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The Law & Verbal Agreements

By: Garry Crystal - Updated: 18 May 2018 | 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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In March I was offered a job for 9 hours per week in a community service until a CE worker becomes available. I told them I'd have to be guaranteed 9 hours per week at least. The manager ok ed this with the board of management and I started work in April after giving up my previous job. I got a message from the treasurer asking me whats days am I doing.. (set days) I text her back saying a normal week would be Tuesday Wednesday and Friday she said ok.6 weeks later they are trying to write a contract for me saying I'm on flexible 0 contract hours. The manager has confirmed to the chair person that I was guaranteed 9hrs per week and it's till a CE worker takes my position. But treasurer is denying it was discussed with her.. Where do I stand
Nor - 18-May-18 @ 11:09 PM
SophieD - Your Question:
Hello I moved from a company A to a company B in Sept2017. During the very first stges of the interview process I unformed HR that I would go back to France at some point and if company B would accompany me ( I work for international company and from home so where I am physically does not matter at all ). I was told that it was not a problem at all. When I informed. In feb my manager of our intention to come back over summer 2018 she did not raise any concerns and organized a meeting with me and HR to discuss logistics around the transfer of my contract to the French Entity. Since no one ever mentioned a risk that this transfer could not be approved I took all thw necessary steps towards my famili return. I was told last friday that 1 person had decided that I would not be transferred which leave me to choose between keeping my job or following my family to France. I have writen records of people saying how good my job is, and I only have in writing the invite from French HR saying that we will discuss the logistics of my return and a skype discussion with my manager who tells me that I will be given the salary conditions (implying that this is the only thing pending).Is there any chance my case is defendable by law? I feel I have been promised something which ia now not happening and I am forced to resign in order to stay with my family. thanks for your supportSophie

Our Response:
Much would depend upon what was discussed at the time you discussed it with HR and whether it was a 'definite' yes, or a 'dependent' yes i.e dependent upon whether there is a position open to you at the time you apply. Circumstances can change, so it may be unlikely that a definite yes would be given. However, if you feel this is the case and a definite yes was given, then you would have the option is to raise a grievance, please see link here.
ContractsAndAgreements - 15-May-18 @ 1:59 PM
Lymm - Your Question:
Hey I have verbal contract with manager last year going to higher position from junior sous chef to sous chef and pay rise from will take from 4 to 8 weeks still nothing happened and she was transfer to another hotel ?? what can I do?

Our Response:
If the agreement was verbal and she is no longer in charge, there is little you can do if your new manager decides not to follow this through, except perhaps go to your employer directly and ask.
ContractsAndAgreements - 15-May-18 @ 11:57 AM
Hello I moved from a company A to a company B in Sept2017. During the very first stges of the interview process i unformed HR that i would go back to France at some point and if company B would accompany me ( i work for international company and from home so where I am physically does not matter at all ). I was told that it was not a problem at all. When i informed. In feb my manager of our intention to come back over summer 2018 she did not raise any concerns and organized a meeting with me and HR to discuss logistics around the transfer of my contract to the French Entity. Since no one ever mentioned a risk that this transfer could not be approved i took all thw necessary steps towards my famili return. I was told last friday that 1 person had decided that i would not be transferred which leave me to choose between keeping my job or following my family to France. I have writen records of people saying how good my job is, and i only have in writing the invite from French HR saying that we will discuss the logistics of my return and a skype discussion with my manager who tells me that i will be given the salary conditions (implying that this is the only thing pending). Is there any chance my case is defendable by law? I feel i have been promised something which ia now not happening and i am forced to resign in order to stay with my family... thanks for your support Sophie
SophieD - 14-May-18 @ 9:10 PM
Hey I have verbal contract with manager last year going to higher position from junior sous chef to sous chef and pay rise from will take from 4 to 8 weeks still nothing happened and she was transfer to another hotel ?? what can I do?
Lymm - 14-May-18 @ 2:41 PM
Penguin2010 - Your Question:
I had a verbal agreement with a previous manager that I would be paid 5 hours overtime every week as I tend to work 48-50 hours per week but am paid for 40. 8 months ago a new manager came in and the overtime payments stopped. Can I claim this back?

