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Legally Binding Contracts

By: Garry Crystal - Updated: 8 Aug 2017 | comments*Discuss
 
Legally Binding Contracts

Although it is usually the wisest option, legally binding contracts do not just apply to contracts set out in writing. Under the eyes of the law verbal contracts are just as legally binding as written contracts. A contract is basically an agreement between two parties, for example, one party supplies a service and the other pays for it. Regardless of whether this contract is set down in writing or verbally it is still a binding contract under law.

Formation of a Contract

There are two basic rules to the formation of a legal contract; offer and acceptance. One party makes an offer or agreement to provide a service and the other party accepts the offer. By setting out the terms and conditions of offer and acceptance a legally binding contract has been made. If the contract is broken, or breached, then the law can used to enforce the contract.

Consideration and Intention

Consideration and intention are two other factors that make up a legally binding contract. Consideration is usually the exchange of something, such as wages for work with an employment contract. Intention is where both parties make a contract with the intention of that contract to be legally binding. These terms are used more in common law and may not hold any weight if a dispute reaches the law courts. If a dispute does reach the law courts then a judge will be looking closely at the terms and conditions of the contract in practice.

Legally Binding Contracts

Many people are unaware of the various ways that legally binding contracts can be set down. By far the best way of making a contract is for both parties to sit down and draft up a contract in writing with all the terms and conditions laid out. In today’s world there are many different forms of communication options, and emails, faxes, and telephone call agreements for exchange of services are all considered legally binding contracts. As long as an offer and acceptance is made or implied then any breach of contract can be legally disputed.

Unfair Terms of Contract

Although the contracts described above are legally binding, it does not mean that there is absolutely no way out of a legally binding contract. The terms and conditions set out in a contract are of paramount importance when disputes reach the legal courts. Where consumers are concerned, unfair contract terms and a lack of good faith on behalf of the trader may mean that the contract is not legally binding.

The basic rule as to what constitutes an unfair contract term is that there is a significant imbalance in the terms towards one of the parties’ rights and obligations. This imbalance will usually be detrimental to the consumer, and the trader will usually have shown a lack of good faith and will not have acted openly or fairly towards the consumer.

Types of Legally Binding Contracts

Many of us are unaware that we enter into legally binding contracts every day. The simple act of purchasing food from a shop is a legally binding contract between shop owner and consumer. Having dental work undertaken is a legally binding contract, a simple agreement to have someone cut the grass in your garden for some form of payment is a legally binding contract. Disputes usually occur when one person decides not to honour one or more of the terms of the agreement. There are certain contracts that under the law do need to be set out in writing; these will include contracts such as the sale of property, shares, and intellectual property rights.

Certainty of a Contract

If a contract issue does reach the law courts then there must be a certainty of contract. This means that for the contract to be legally binding it cannot be vague or ambiguous. The terms and conditions must have been clearly set out in fact and not just in principle. A judge may look at unclear terms and then try and clarify them but this will be dependant on the individual case appearing before the court.

Legally binding contracts are used by people every day. There are laws set out regarding legally binding contracts in order to protect both parties involved in the contract. Legal disputes can be long and costly, and breaching a contract is a serious matter that should never be taken lightly.

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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Following our DIY divorce in 1996 my ex husband and I drew up an agreement which we both signed and had witnessed. One clause stated that I would be entitled to a 1/6 of his pension to cover the shortfall in my pension caused by a 12 year career gap to have children. We didn't get a consent order at the time and since then I remarried and got divorced again so I know this bars me from claiming anything from my first husband under matrimonial law but I wondered if the agreement could be considered a legally binding contract and whether failure to fulfil that clause would be a breach of contract. My ex did start paying me a nominal amount but has now decided to stop and I want to know if it is possible to condsider this a breach of contract and seek recompense in a court of law.
Susanne - 8-Aug-17 @ 8:36 AM
Fred - Your Question:
I have signed a letter of acceptance from an insurance company for the payout after a fire, they now tell me they made an error and wont pay out, is the legal? What do I do? Thankyou

