Most people handle agreements differently than how courts litigate contracts. Most people shake hands—physically or metaphorically—and move forward.
Meanwhile, contract law is old and complex and can feel far removed from two people agreeing to something.
A handshake and a person’s word are usually enough, but things get messy when someone doesn’t honor a verbal agreement. Then you have to ask, Is a verbal contract binding in Florida?
The quick answer is yes. A verbal agreement can be legally binding in Florida. But it depends on several factors, which is why it helps to talk with a Pensacola contract lawyer to make that determination.
Reach out to Emmanuel Sheppard & Condon online or call 850-433-6581 for help with your verbal contract questions.
Are Verbal Contracts Legally Binding?
A verbal or oral contract is legally binding—just like a written contract—if it includes all the necessary elements. However, there are some exceptions that you need to know about, too.
The elements of a contract are:
- An offer: Someone has to make a genuine offer to do or not do something.
- An acceptance: Someone has to accept the offer.
- Mutual agreement: At least two people (there can be more than two parties to a contract) have to reach a “meeting of the minds” for a court to enforce an agreement. You have to agree on the terms of the contract and what the contract is about.
- Adequate consideration: Consideration is a legal term for the things the parties exchange, such as a service, a good, a promise not to do something, or money. To form a contract, all parties must give something.
- Capacity: A party to the contract needs to be an adult of sound mind. It might not be a valid contract if one of the parties was a minor or mentally incompetent.
- Legality: A party to the contract can’t agree to do something illegal. Offering to steal someone’s car for a fee would be unlawful and not a valid verbal agreement.
That’s a quick explanation of everything you need to form a legally binding contract. If your agreement with another person is missing one of these elements, a court won’t enforce it.
Don’t hesitate to reach out to a lawyer if you aren’t sure whether your verbal agreement was enforceable or not.
Limits on Oral Agreements in Florida
Under Florida law, people have to put certain types of contracts in writing. Otherwise, a court won’t enforce an oral agreement, and one of the parties is free to back out.
Agreements you must put into writing include:
- Real estate transactions,
- A property lease lasting more than one year,
- A guarantee of another person’s debt,
- Contracts that cannot be performed within one year,
- The purchase of goods for $500 or more, and
- Newspaper subscriptions.
So, for example, if you rent an apartment with a 16-month lease or sell your car for $1,500, both agreements must be in writing.
Can I Back Out of a Verbal Contract?
Most people think there’s a “cooling-off” period (also called a right of rescission) after you agree to something. You might think you have a few weeks to say, “never mind.” Unfortunately, that isn’t usually the case.
Only certain types of contracts in Florida have a brief cooling-off period. For example, you may have three days to cancel a contract for ongoing services or goods or services that are sold at home and are worth more than $25.
You don’t have the right to rescind an agreement simply because it was made verbally and not in writing.
Can I Sue Someone for Breaching a Verbal Agreement?
Whether you can or should sue someone who didn’t uphold their end of an oral contract depends on a few factors.
It’s often hard to prove you had a verbal agreement. It’s your word against another person. It helps if you have proof of the agreement, like emails, text messages, voicemails, or witnesses.
Also, partial performance (meaning that at least some of what was promised under the terms of the contract was actually done) can be proved.
Another factor is whether you suffered damages. While it’s frustrating when someone backs out of a deal, you may not be hurt by that action.
For example, if the person ends up not paying you $1,000 for your old car, but you haven’t given it to them yet anyway, you can sell it to someone else, making it unlikely that you suffered damages.
Finally, the statute of limitations is important. You only have four years to file a lawsuit based on a breach of contract in Florida.
Do You Have Questions About a Verbal Agreement in Florida?
If you’re wondering whether a verbal contract is binding in Florida, call Emmanuel Sheppard & Condon right away. We’ll investigate whether you had a legally binding agreement. And if someone didn’t hold up their end of a deal, we can help you decide what to do next.