Our Response:
You may be able to claim this back under 'implied contract terms', please see link here. If you had the arrangement in place for a significant time and have not signed a new contract, then you will have a strong case to answer.Applying to your employer directly in the first instance should help.You may wish to speak to Acas if you need more advice.
ContractsAndAgreements - 10-May-18 @ 2:14 PM
I had a verbal agreement with a previous manager that I would be paid 5 hours overtime every week as I tend to work 48-50 hours per week but am paid for 40. 8 months ago a new manager came in and the overtime payments stopped. Can I claim this back?
Penguin2010 - 9-May-18 @ 8:14 AM
Hello i am new here. I am in electrical and plumbing trade. I have a client suing me fornot finishing the job. She wants all her money back on the labour including the materials she bought. She supplied the materials. My work is 95% done. Few left about 5%. The remaining balance is about £1550 and total project cost about £4k plus. She only paid 66.15% and the job almost complete. I ask for partial payment but did not pay so I suspend working. Now she is twisting all story and claim delays and compensation. All are verbal agreement. No quotes signed paper what so ever. Who do think has breach here? Customer not paying when i ask which she promised but she wanted all done before payment and told here she can have my money and look for a plumber since it can be done for one day. Thanks for your advise.
P - 5-May-18 @ 4:16 PM
@Luke -the terms of the preceding tenancy agreement will still apply, which your landlord can use to serve a section 21 to prove an agreement was originally in place. At the end of the day, it's the landlord's house not yours. The landlord can do what she wants.
RN - 4-May-18 @ 11:05 AM
I lived in this house for almost 3yrs me my wife an kids the first yr we signed a yr contract after the contract was up my land lord nor I renewed it the was no verbal agreement or nothing like that for the next 2yrs I have done work for the landlord fixed what was need at the time an payed what I can when I could now the landlord is trying to put us out even tho I still try to keep up on or help with the propertys can she do this
Luke - 3-May-18 @ 5:28 PM
I’ve recently seen a small piece of land for sale but when I spoke with the estate agent she said that there was a tennant still using the land with a verbal agreement, if I made the purchase would I be able to use the land at all?
Land - 2-May-18 @ 5:19 PM
@PAL - I don't think it quite works like that. You would need to find another tenant to take over the lease. If you don't it will mean your landlord will still be at a financial loss and you will still be obliged to make up for that loss by leaving the tenancy early.
CareyV - 26-Apr-18 @ 12:40 PM
We have asked to leave a tennancy early as we purchased a house. As per our contract we paid for the re-let fees. A suitable tennant was found after a few days on the market and a decision was made to not showfurther prospective tennants round and let agreed. we did challange this but adement the let had been agreed. ok. so a few weeks down the line the person pulled out and it turns out no depisit ir fees paid to hold the property. Question is there was a suitable tennant and a verbal agreement between both parties. have we now fulfilled our obligation as a suitable tennant was found let agreed and they refused several prospective tennants to view it. plus it was let agreed for over 3 weeks
PAL - 24-Apr-18 @ 9:19 PM
I have rented a room for over 3 years the original agreement was that my deposit is my final months rent when I leave I cancelled direct debit as moving meaning in paid up to end if month now landlord threatening legal action or money as not verbally given a month notice as i had attempted to text but sent message to wrong number anmistake but verbally told at first chance this wasnt part of verbal agreement to give 30 days notice where do I stand
Phil - 21-Apr-18 @ 1:44 PM
@Liz14 - have they said you've ordered the windows? As long as you haven't signed any agreement, you should be fine.
Chrissy - 20-Apr-18 @ 1:56 PM
Thanks for your answer;that's just as I thought.
Nozzer - 19-Apr-18 @ 7:38 PM
Nozzer - Your Question:
I lent my mother £21,600 which she needed as deposit to buy a flat,8 years later she has to go into a care home,the local council is waiting for the monies from the sale of the flat,which sold recently for£105,000 less expenses (estate agents,conveyancing etc.)which brought the amount to say £95,000I never claimed from my mother,never thinking she would end up in a care home,and I was her solebeneficiary,so I was prepared to let the debt lie.I have a promissory note and a chaps payment record.Can I enforce it before the council gets its money?

Our Response:
If you have put your own personal income into the house, then you should be able to claim this money back. You would just need to prove you have given your mother the money.
ContractsAndAgreements - 19-Apr-18 @ 11:17 AM
nea - Your Question:
My ex lives in our property. She promised me verbally 5k of the equity which I said was enough even though more equity in it if we sold. I stupidly trusted her and signed all equity over. All I have is a text conversation where I ask about how I will get my equity and she replied to this. She as now reneged on the promise, is this text legal and be used to get this 5k?

