payment then the odds are they may never have intended to pay for the service in the first place. In many cases though a customer may not like the idea of paying for a service until the job is completed for fear of non completion.

Threatening court action for breach of a verbal contract may not actually help the matter at all if one party intended not to carry through on the agreement. However the law does consider complete verbal agreements as Legally Binding and the matter can be brought to the law courts for a judge to make the final decision.

One interesting question is 'does a text message create a legally binding contract?'. Richard Brittle of Brittle Motors based in Stoke-on-Trent believes that it does. Over the coming weeks our leading in-house barrister will report on her findings which should make for interesting reading.

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My Partner passed away suddenly in January 2017 ,I had booked and paid for a holiday for both of us for May 2017 cost £4000 I was going to cancel and would have received full refund ,however family thought I should go as I needed a break reluctantly I agreedmy friend was asked and said she was not in a financial position at that time however would repay me or take me on holiday when her finances improved . I was made aware by her, that she had lent her son moneyfor a van and was also thinking of going on holiday. Therefore with her finances improved I asked if she could start paying the money back for the holiday. To my astonishment shetotally ignored me and sent me a text denying that it was to be paid back .Do I have any legal rights?
Di - 14-Mar-20 @ 11:17 AM
My daughter and husband bought a house with a small building plot within the boundary that was retained by the seller to build a bungalow on. My daughter always said she would buy it off him if he ever changed his mind about building it. My son in law often texted him about selling it and the seller insisted he was going to build on it, but would always give him first refusal (that was only verbal) 2 years 10 months later the seller texted to say he had sold it to somebody else who would be starting work in a few weeks. My daughter is fuming, is there anything she can do?
Rose - 28-Jan-20 @ 6:50 PM
Help. First time mum, at the time baby was 5 months old and husband was being made redundant all of which the plumber knew. I agreed verbally with him to fix my bath tap. I could just the shower but not run a bath. Gave him £300 to buy the parts. Over time we tried to arrange a suitable time but always excuses then I went away and then he fell ill and said he'll come but with hardship can I pay him some money to tie him over. I was reluctant but paid him another £200. Now I'm pushing and pushing him to come, answers an odd text doesn't call me back. I need my bath tap fixed. What can I do. I've saved all the call logs messages and even got proof he wasn't in hospital but at winter wonderland.Only problem I have no address. I contacted a handyman who passed this job to his friend. Can someone help me please.
Vulnerablemother - 7-Jan-20 @ 9:17 PM
I have an issue with a landscape gardener and would appreciate any advice. He quoted £3445 to clear hedges, a brick wall, concrete and paving from our 32 metre square yarden (bigger than a yard but not quite a garden!), the build new fencing, pave, lay some turf and build some flower beds. At the beginning of the job he said it would be an extra £850 for a further 5 metre square area of paving which sounded very expensive. He cleared the site and hedges, built the fences and installed a new gate. As we were not happy with the quality of the paving he had started we asked him not to continue any further and requested an invoice. He invoiced £2560 for half the job having been completed. This sounded unreasonable and we felt we were being overcharged so paid £1970. He is now demanding the extra £590. Wherr do we stand with regards to paying the rst of this extortionate invoice? Thank you in advance.
SHP - 17-Oct-19 @ 10:07 AM
I was divorced about 7years ago after a long marriage.Splitting the assets of 3 houses , 2 in joint names and 1 in mine . I stupidly put the house into my ex name before the divorce. With the verbal agreement that it would be sold at a later date, as I was getting married after the divorce. This would protect the asset to that marriage. Now when I asked for the house to be sold Iam told it was part of the settlement. Which means she received about 100k more than I did during the settlement. She has been renting the property out for the last 7years. Do I have a chance of getting what I am due??
John - 16-Jul-19 @ 2:10 PM
I was renting an adjacent paddock to mine from a neighbour and had to replace dangerous fencing between my field, garden and his paddock.After my horse was injured. He said he could not afford to replace the fencing but we could have the field and replace the fencing in lew of rent.On the day we finished the fencing his wife told us to get off the land. Have I any come back on this as it cost me in excess of £ 2000.