Our Response:
It's difficult to know as much depends upon what they are stating the 'error' is. Insurance firms will refuse to pay out of there has been a mistake on the form, or if circumstances haven't been updated, or the person claiming has mislead the insurance company. They will always try to find a way not to pay if and where they possibly can. Therefore, you may wish to seek independent advice.
ContractsAndAgreements - 7-Aug-17 @ 2:02 PM
I have signed a letter of acceptance from an insurance company for the payout after a fire, they now tell me they made an error and wont pay out, is the legal? What do I do? Thankyou
Fred - 5-Aug-17 @ 1:12 PM
If a car dealer emails a bill of sale contract that I did not have a chance to sign but sent in a picture of a certified check with that businesses name on it is that legally binding in any way shape or form
Mitch - 4-Aug-17 @ 2:43 AM
I met a guy and he took me out 4 times. We got on quite well. It turned out he was looking for a ghostwriter to write his book.As I'm a good writer and needed the money I offered to write the book for a third of the normal fee for this type of project-also based on the fact he'd bought me a bed a short while after we met because I'd been complaining about back pains which I thought was amazingly kind. He tried to pursuade me to write for free but I refused as I knew the huge amount of work that lay ahead and I wanted to secure everything should be done as professional as possible. I carefully created a contract and we discussed a little back and forthabout the terms. I accepted to correct one part in order to make the conditions equal to both parties in case of abandonment. He was happy with the final contract and we both signed it. I had created a work plan as well and set out dates to conduct interviews as basis for the content. Following the interview sessions I was meant to carry on with the project by myself-which I did. I made sure to keep him informed weekly about my progress and send him my written work of minimum 3500 words per week. He became unpleasant as he realised I wasn't intending on inviting him to my home again following the interviews and tried to suggest I wouldn'tget any payment unless he approved of all content even when he admitted not to have read all of it but merely random parts. I asked in writing and verbally if he was sure he wanted to continue the project as he'd asked me for a meeting. This meeting took place after my second monthly fee was already due and he hadn't paid. He paid the first monthly fee two weeks later than the due date which I accepted. When my second monthly fee was due he informed me he didn't have any money for mebecause other business deals hadn't given the expected return. I let him know this was unacceptable and that if he wasn't willing to offer me a date for the payment I would regard it as abandonment from the project and the contract. I offered him a chance to pay the following Monday by 5pm and let him know I would regard it abandonment if he still refused to pay and that I intended to get legal assistance.He then send abusive threatening whatsapp medsages in response and claimed he would say I had forged his signature on the contract and that I had conned him for the bed ,the 200£ he'd given me for a dress as well as the first monthly fee of 1650£-which was paid into my bank account. I did not respond. What are my best options in this case?Kind regards Gee
Gee - 24-Jul-17 @ 1:53 AM
Following our DIY divorce in 1996 my ex husband and I drew up an agreement which we both signed and had witnessed. One clause stated that I would be entitled to a 1/6 of his pension to cover the shortfall in my pension caused by a 12 year career gap to have children. We didn't get a consent order at the time and since then I remarried and got divorced again so I know this bars me from claiming anything from my first husband under matrimonial law but I wondered if the agreement could be considered a legally binding contract and whether failure to fulfil that clause would be a breach of contract. My ex did start paying me a nominal amount but has now decided to stop and I want to know if it is possible to condsider this a breach of contract and seek recompense in a court of law.
Susanne - 22-Jul-17 @ 12:39 PM
Izzy - Your Question:
Before entering tenancy with a friend, I want to write up a separate contract stating that they cannot invite a certain person on to the property under any circumstances. Said person has been harassing and the police are aware. If I myself write up the contract stating that said person cannot enter any property I am a tenant of too, is this legally binding? If there is a breach in the contract, would that hold up in court? Any advice would be very appriciated.