Our Response:
If you can prove the equity was promised by text, then you may have a case for the small claims court. Texts and emails can be used in evidence.
ContractsAndAgreements - 19-Apr-18 @ 11:16 AM
My ex lives in our property. She promised me verbally 5k of the equity which I said was enough even though more equity in it if we sold. I stupidly trusted her and signed all equity over. All I have is a text conversation where I ask about how I will get my equity and she replied to this. She as now reneged on the promise, is this text legal and be used to get this 5k?
nea - 18-Apr-18 @ 7:07 AM
I lent my mother £21,600 which she needed as deposit to buy a flat,8 years later she has to go into a care home,the local council is waiting for the monies from the sale of the flat,which sold recently for £105,000 less expenses (estate agents,conveyancing etc.)which brought the amount to say £95,000 I never claimed from my mother,never thinking she would end up in a care home,and I was her sole beneficiary,so I was prepared to let the debt lie.I have a promissory note and a chaps payment record. Can I enforce it before the council gets its money?
Nozzer - 18-Apr-18 @ 6:37 AM
Helgirl - Your Question:
I paid a minibus company up front for a journey, however we no longer require this service. I have provided 4 weeks notice prior to the arranged date and they say they only provide 50% refund yet their terms and conditions page is blank on the website and the only reference is misleading tiny text at the bottom of an email. Can I push for a full refund?

Our Response:
You can certainly attempt to reclaim a refund through the small claims court. But there is no guarantee you would win your case.
ContractsAndAgreements - 17-Apr-18 @ 12:00 PM
John - Your Question:
Have been contracted as consultant the past 8 months. Agreement was never signed as there was always something else still to be discussed. Email correspondence from the start referring to contract fee etc. Last 2 month, paid half the fee and last month to date none of the fee.Do I have a case to take the client on legally? To demand my fees are paid up to date. To the date they have not yet informed me of my services no longer being needed. I am however in debt and my payments are being honored so my name is being black listed!

Our Response:
We are a UK-based site with knowledge of only UK-based contractual law. In general, if you have emails, texts and written evidence that an agreement is in place, then you may have a case, especially if you have been carrying out work within the terms of the agreement. However, as stated in the article, agreements could be considered incomplete if 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. Therefore, you would have to seek legal advice in your own country.
ContractsAndAgreements - 17-Apr-18 @ 9:09 AM
I paid a minibus company up front for a journey, however we no longer require this service. I have provided 4 weeks notice prior to the arranged date and they say they only provide 50% refund yet their terms and conditions page is blank on the website and the only reference is misleading tiny text at the bottom of an email. Can I push for a full refund?
Helgirl - 16-Apr-18 @ 5:41 PM
Have been contracted as consultant the past 8 months.Agreement was never signed as there was always something else still to be discussed.Email correspondence from the start referring to contract fee etc.Last 2 month, paid half the fee and last month to date none of the fee. Do I have a case to take the client on legally?To demand my fees are paid up to date.To the date they have not yet informed me of my services no longer being needed.I am however in debt and my payments are being honored so my name is being black listed!
John - 16-Apr-18 @ 2:37 PM
Stewart - Your Question:
Hi. So when me and my flat mate moved in together three years ago in we had an agreement where he would pay the rent every month and I would pay all the bills every month, the rent was almost always more than the bills so it was agreed I would pay the difference each month. However when winter came I was loosing hours, missed a few payments, and eventually the agreement just trailed off, as in we both forgot. At the start of last month my flat mate came to me and told me he couldn’t pay this months rent and had to move out, and then literally disappeared for a week or so(and cut off all contact a short while after, after a rather confrontational appearance at the flat a week later demanding to know why I hadn't said anything to him since finding out. He was literally doing everything he could to avoid me). In that time his mum contacted me under the guise that she wanted to pay on her sons behalf so I wasn’t left in the deep end. She asked me for my whole history of bills since we moved in because she said that she believed we had been paying too much and thought she could sort something and wanted an exact figure as to how much she would be paying. It comes to light that I have been unwittingly underpaying this whole time. Two days before the rent goes out last month I contact the mother asking if she is still looking at paying on his behalf, long story short her response was an email telling me I owe her son £2033 and demanding I pay the difference. Not only did I have to pay all the bills they forced me to pay last months rent as well, I either had to pay it or my mum/his auntie would get screwed as they are the guarantors for me/him on the contract. I will also have to pay this months rent on my own as well. Since then she has been harassing me, threatening with legal action and is currently holding onto the other set of flat keys as ransom. She has no legal involvement in the property or tenancy agreement. Are they going to able to claim against me? They think I've been raking in money this whole time when I've been struggling with tooth and nail on minimum wage, my bank account will show this. I have no money to claim. Thanks!

