How Binding Are Oral Contracts in Florida?

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Wondering whether you can hold someone to a verbal promise he or she gave you in Florida? The answer could be yes, you can. Oral contracts might not be as failsafe as written ones, but they still qualify as legally binding agreements in many situations. If your conversation with someone else involved a few necessary elements, you might have a legitimate contract on your hands. Learn when the spoken word is and is not a binding legal contract as a business owner or individual in Florida.

What Is an Oral Contract?

A contract is an agreement between two parties that has legal standing in a court of law. In most cases, a contract involves one party agreeing to provide goods or services to another party for an agreed-upon amount of compensation. Contracts can also involve business partnerships and other agreements. Contracts can be either written or oral in Florida. Both will be legally binding as long as the parties follow the correct procedures and fulfill all requirements.

Some transactions require the parties involved to create a written contract instead of an oral one. For example, all real estate transactions that will take longer than one year to settle must consist of written contracts. Oral contracts in these types of agreements will not hold up in a court of law. Otherwise, however, oral contracts are generally enforceable – especially if one party has fulfilled his or her side of the agreement.

Elements Necessary to Make a Spoken Agreement Legally Binding

It is typically not enough to form an oral contract by just having a conversation with someone about doing some work for him or her. Instead, the agreement must meet certain requirements for the courts to recognize it as a legally binding contract. While each case and contract dispute will be unique, most oral contracts in Florida must contain the following elements for the courts to enforce it as valid:

  1. The contract involved an offer and acceptance of that offer in exchange for something of value, such as money or goods/services.
  2. Both parties were mentally capable of knowingly and intentionally entering into the agreement.
  3. Neither party was a minor at the time of the agreement.
  4. The goods or services involved in the contract were not impossible or illegal to obtain.

Whenever possible, create a written contract instead of trusting an oral one. Written contracts are easier to enforce and uphold in court. Written contracts also spell out the details of an agreement, helping to prevent misunderstandings and issues. It is generally easier to understand your rights and responsibilities under a written contract compared to a spoken one. If you don’t have a written contract, however, you can work to enforce an oral one with help from the Florida courts.

Enforcing an Oral Contract in Florida

If you need to enter into an oral contract dispute, you have four years to file your lawsuit against the defendant. Note, however, that the statute of limitations could be as little as one year depending on the circumstances. Contact a lawyer as soon as possible to avoid missing your deadline. Proof that you’ve already upheld your end of the bargain can help your side of the case in an oral contract dispute. In addition, anyone who witnessed the oral contract could be of assistance.

An oral contract dispute might go before a judge and jury, or else go through arbitration instead. Your case might go through arbitration if your oral contract included an arbitration clause. Arbitrators can charge more money for their services than it costs to go to court. Do not agree to any such clause when discussing a deal unless you want to give up your right to a decision by a judge and jury. Avoid potential problems with an oral contract by working with a lawyer to draft a written one instead.