I need to enforce a verbal contract. Where do I start?

We’ve previously discussed how Australian law provides for the enforcement of a contract whether it is wholly in writing, partly oral and partly in writing, or entirely a verbal contract.

If you have a contract with another party who has failed to deliver goods and/or services or failed to pay for goods and/or services that you’ve provided, you are entitled to enforce the contract regardless of whether it is in writing or not (i.e. a verbal contract).

So where do you start to enforce a verbal contract?

The first advice I’d give is not to delay.  The passage of time invariably makes it harder to prove key points, makes memories fade and communicates to the court that you may not be as serious about enforcing the contract as you should be.

Secondly you should gather as much information as possible.  We can advise you in more detail about what you need to prove your case and enforce your contract but as a starting point is always useful to have things like:

  • copies of past agreements between the parties
  • copies of communications between the parties (emails / text messages etc)
  • diaries or logs of discussions that took place and your understanding of the intent of those conversations
  • evidence of work, services or money that has passed between the parties
  • information about prior dealings between the parties

Thirdly, you need to get expert advice.  While all  lawyers have an understanding of the basic law of contracts you should seek advice from a lawyer or firm of lawyers who focus on helping businesses and individuals enforce their rights.  Many commercial contract lawyers do not act in disputes at all and may not be your best first point of contact if you are seeking payment or performance under a contract.

An experienced litigation lawyer will meet with you to discuss your case in person, advise you on your prospects of success, what you’ll need to do to proceed and the likely costs involved.

If you have a problem with a contract, whether verbal or in writing, which the other party is not complying with we strongly recommend you seek expert litigation advice as soon as possible.