Our Response:
Your former flatmate's mother would have the option to apply through the small claim's court. If you have no money to pay, then if the court thinks you owe the money you may be required to pay in installments. However, there is no guarantee she will win the case. Much depends upon whether she can prove you actually owe the money. In your defence, you would have to try to prove why you do not.
ContractsAndAgreements - 13-Apr-18 @ 2:32 PM
Hi. So when me and my flat mate moved in together three years ago in we had an agreement where he would pay the rent every month and I would pay all the bills every month, the rent was almost always more than the bills so it was agreed I would pay the difference each month. However when winter came I was loosing hours, missed a few payments, and eventually the agreement just trailed off, as in we both forgot. At the start of last month my flat mate came to me and told me he couldn’t pay this months rent and had to move out, and then literally disappeared for a week or so(and cut off all contact a short while after, after a rather confrontational appearance at the flat a week later demanding to know why i hadn't said anything to him since finding out... He was literally doing everything he could to avoid me). In that time his mum contacted me under the guise that she wanted to pay on her sons behalf so I wasn’t left in the deep end. She asked me for my whole history of bills since we moved in because she said that she believed we had been paying too much and thought she could sort something and wanted an exact figure as to how much she would be paying. It comes to light that I have been unwittingly underpaying this whole time. Two days before the rent goes out last month I contact the mother asking if she is still looking at paying on his behalf, long story short her response was an email telling me I owe her son £2033 and demanding I pay the difference. Not only did I have to pay all the bills they forced me to pay last months rent as well, I either had to pay it or my mum/his auntie would get screwed as they are the guarantors for me/him on the contract . I will also have to pay this months rent on my own as well. Since then she has been harassing me, threatening with legal action and is currently holding onto the other set of flat keys as ransom. She has no legal involvement in the property or tenancy agreement. Are they going to able to claim against me? They think I've been raking in money this whole time when I've been struggling with tooth and nail on minimum wage, my bank account will show this. i have no money to claim. Thanks!
Stewart - 10-Apr-18 @ 2:27 PM
Kate - Your Question:
My father passed away but before he passed he said that a few of his personal items were to come back to us. He was adamant that we have these items. I agreed that I would take them. And he was happy that these items was going back to his children. His girlfriend has now blocked us and will not let us have any of the items he said we should have. Will this stand in court. And is there anything we can do to try and retrieve the items. We are not sure on the best course of action to take. Thankyou for reading

Our Response:
If his girlfriend is the beneficiary of any will and everything was left to her, then you may have difficulty challenging this. Your only legal recourse would be to challenge this through the courts. Obviously, the more evidence you have to back up your story, the better.
ContractsAndAgreements - 10-Apr-18 @ 12:21 PM
MJK83 - Your Question:
Hi. My son has recently become blind (so he doesn't read Braille and struggles with large print) and wants to take out a credit agreement for a football season ticket. The finance company can only provide documents electronically for him to sign and I'm not very proficient with IT to assist with the application. My son is happy to verbally confirm (via telephone) his agreement to the t's and c's upon them being read in full to him and for the finance company to e-sign the application based on him providing verbal authorisation to do so. Are they allowed to do this or would this make the agreement uninforceable as this is our preferred option?

Our Response:
Unfortunately, we cannot help here. You would have to try to resolve this the finance company directly, is it depends upon the company's personal policy. We hope you manage to resolve this issue.
ContractsAndAgreements - 10-Apr-18 @ 11:19 AM
My father passed away but before he passed he said that a few of his personal items were to come back to us. He was adamant that we have these items. I agreed that I would take them. And he was happy that these items was going back to his children. His girlfriend has now blocked us and will not let us have any of the items he said we should have. Will this stand in court. And is there anything we can do to try and retrieve the items. We are not sure on the best course of action to take. Thankyou for reading
Kate - 9-Apr-18 @ 9:15 PM
Hi i have been renting a flat for nearly 3 years - 1st 2 years without a break clause each contract was 12 months long. the 3rd renewal (fee paid to agent) was made when estate agent confirmed via email that landlord wants to renew the contract with 6 months break clause which i agreed to and requested payment. i never received the contract by post itself but unsigned contract via e-mails. after 4.5 months of chasing in Sep17 i received signed contract scanned (not dated) by estate agent on behalf of landlord. In Mar18 i issued one month's notice as per the current contract but estate agent/landlord are disputing saying that the current contract doesn't exist as they dont have signed copy of it, I do have a signed copy and dated by myself with estate agents signature (not dated), and im in a periodic contract which means the notice i gave will not be honoured as it was made after payment date. will the contract copy i have a contract if not then will the email confirmation for part of the contract which clearly states the 6 month break clause. the estate agen also took fees for 12 month contract renewal and not period contract renewal?
chaudhry - 9-Apr-18 @ 7:55 PM
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