Under Washington law, not all contracts need to be in writing to be legally enforceable, but some do. Whether a contract needs to be in writing depends on whether the agreement is covered by the statute of frauds.
Under RCW 62A.2A-201, contracts pertaining to the following should be in writing:
- Sale of goods valued over $500 (unless goods specifically manufactured for the buyer and cannot be resold during the seller’s regular course of business).
- Contracts lasting longer than a year.
- Sale or lease of real estate or real estate broker’s commission.
- Marriage and divorce (e.g., prenuptial agreement).
- Credit agreement.
- Contract to assume another person’s debt.
Are there any exceptions?
In some cases, a contract that would normally be unenforceable under the statute of frauds may be considered enforceable in certain situations. Here are two possible exceptions to the statute of frauds:
- Partial performance: If a party has partially performed in accordance with the terms of the contract, and the other party accepted the performance.
- Promissory estoppel: If a party detrimentally relies on a promise made by the other party.
For hundreds of years, it has been well established that, while contracts do not always have to be in writing, reducing a contract to writing is generally the best way to avoid business disputes. A written contract provides both parties with a clear picture of what they agreed to and prevents fraud and perjury. Another benefit to having a written contract is that, in Washington, you will have six years to bring your breach of contract claim against the other party, as opposed to only having three years for an oral contract.