Verbal versus written agreements

Verbal versus written agreements

Cerize Roets — Head of Legal Services, Kilgetty Statutory Services

In principal, verbal and written agreements are generally legally binding. However, where disputes do arise, the primary reason may be attributed to the content of the verbal or written agreement. Naturally it goes without saying that, when verbal and written agreements are in dispute, a written agreement has the decided advantage of being able to substantiate and prove the terms of the agreement. By comparison, the typical “he said, she said” type of disagreement which is so characteristic of a disputed verbal agreement can be a real challenge to mediate and/or amicably resolve between the disputing parties.

Article - verbal versus written agreementsWritten vs verbal agreements

Written contracts have a variety of advantages — these include:

  • Ensuring that both parties are fully aware of the contents of the agreement;
  • Fostering greater clarity between all parties privy to the agreement;
  • Fostering high levels of trust between all agreeing parties;
  • The ability to stipulate a prescribed set of formalities that must be met before validity of the agreement can be reached; and
  • Prevents unnecessary disputes from arising between all parties.

In some situations, verbal agreements are simple and convenient. However, should a legal matter be forthcoming, enforcement of verbal agreements can be challenging to prove and enforce. This reality is largely due to there being no clear record of, and objective, to support the verbal agreement. For this reason, when agreements between parties are being established, written agreements are the preferred option. Well-drafted written agreements ensure clear and concise terms of agreement between the agreeing parties. Accordingly, such well-drafted written agreements constitute more legally sound and acceptable contracts of agreement.

Well-drafted agreements should include useful information and explanatory guidance about the agreement. In the event that a dispute might indeed arise, this useful information and explanatory guidance serves as the foundation for legal representatives to turn to when facilitating a fair resolution.

Article - verbal versus written agreementsWritten agreements preferred

Whilst verbal agreements may seem convenient and easy, it is preferable to opt for a written agreement. Important agreements such as a contract of sale, a loan agreement,  employment agreement, lease agreement, and various types of service contracts are best suited to being constituted in the written form.

Importantly, note that many written agreements can only be altered if the changes are endorsed in writing and accordingly signed by all parties.  In short, whilst verbal agreements are generally legally binding, they are not advised.

Line divider plain

Kindly contact our offices for professional assistance with all your legal requirements relating to agreements and contracts.

Contact — Cerize Roets at cerize.roets@kilgetty.co.za or at 0832275508.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.