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Put It in Writing

STEVE LOVEJOY: Well I know what the contract says, but what I was told is something different.

ELIOT WAGONHEIM: I know the contract says that, but I would never do that to you.

PETER HOLLAND: Our law going back hundreds of years, it encourages written contracts and it discourages oral contracts.

FRED PROVORNY: Try to get as much of it in writing as possible, even if you just write it in by hand.

ELIOT WAGONHEIM: If push comes to shove, it is the words on the piece of paper that are going to control your destiny.

STEVE LOVEJOY: If you have to go to court and enforce it, it is better to have a document that is as comprehensive as possible.

ELIOT WAGONHEIM: It would not be good enough if you have to stand in front of a judge or an arbitrator and say, "but John promised that he would never do this," because you have signed a contract that said he could.

STEVE LOVEJOY: The courts are going to go with what is in writing.

PETER HOLLAND: And so when you have an oral agreement, make sure you put it in the contract.

STEVE LOVEJOY: I get a lot of clients who say, "I just want a simple contract. One page is all I want." What you really want is a simple result.

FRED PROVORNY: You want to have mechanisms for resolving disputes.

STEVE LOVEJOY: A contract that is clear enough that if you have to go court, it is a simple matter to explain to the judge what the contract means.

FRED PROVORNY: That is always better than trying to prove it down the road, where in some cases the law does not let you do that.

PETER HOLLAND: If the contract does not contain all of the agreements we talked about, write them in there and insist that they be put in the contact.

STEVE LOVEJOY: That is the best way to protect yourself against them saying, "well we are going to hold your feet to the fire on the contract" when your answer is "well they told me something different than what is in the contract."

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If a part of the deal is important to you, it's important enough to put in writing. Many consumers and business people trust the oral representations of the other side, only to learn the hard way that an oral contract isn't worth the paper it's not written on.

All agreements and verbal promises should be put in writing to protect both sides in any deal. Written contracts should also include:

  • A complete description of the work to be done in sufficient detail so as to permit an objective appraisal of performance, when payment has been earned, and when it is due
  • The total cost
  • A payment schedule
  • Any warranties or other special terms and promises
  • Objective benchmarks for performance by both sides

Never sign a blank contract. Read the entire document carefully and ask all questions before signing. Upon signing, always keep a copy of the signed contract for your records. And, if you can possibly avoid it, never, never pay the full amount in advance.

Law Can Be Stranger than Fiction

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