Your attorney is a phone call away

Is my contract enforceable if it is not in writing?

On Behalf of | Jun 7, 2023 | Business Law

Gone are the days when most business dealings were sealed with words and a handshake. Written contracts are now the standard form of cementing agreements between parties in the business world. Still, sometimes one party orally promises something to another party, in exchange for something of value. Are these oral contracts enforceable?

When must a contract be written?

Oral contracts might be enforceable if they meet all the elements of a valid contract in Washington. Generally, this means there must be a promise to provide goods or services made in exchange for something of value, such as money or other goods or services.

But certain contracts in Washington by law must be written. This is due to a legal doctrine called the “statute of frauds.” Some examples of contracts that fall under the statute of frauds include:

  • Contracts that cover the scope of more than one year
  • Contracts for the sale of real estate, and
  • Contracts for the sale of goods worth $500 or more

In general, a contract that falls under the statute of frauds must be written and signed by both parties. It should specify the quantity of goods to be provided. If the other terms of the contract are valid, they might still be enforced, depending on the circumstances.

Changes to the law

Note that there are some legal changes to the statute of frauds in Washington that will go into effect January 1, 2024.

For example, whether terms in a contract are conspicuous will depend on the totality of the circumstances. Contracts executed electronically and hybrid transactions will fall under the statute of frauds.

The definitions of “send,” “signed” and “assignee” are also modified. The term “writing” is changed to “record” in much of the statute. Other changes have been made as well.

Contract disputes often involve arguments regarding whether the agreement falls under the statute of frauds and thus needs to be written. Still, it is important to remember that there are limits to enforceability under the statute of frauds in Washington even if a contract is in writing.