Gwen - 13-Jun-19 @ 1:54 PM
after a verbal agreement with my cusion that my mother could be buried with her sister in law (she died 31 years ago ) my mothers brother was the owner of the plot he was buried some where else and not with his wife 11 years ago. as my cuz had left the town 20 odd years ago and had married and lived 400 miles away she was estranged from her dad after the death of her mother my cuz was 12 at the time .she had cut all ties with the town .my mother was buried in the plot we had the deeds .after an argument with 1 of our sisters about four months after the burialmy cuz decided she did not want my mother in the plot and told the cemetery she knew nothing of my mother being in the plot (we have facebook posts to prove she did and she was consulted about the new headstone also we have proof of this also.she is now demanding to have my mother exhcumed (obviously not a normal demand ) as we had the deeds transfered in a family members name where do we stand what does my cousin have to do to get the deeds in her name shes refusing to have a new headstone with my mothers name on it as we own the deeds can this happen it seams the council have took her side and is refusing the permit as there is a dispute but my cuz has done nothing legally to get the deeds
dibzy - 10-Jun-19 @ 6:50 PM
Wonderful article on business which are one of the most common & convenient short-term business that are during financial contingencies. I heard that Fleetquid provides these loans in UK with minimal paperwork and affordable interest rates. I have mentioned its link below for more details. Thanks for the information.
rachelgreen - 3-Jun-19 @ 7:46 AM
Hi , My ex husband and I divorced in 2001, at the time my solicitor was not very good at dealing with my side of things, ie when I went to sign the papers and say on the bible, she had not signed her name. This happened twice ,so by the third time my husbands solicitor took the reins and said they would sort that out. I was normally very upset with all this and told my solicitor I would not pay her!! Needless to say I did not get any paperwork off her or any more correspondence !! I should have known yrs later this would come back to haunt me!! A few yrs ago my ex informed me that he may have some private pension, and I would get some but it would not be much, that was it!! Did not think anything would come of it, and if do would not be much. Roll on to 2017 and he tells me the pensions have informed him he should now sort this out due to his age being 64 ,so he said you are entitled to half. Well having had ill health for a few yrs and struggling to carry on working this is a dream come true, More so when he says its 120 :000 , I was overwhelmed and cried, knowing I could rest after working for 47 yrs. Anyway that was that never as easy as it seems, but says he can only draw the 25% of the pension now, which I did know about. So me being so happy to have something says well just give me 30:000 and I will be happy with that. Dah!!!He managed to give me 15 and I gave up work . Now two years and 6 months later ,having lived on that money it has now gone. I got in touch with him ,not having heard from him, and he said he was dreading telling me , but I could not get any more. Reason being he had found some paper work ,yes which said if I remarried it was null and void. I have read this in divorce before ,but not thinking I was getting anything went ahead in 2016. Now I have pleaded with him ,because I worked two jobs when he was building this pension up and had two children,it was hard work , for us both , I just think I earned that as much as he did ,no matter what. I did not know about the stipulation in the paperwork,because I did not get any , maybe my fault or both our faults ?? Also he should in my mind had that paper in the first place. Now I have had two yrs at home and still have 12 months till my state pension at 66. Can I do anything to get him to give me the other £15:000 , or am I on a loser, I have tried twice ,but he keeps refusing!! Any help would be great!!
Suan - 29-Apr-19 @ 2:59 AM
My ex and I agreed that I would make the payment on the new van that we had purchased. It is in his name, but he could not afford it, so we agreed I would pay for it. Now he wants to be an uber driver and wants the van back. I told him no, and he said fine, he would just come and take it anyway. Do I have any legal rights. I have been paying on it for 6 months now. thank you,
none - 19-Apr-19 @ 12:13 AM
My daughter, within the last three weeks has purchased a new motor car on finance. The car was purchased from an Arnold Clark showroom in Glasgow. Given that both my daughter and Arnold Clark where keen to do a deal, the sales rep (from Arnold Clark) with permission, spoke to BMW finance (with whom my daughter had her existing finance agreement for her now sold BMW). A settlement figure was conveyed over the phone to the Arnold Clark Sales rep in the presence of my daughter. BMW finance advised that the settlement figure would be posted out to my daughter. Armed with BMW's settlement figure, Arnold Clark and my daughter thrashed out a deal to purchase her new car. Friday last (15th March 2019) my daughter did receive a letter from BMW finance. However, the content was not what she expected, BMW finance now claim she is in arrears for one month, £250. She has a witness to a verbal settlement figure, nothing in writing and since last Friday, despite asking to communicate with herin writing or email she has received continual phone calls/bordering on harassment from BMW finance. Simple question where does my daughter stand with regards to BMW Finance.
georgekennedy - 20-Mar-19 @ 3:10 PM
I saw an advertisement for Friendship 1st as req a brochure after I was bombarded with telephone calls asking me to join. I eventually gave in & agreed to join I was told I would receive all details in the post having already given my bank details & them taking the 1st payment which was for £700 the be paid in monthly instalments. During this time I was given notice on my job which was livein making me jobless & homeless. I was obviously very distracted during this time & another payment was taken. I called to cancel but was told that I couldn't as I was meant to receive a pack with a cooling off time of 14 days which I never received. I have had to cancel at the bank as I am living on benefits & have no spare money. They are going to pass this to a debt agency where do I stand?