Our Response:
In reality the contact has no legal basis at all, as there is little recourse if your friend decides to breach the contract. If your friend breaches it and you apply to court, the contract would not be enforceable. Plus, it would take time to get to court and cost.
ContractsAndAgreements - 21-Jul-17 @ 12:54 PM
Before entering tenancy with a friend, I want to write up a separate contract stating that they cannot invite a certain person on to the property under any circumstances. Said person has been harassing and the police are aware. If I myself write up the contract stating that said person cannot enter any property I am a tenant of too, is this legally binding? If there is a breach in the contract, would that hold up in court? Any advice would be very appriciated.
Izzy - 21-Jul-17 @ 12:14 AM
Tasha - Your Question:
I have emails to both myself and a mortgage company staying my ed husband does not want to fight over the house or want anything from the house. He has now gone back on this 2 years later and is trying to get 50% will the emails hold up in court?

Our Response:
Much depends upon the reasons why he has gone back on his word and whether those reasons are seen to be justifiable.
ContractsAndAgreements - 10-Jul-17 @ 3:31 PM
I have emails to both myself and a mortgage company staying my ed husband does not want to fight over the house or want anything from the house. He has now gone back on this 2 years later and is trying to get 50% will the emails hold up in court?
Tasha - 7-Jul-17 @ 5:26 PM
Hi.. I had a contract with a cleaningcompany which I assumed to be a 12 month one which had expired... I was wrong and it's running... I terminated dealings with the company for several reasons and asked them to leave at the end of the month...they told me I had to pay 2 months severance which I understand having now read the contractbut immediately asked that they then work the 2 months notice period and they refused... I just want to check this is 100% ok... thank you
Cyprus - 26-Jun-17 @ 7:24 PM
MeJulie57 - Your Question:
I'm in a situation where I want to let a room in a house where one person has taken out a contract for the entire 3 bed property through the letting agent. The deposit she paid is in a deposit protection scheme, and I too will pay a deposit for the room (one months rent), however it is preferred that my name is not officially put on the contract with the letting agent. If I form a new and secondary contract that sets out my agreement with the person on the original contract, specifying the terms of my deposit along with my position in the property and we both sign it, does this form a binding enough contract that my position in the property is legally safe and I could persue my deposit if I needed to?

Our Response:
You should be able to find out all you need to know via the CAB link here.
ContractsAndAgreements - 16-Jun-17 @ 12:38 PM
I'm in a situation where I want to let a room in a house where one person has taken out a contract for the entire 3 bed property through the letting agent. The deposit she paid is in a deposit protection scheme, and I too will pay a deposit for the room (one months rent), however it is preferred that my name is not officially put on the contract with the letting agent. If I form a new and secondary contract that sets out my agreement with the person on the original contract, specifying the terms of my deposit along with my position in the property and we both sign it, does this form a binding enough contract that my position in the property is legally safe and I could persue my deposit if I needed to?
MeJulie57 - 9-Jun-17 @ 8:41 PM
Question- I have a legal catering company and my question is this- you met your client and for 3 months been planning her daughter's wedding reception.It is a vegan and non veganmenu for first month 275 people 2 weeks before it is 175. Also i an the event coordinator and planned it all, flowers, decor, bar, be flowersand a total of $50,000. The real problem is this, I have hired my servers they took off from work to work this party. I have done all the paperwork bought a few things, etc. Now the ex husband and father of bride has now told her daughter and exhe has someone to do the food for 15,000. No written contract but a verbal one and emails and text showing I am doing the wedding. What right do I have to collect 1/3 or 1/2 of what would be the catering total. Please help... Mary Kaye
Mary Kaye - 8-Jun-17 @ 4:29 AM
James - Your Question:
I have a slightly complex situation which I'm looking for some clarity on. At the end of my tenancy in Scotland a few months back, I agreed to have some money from my half of the deposit go towards the deposit of someone else who was starting a new agreement at the same address (directly through the letting agents without it coming back to me in between). They had to pay a higher deposit because of the absence of a guarantor. There was a verbal agreement between me and the tenant, as well as a written clause on the tenancy agreement, signed by her, which said her side of the deposit was to be refunded to me. The woman who handled the contract in the letting agents also knew what was going on. I have a photo of the agreement and of course the letting agents have the original copy. My question is, if it's not possible for the deposit protection scheme to return this money to me directly rather than refunding it to her, would this agreement let me chase the money up legally if she refuses to pay it back to me voluntarily? She'll be going back to France when her contract ends.Thanks!

