Video: Are Verbal Contracts Enforceable?

By Ian Richardson
Attorney at Law

Approximate transcript:

I'm Ian Richardson, an attorney with Vann Attorneys. And today I'm going to be talking about a common misconception, which is that a contract always has to be in writing in order to be enforceable. In fact, in North Carolina, we only have five types of contracts that need to be in writing in order to be enforceable.

The first one is a sale of goods over $500. So this applies whenever you have a business that's selling merchandise and the price is going to be over $500. If a contract is going to be entered into then that needs to be in writing.

The second is a promise to pay a debt of another; this is a surety agreement.

The third is a promise made in exchange for marriage. This is a prenuptial agreement is the most common example of that.

The fourth type is a promise that can't be performed within one year. So this would be if you've got an agreement that you're going to pay someone every year on a particular day for five years - that needs to be in writing.

And the fifth type is a promise concerning the sale of real estate. What I tell people is anytime you've got a real estate transaction, you need to make sure that's in writing. Even though a contract is not required to be in writing, it's always a much better idea to put your agreement in writing, as opposed to attempting to rely on an oral contract. Arguing that there was an oral contract is something that lawyers should be doing as a last resort.

There are also a number of benefits of written contracts. The first is that you can have an attorney's fee provision. In an oral contract, you're very unlikely going to be able to enforce any type of attorneys fees argument, but in a written contract, he can provide for attorneys fees and likely recover those fees.

Another benefit of a written contract is you get to dictate what the governing law is going to be, you can select the wall that's favorable to you and your transaction.

The third example is a venue clause can be included in a written contract. And this means that you can control where the dispute is going to be heard assuming that a dispute happened.

The fourth example of why a written contract is important is that you can include personal guarantee. So if you're doing business with a company, in a written contract, you can make sure that principles of that company are on the hook as personal guarantors if you have a written contract.

And finally a well drafted contract is going to remove any ambiguities for the court so that you can hopefully enforce all those provisions I just talked about.

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