Can you enforce a verbal modification or some type of verbal side agreement to a written contract?

Verbal/Written

Can you enforce a verbal modification or some type of verbal side agreement to a written contract? Local judge Gerald A. Williams discusses.

 

Can you enforce a verbal modification or some type of verbal side agreement to a written contract? Probably not. A judge most likely will not even allow you to offer evidence concerning any verbal changes to a written contract.

The purpose of having a written contract is so that both sides understand the terms to their agreement. Courts will usually conclude that the written contract is the final and best evidence of the contract’s terms. In most cases, it cannot be contradicted and this can cause some real world problems.

For example, say that your apartment lease requires your rent to be paid on the first day of each month. However, a friendly assistant in the main office tells you that she understands your unexpected financial problem and tells you that you don’t need to pay your rent until the 10th.

After you get a notice on the second that your rent has not been paid, you call the office to remind them of your special deal, only to find out that the assistant no longer works there. So when was your rent due? The lease says the first and therefore that is when it was due.

Under a legal principle called the parol evidence rule, oral promises made in connection with a written contract can usually only be considered as evidence in court if the terms of the contract are subject to different interpretations. In short, if you want to change the terms of a written contract, then get that amendment in writing.

 

Are Verbal Contracts Binding?

Verbal contracts occur every day and are enforced by courts if one side does not follow the terms. However, as a matter of public policy, the law has carved out some types of contracts that are considered to be so important that they must be in writing to be enforceable. This concept is known as the statute of frauds. A.R.S. § 44-101.

Perhaps the most common type of contract that must be in writing to be enforceable is anything that would take more than one year to complete. For example, a loan of $1,500 with repayment terms of $100 per month would need to be in writing, such as in the form of a promissory note.

One of the more interesting historic requirements, that is still the law, is that contracts concerning a marriage must be in writing to be enforceable. A.R.S. § 44-101(3). At least in this country, families formally arranging marriages are rare; however, these general concepts are often applied to a very modern type of pre-marriage contract. They are known as prenuptial agreements.

 

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