Our Response:
You would be able to make a ‘cross-border’ claim, please see link here, which should hopefully answer your question.
ContractsAndAgreements - 31-May-17 @ 11:13 AM
I have a slightly complex situation which I'm looking for some clarity on. At the end of my tenancy in Scotland a few months back, I agreed to have some money from my half of the deposit go towards the deposit of someone else who was starting a new agreement at the same address (directly through the letting agents without it coming back to me in between). They had to pay a higher deposit because of the absence of a guarantor. There was a verbal agreement between me and the tenant, as well as a written clause on the tenancy agreement, signed by her, which said her side of the deposit was to be refunded to me. The woman who handled the contract in the letting agents also knew what was going on. I have a photo of the agreement and of course the letting agents have the original copy. My question is, if it's not possible for the deposit protection scheme to return this money to me directly rather than refunding it to her, would this agreement let me chase the money up legally if she refuses to pay it back to me voluntarily? She'll be going back to France when her contract ends. Thanks!
James - 30-May-17 @ 3:04 PM
Mints - Your Question:
My husband has recently started new employment where the family business have never given contracts of work out to their small number of employees. Upon picking up his wage slip this month he had a brown envelope papercliped to it. Opening the envelope it had his contract of work enclosed to which he found to be very unfavourable towards him as an employee. He has now been informed because he opened the envelope without it being handed to him he has in effect accepted the terms and conditions of the contract. Could you advise if this is true?

Our Response:
His employer has no grounds to implement this policy. He would need to discuss this with employer directly if the terms in the contract conflict with the terms discussed directly with his employer on acceptance of the job. If he can prove i.e by letter of acceptance, the terms differ then this will work in his favour.
ContractsAndAgreements - 26-May-17 @ 1:49 PM
My husband has recently started new employment where the family business have never given contracts of work out to their small number of employees. Upon picking up his wage slip this month he had a brown envelope papercliped to it. Opening the envelope it had his contract of work enclosed to which he found to be very unfavourable towards him as an employee. He has now been informed because he opened the envelope without it being handed to him he has in effect accepted the terms and conditions of the contract. Could you advise if this is true?
Mints - 26-May-17 @ 11:30 AM
My solicitor has deceived me into verbally agreeing for her to take complete control over my claim. I will not be informed of any, if there are any, offers made by the Defendant and I will not be able to form an opinion on them to discuss the claim and decide whether to accept or decline any offer. Everything will be decided by her. During a meeting which I had requested regarding many concerns I have, I had lots of questions fired at me. I was given no time to think about them, process them and give an informed answer. Suddenly a form was thrust in front of me by a Partner of the Law firm whichI was told to sign. He said for me to just sign and not read it, which I did as I trusted him. He then snatched the form away and immediately concluded the meeting.I do not have a copy of the form and do not know what it contains. The next day my solicitor emailed me stating that she had made an offer to The Defendant and the Court as per our "verbal agreement." I replied saying there was no verbal agreement, I had been deceived and for her to retract the offer. She said the offer was unretractable and there was no deception. A verbal agreement has never been discussed. The reasons why I would should have or want/need one has never been discussed. Terms and conditions have never been discussed. The process has not been open and transparent. I do not need anyone to make decisions for me. I am compus mentis. I said this in an email but have received no response. Initially, I requested the meeting to discuss some concerns that I had, which was refused and only went ahead after I had informed her that I had contacted the Legal Ombudsman. She then agreed to a meeting and that it would be an hour long. During this meeting and without me being aware, apparently a verbal agreement was made. I have had no response to my request that the verbal agreement should be cancelled as it was obtained through deception but have had no answer. That was three weeks ago. Am I within my rights to send another email stating that as I have heard nothing regarding my email re: termination of "verbal contract", to send another email stating that if I receive no response within 4,days , it would be confirmed that the verbal contract is terminated? Not that it could surely be enforced anyway!
Shezza - 17-May-17 @ 1:03 AM
Arw - Your Question:
I had an endowment mortgage that I started nearly 25 years ago and when I bought it, I included on the application form that I required £36,000 minimum and actually wrote minimum alongside the figure at the time of the signing. The seller then decided the payments and I have never missed a payment, About seven years into the payments, then came the endowment shortfall saga that was widely publicised and I started getting the warning letters. I put the company on notice for them to make up any shortfall. As far as I was concerned that word minimum was written into the contract and accepted by both parties.The company told me disagrred and gave me a final letter many years ago. I am looking to take this to the financial ombudsman when I get the final maturity figure this year so that I can place a figure on any shortfall. Unable to do this earlier because I didn't know if there was actually going to be a shortfall and also what the shortfall was going to be.What are my chances of success of claiming the full £36,000 by claiming that at the time of the application, my term "£36,000 minimum" was written into the contract and they took seven years of payments before trying to tell me there was going to be a shortfall.