Maggie - 9-Jan-19 @ 9:50 PM
I have a verbal agreement with my Manager that I couldreturn homebetween every 6-8 weeks by saving my liu days up, this has been ongoing for over a year. I have now been informed I can no longer do this. Are they allowed to do this as a president has been set.
997 - 2-Jan-19 @ 2:39 PM
Hi I have a small business, I would like to put my fees up. I have not put them up for three years. Would it be ok to do this. Also i would also like to add that when holidays come up for the client, that they pay a retainer fee of half the hourly rate of pay, when i cant go to clean. As i have bills to pay as well as them and it leaves me short of money to pay my bills. Can you clarify this for me. Yours Sincerely A Goulding.
Ali - 30-Dec-18 @ 9:07 PM
We requested a cleaning firm for a quote. They e-mailed us a quote and asked for e-mail confirmation to accept the quote. We didn't. Subsequently, we received an invoice. Apparently a cleaner was sent and we were not in so unable to clean but they are charging us for it. They are saying we gave our verbal agreement to their terms. To our knowledge we didn't. They are threatening us with the small claims court. Please advise on the best way to proceed.
CW - 9-Nov-18 @ 8:26 AM
My step mother and I have made a verbal agreement on her old car but some issues popped up and she has taken the keys I am currently 18 so I am unsure of my rights to the car. I have been paying for the car for several months now and I have paid all insurance payments since the agreement and still continue to pay, but she still hasn't signed over the title. With me being 18 and living under her roof, if I moved out do i have right to the car or will those payments and endurance fees withstand in a court of law?
Josh - 8-Nov-18 @ 8:35 PM
We got a agent into our house, After spending near three hours he convinced us our home would sell within 10 months so I would not need to pay for the home report as with the property selling within the time period,The company phoned me up a few months later and told us our agent has left the company,, They handed us over to another agent who told us the previous agent was sacked, The new agent then told me they will sell our property for £15:000 less than the home report, we spoke about my agreement with the other agent,,, I then get involved talking to the directors of the company and they tell me I must pay the home report within the 10 months and they no longer have a agent in our area and if I was to get a viewing,then I would have to take care of it, The verbal agreement we had from the first agent was that no money would be payed till the house sold, But the company say they cannot uphold the agents verbal agreement with me nd my wife,,, can I get some help and advice please,, thank you
Lewis - 22-Oct-18 @ 7:42 PM
With my landlord have verbal agreement where we agree to stay in his house till 10th of august. This period was acomplished and stayed one more month. Next i said that i am leaving on 23rdof september. He says that i owe him one rent notice period. But we never said this in our verbal agreement! Who is right and would happen if we go to the court? Thank you
Dim - 26-Sep-18 @ 4:54 PM
Given a written quote for a conservatory.During building the dimensions were different from quote.Builder argued he has every right to change quote dimensions.
Jan - 24-Sep-18 @ 1:17 PM
My ex bought me a car 6 years ago. It was verbally agreed I'd pay the money back as and when as I wasn't in secure work. We then split up 2 years ago. I heard nothing about the car payment in the whole 2 years separated. The car is now worth 1000 if I'm lucky. Yet my ex wants me to pay 4000. Has threatened to take me to the high court over it. The car is and always has been in my name and I've paid for everything road tax, insurance repairs etc. Where do i stand legally with this?
Pixi09 - 22-Sep-18 @ 11:45 AM
@Worried mum- ethically it is very bad practice. But unfortunately it can be done as at this juncture he has only paid the letting agency and not the landlord. It gives the landlord room to come up with any excuse. Until he actually signs on the dotted line - he really hasn't any comeback. Shocking, yes.
JanE - 10-Sep-18 @ 2:57 PM
My son is moving away and has paid a deposit on a flat and agreed with the letting agency to go down the 300 miles a few days before and sign for the flat. They have now saidthe flat has been seen by someone else who has offered more money. Can they do this
Worried mum - 9-Sep-18 @ 6:14 PM
@Jmozz - remember they also have to prove they did the things they said, more so than you have to disprove they did. The courts will not allow the removal firm to charge an extortionate amount - if you are confident - let them take you to court. If you have evidence of the original quote - keep it.
