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Oral contracts in Florida: Are they binding?

September 25, 2016

Updated: May 26th, 2017

With the exception of contracts that are required to be in writing pursuant to Florida law – as listed below – oral agreements are binding and legally enforceable. However, just because an oral contract is enforceable does not make entering into one advisable or favorable. They’re notoriously difficult to enforce, primarily because a party wishing to enforce an oral contract must first prove that it existed in the first place.

When attempting to prove the existence of an oral contract, the first question a Hollywood or Fort Lauderdale contract dispute lawyer will ask is this: Are the elements of a valid contract present? The elements of a valid contract, whether oral or written, are:

  • an offer;
  • acceptance of the offer;
  • sufficiently specific terms or a “meeting of the minds”;
  • exchange of consideration

HELP YOUR LAWYER GATHER EVIDENCE

If you’re trying to prove that an oral contract exists, you might begin by gathering evidence which may indicate the existence of the offer, acceptance of the offer, specific terms and exchange of consideration. Such evidence could include:

  • (a) written communications exchanged regarding the oral contract, like text messages, emails or handwritten notes
  • (b) proof of payment for goods or services, like canceled checks, pay slips, purchase orders or receipts
  • (c) testimony of any third parties present when the oral contract was formed
  • (d) proof of performance of terms of the oral contract

Assuming the party seeking to prove the existence of the oral contract has some of the above evidence, and that evidence is accepted as valid by a Ft Lauderdale court, that party’s attorney must now endeavor to prove that there was a mutual understanding regarding the oral contract. It is common for two or more parties making a verbal agreement to have dramatically different perceptions of what was agreed upon. Without the agreement being reduced to writing, it is challenging to prove that any mutual understanding existed.

WHEN WON’T SPOKEN AGREEMENTS CUT IT?

Mutual understanding is critical in certain life-altering transactions. For this reason, Florida law reasonably requires that certain contracts must be in writing to be enforceable. Some examples of contracts that must be in writing are:

  • contracts regarding the buying and selling of real estate
  • contracts to pay someone else’s debts
  • contracts for sales of goods greater than $500.00
  • leases that have a term which is greater than twelve (12) months

For the protection of all parties in a transaction, it is preferable to reduce contractual agreements to writing whenever possible. Qualified Ft Lauderdale / Hollywood contract dispute attorneys will make sure that all of the requisite elements are present in a written contract to make it enforceable in a court of law. In the event of a dispute, the written contract will always prevail over an oral agreement.

However, if a party has already entered into an oral contract and that oral contract has been breached, a qualified attorney can assist the party in determining whether the requisite elements exist to prove existence of the contract in court. It is possible to enforce an oral contract, but the likelihood of your lawyer’s success will depend greatly on the facts of the case.