Our Response:
Please see the Money Advice Service link here which will tell you all you need to know.
ContractsAndAgreements - 5-Apr-17 @ 12:53 PM
I had an endowment mortgage that I started nearly 25 years ago and when I bought it, I included on the application form that I required £36,000 minimum and actually wrote minimum alongside the figure at the time of the signing. The seller then decided the payments and I have never missed a payment, About seven years into the payments, then came the endowment shortfall saga that was widely publicised and I started getting the warning letters. I put the company on notice for them to make up any shortfall. As far as I was concerned that word minimum was written into the contract and accepted by both parties. The company told me disagrred and gave me a final letter many years ago. I am looking to take this to the financial ombudsman when I get the final maturity figure this year so that I can place a figure on any shortfall. Unable to do this earlier because I didn't know if there was actually going to be a shortfall and also what the shortfall was going to be. What are my chances of success of claiming the full £36,000 by claiming that at the time of the application, my term "£36,000 minimum" was written into the contract and they took seven years of payments before trying to tell me there was going to be a shortfall.
Arw - 5-Apr-17 @ 12:47 AM
I am currently in court with a client of mine, I sent a quotation and my terms and conditions are set out below our quote, we completed the works and are now in dispute. My questions are I do not require a signature on our T&Cs, they are just presented under the quotation, are they still valid? My T&Cs have been broken many times, but I have a contract sent via email to the client but I am worried in assuming that because they accepted our quotation does this mean they accepted our terms and conditions
Chris - 16-Mar-17 @ 7:52 AM
J - Your Question:
I broke up with an ex 10 years ago but he owed me money. He's recently been in touch and he agreed over facebook messages that he would repay this debt. Now he's saying he won't and that I gave the money to him. Can I pursue this debt? Is it worthwhile in terms of court and legal fees as he owes £2,000