RoBC - 7-Sep-18 @ 2:39 PM
Hi,the father of my two schooling boys passed on a few months back. I have acquired letters of administration from the area chief and District Commissioner granting my son's and I access to any of his estate n properties. I have discovered that there is a land he sold of which an agreement was duly signed but he did not collect the Bal of kshs 100, 000/= he was to receive later on. He fell sick and what happened is that the step mother, the buyer and a lawyer called him up to inform him that the balance he was supposed to collect was to cater for processing and transfer of the title deed. He accepted their demand verbally without signing down on the second agreement drawn downby the lawyer, the buyer n the stepmother. Am I entitled to demand for the balance owing to the fact that my late husband did not sign having rcvd the money.? Kindly advice!
Abby - 13-Aug-18 @ 2:25 PM
@BS - I don't think so. You'll be lucky. Your daughter would have to apply through the small claims court, but the meal would be seen as a gift. If he didn't turn up, it's pretty rude but she has no grounds to claim.
OTTI - 3-Aug-18 @ 12:39 PM
my daughter got married recently and a family member said he was coming to the meal with his 2 children , the meal cost £100 per head , she has got a text message saying he was coming with the kids but did nt turn up , but try to come to the evening reception with his new girlfriend , but was told not to come with her as she was not invited , is she entitled to claim the £300 back from him
BS - 2-Aug-18 @ 4:36 PM
@Groot - my god she isn't even dead yet and you are arguing over her will. Your mum can leave the money to whomever she wishes - verbal agreement or not and if she wishes to change her mind then that is completely up to her. You could look at it that she bought a house that you have lived with rent-free and she is buying you another property. It seems a completely selfish and ungrateful approach not from her, from you. Allow your mum to be happy in the latter part of her life and let her spend her money excactly how she wants. As remember HER money is hers, not rightfully yours. If you run a successful business, then fund yourself but don't expect your mum to. If I were your mum I'd change the will...as a matter of principle.
MaCC - 2-Jul-18 @ 11:12 AM
My dad died in 2000 leaving the family home to my mum - fine. 7 years ago she decided to move to the location where I and my husband lived. The 3 of us agreed that she would purchase a house that we would all live in and that it would be passed to me as my inheritance when she died. In return I would look after her if she became poorly. She remarried last November and moved in with her new husband. Last week she told me that she is selling the house. We had a verbal agreement - Scots Law - and I have lots of witnesses to this including my late father’s best friend who had a law firm and withwhom Mum has her Will. As it stands her Will says that the house is to be left to me. She is going to purchase a smaller property for me and my husband, but still in her name. Who is to say she won’t change her mind and sell that too. She doesn’t need the money. I believe her new husband has plotted this all along. I run a successful business from the house which requires land. I am totally devastated at this complete u-turn. She had a small stroke last December and has been quite irrational ever since and does everything her husband says. What can I do?
Groot - 1-Jul-18 @ 2:06 PM
KMH - Your Question:
My Mother passed away 5 years ago and left her half of the house to my Brother and I, the other half belonged to her partner. Her will stated that if her partner sold the house then my brother and I would get our share of the property. Her partner somehow convinced us to change the will in his benefit so that he could move if he wished but we would then own half of the new house and we would get our share of the house when he dies. He also stated that if he became in a position to buy us out then he would and if he met another partner in the future and she moved in then he would find a way to give us our share of the property. Back then he hadn't met anyone else and we were in contact and would see each other every week but a few months later, he met someone else and contact ceased. While there is no animosity there at all regarding the fact that he has found another partner, (He is in his early 50's and we fully expected him to meet someone else, also we know that our Mum would have wanted this) his partner has now moved into the house.Is there anything we can do regarding the verbal agreement we had about someone else moving into the preperty? This was all discussed in the solicitors office when we amended the will but was not written down. I look forward to your reply.

Our Response:
In this case, you would really need to seek legal advice in order to fully explore your options as there will be a few variants to consider.
ContractsAndAgreements - 19-Jun-18 @ 10:45 AM
My Mother passed away 5 years ago and left her half of the house to my Brother and I, the other half belonged to her partner. Her will stated that if her partner sold the house then my brother and I would get our share of the property. Her partner somehow convinced us to change the will in his benefit so that he could move if he wished but we would then own half of the new house and we would get our share of the house when he dies. He also stated that if he became in a position to buy us out then he would and if he met another partner in the future and she moved in then he would find a way to give us our share of the property. Back then he hadn't met anyone else and we were in contact and would see each other every week but a fewmonths later, he met someone else and contact ceased. While there is no animosity there at all regarding the fact that he has found another partner, (He is in his early 50's and we fully expected him to meet someone else, also we know that our Mum would have wanted this) his partner has now moved into the house. Is there anything we can do regarding the verbal agreement we had about someone else moving into the preperty? This was all discussed in the solicitors office when we amended the will but was not written down. I look forward to your reply.
KMH - 18-Jun-18 @ 11:01 AM
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