Board-Certified In Construction Law By The Florida Bar

Written agreements trump verbal ones in legal disputes

On Behalf of | Mar 29, 2019 | Construction Law

In the words of one anonymous British humorist, “Oral agreements aren’t worth the paper they’re not written on.” Those tongue-in-cheek words could come back to haunt you if you are not careful.

Suppose you and a homeowner are having a dispute about some facet of the construction project being done on their property. The two of you huddle in talks and hash out an agreement to go forth with the project.

You think it’s a done deal, right? But unless any changes and modifications to the existing contract are put into writing and signed by both parties, any verbally agreed-upon changes or oral agreements between the two of you will not be enforceable in a court of law.

That could potentially leave a contractor holding a very expensive bag when the dust settles. This also applies when all terms of the agreement don’t get committed to writing. Whatever is on that signed agreement between you and the client is what the court will seek to uphold in any later disputes.

It’s presumed that written agreements represent the parties’ intentions regarding the matter. Should verbal agreements not contradict what is included in the written contract, the court may consider those terms, however. Fraudulent misrepresentation is another exception, as if either side alleges fraud and there is a verbal agreement to same, the written contract could be voided.

This is why your South Florida construction law attorneys should be involved in all facets of contractual agreements. Should the need arise to amend a contract, your attorneys can approve the terms to be included and ensure that the correct legal phrasing and language is used to avoid any ambiguity of the terms.