Our Response:
If you're going to take court action, you must do this within certain time limits. The time limit depends on what action you're taking - eg the time limit for breach of contract is six years. You can see the CAB link here for further information and/or contact your nearest Citizens Advice to find out more about time limits.
ContractsAndAgreements - 2-Mar-17 @ 12:20 PM
I broke up with an ex 10 years ago but he owed me money. He's recently been in touch and he agreed over facebook messages that he would repay this debt. Now he's saying he won't and that I gave the money to him. Can I pursue this debt? Is it worthwhile in terms of court and legal fees as he owes £2,000
J - 1-Mar-17 @ 1:38 PM
I have a signed contract stating that i would help a a woman in her preparation,planning and successful opening of her restaurant. I was given 19 days to get it done and believe me as a qualified chef and with a business management degree i have never seen a kitchen in such an awful state, it was horrific. To cut a long story short i got the place open and involved the EHO and food standards agency and satsfied all the health and safety board. The contract stated i would help them specifically with the (preparation,planning and successful opening of her restaurant) which i did and many comments on facebook by her, messages to her friends and family, a good rating by the food standards agency and all legal requirements carried out including that of the Eho and licencing authority. The signed contract was that in return my fee of £7500 plus vat and any other payments i have had to pay in course of my contract would be paid by the client. I have also go a text message stating how happy they are with my work four weeks after i left and that if i could send them a summary of plan to move forward with they would settle my bill which still stands at £6250. I have tried to contact them but they have now said they are seeking legal advice and the company who i outsourced to retrieve my money have come back and said whilst they dispute the monies owed they cannot help me.... I can pay £410 and go to a small claims court but is there anything i should be aware off or can do as i feel the work i carried out with a total of 450 hours over 25 days was deserved of the feee i charged. Any advice would be amazing as i am a small business being crippled by this woman and he non payment
ashlaw125 - 20-Feb-17 @ 4:08 PM
I have a signed contract stating that i would help a a woman in her preparation,planning and successful opening of her restaurant. I was given 19 days to get it done and believe me as a qualified chef and with a business management degree i have never seen a kitchen in such an awful state, it was horrific. To cut a long story short i got the place open and involved the EHO and food standards agency and satsfied all the health and safety board. The contract stated i would help them specifically with the (preparation,planning and successful opening of her restaurant) which i did and many comments on facebook by her, messages to her friends and family, a good rating by the food standards agency and all legal requirements carried out including that of the Eho and licencing authority. The signed contract was that in return my fee of £7500 plus vat and any other payments i have had to pay in course of my contract would be paid by the client. I have also go a text message stating how happy they are with my work four weeks after i left and that if i could send them a summary of plan to move forward with they would settle my bill which still stands at £6250. I have tried to contact them but they have now said they are seeking legal advice and the company who i outsourced to retrieve my money have come back and said whilst they dispute the monies owed they cannot help me.... I can pay £410 and go to a small claims court but is there anything i should be aware off or can do as i feel the work i carried out with a total of 450 hours over 25 days was deserved of the feee i charged. Any advice would be amazing as i am a small business being crippled by this woman and he non payment
ashlaw125 - 20-Feb-17 @ 3:32 PM
Hi, I have a very similar problem to Luckybeme posted on the 14th July last year. Yesterday I bought a car from a recognised dealer. The price was agreed by both parties, contracts signed, deposit paid and collection date organised. They have phoned me this morning to say they have made a mistake and they can't sell me the car at the agreed price. They have offered me the deposit back but I feel I should be able to purchase the car at this price. Where do I stand legally please?
LK - 13-Feb-17 @ 7:42 PM
@CeebeeI would send him another letter telling him he is not to plaster and if he does he will not be paid for the job and also you will take him to court for damages if he goes ahead.
HughS - 8-Dec-16 @ 12:16 PM
November 20 the tenant renting my hse decides he can plaster a dining room he is renovating. He is not a trained plaster and has limited experience. I texted him I would pay him $1200. To plaster. It is now December 7 and he will soon beready to plaster. I texted him today and told him I would rather bring in a professional plaster . Based on his limited experience and it is a LG room. He responded with he is going to plaster. I asked him not to proceed and responded he is still going to plaster. So if he plasters am I on the hook for 1200 even though I told him not to proceed.
Ceebee - 8-Dec-16 @ 2:02 AM
I recently went into an SCS store to purchase a sofa on finance after being rejected for finance the store asked for a £20 deposit to hold my product so I could collect the sofa once I had paid the full amount off. After less than a week after paying the £20 I decided I no longer wanted the sofa so asked to cancel after paying them another £40. I only signed a form for finance. However now I'm been told I've entered a legally binded contact and cancel. Although the stores terms and conditions were never disclosed to myself and I didn't sign any contract with them other than to say all the details I had given were correct. What can I do to retrieve my £60 from them.
Shannon - 10-Nov-16 @ 7:51 PM
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