Do Contracts Have to be in Writing?

The common saying goes: “It it’s not in writing, it didn’t happen.”  You might be surprised to know that when it comes to contract law, the opposite is actually true.  Verbal contracts are not only enforceable, but there are only certain types of contracts that MUST be in writing.  Knowing this distinction is important to making sure your contracts are valid and enforceable against other parties to the agreement.

While a full list can be found at California Civil Code § 1624 and CA Commercial Code Sec. 2201, the more common instances are:

(1) For the Sale or Transfer of Real Property. An agreement for the sale of real property must be in writing. This applies to an agent, broker, or other fiduciary you hire for such a purpose. Therefore, if you plan on buying a vacation home on the coast, the agreement must be in writing.

(2) A mortgage. A mortgage that is created, renewed, or extended, must be in writing.

(3) Premarital Agreement. A premarital agreement is only valid if it is in writing.

The entire list of contracts that must be in writing is not very large. If you take a step back and think about how many contracts you enter into each day, you will realize that the vast majority of contractual agreements are verbal and not written contracts. However, when a written contract is needed, the attorneys at Griswold-Lasalle would be more than happy to create, review, and advise you on your contractual needs.