Are Verbal Contracts Legally Binding?

Verbal Contracts

Contracts are the backbone of business transactions, ensuring that all parties involved understand their rights and obligations. While most people are familiar with written contracts, verbal contracts can also be legally binding. For small business owners in Florida, understanding the nuances of verbal contracts is essential for navigating everyday business dealings. This article will explore the legal standing of verbal contracts in Florida, the requirements for enforceability, and practical examples to illustrate their application.

What is a Verbal Contract?

A verbal contract, also known as an oral contract, is an agreement made through spoken words rather than in writing. Despite the lack of a physical document, verbal contracts can be just as binding as written ones, provided they meet certain legal criteria.

The Legal Framework in Florida

Statute of Frauds

In Florida, the Statute of Frauds outlines specific types of contracts that must be in writing to be enforceable. According to Florida Statutes § 725.01, the following types of agreements fall under the Statute of Frauds:

  1. Contracts involving the sale of goods over $500.
  2. Agreements that cannot be performed within one year.
  3. Contracts for the sale or transfer of real estate.
  4. Promises to pay the debt of another.
  5. Prenuptial agreements and other contracts made upon consideration of marriage.
  6. Agreements to pay an estate's debt from personal funds.

If a verbal agreement falls within these categories, it must be in writing to be legally binding. However, for other types of agreements, verbal contracts can be enforceable if they meet the basic requirements of contract law.

Basic Requirements for a Verbal Contract

For a verbal contract to be legally binding in Florida, it must meet the following criteria:

  1. Offer and Acceptance: One party must make an offer, and the other must accept it. This mutual agreement forms the basis of the contract.
  2. Consideration: There must be an exchange of value between the parties. This could be money, goods, services, or a promise to perform or refrain from an action.
  3. Capacity: Both parties must have the legal capacity to enter into a contract. This means they must be of legal age (18 years or older) and of sound mind.
  4. Legality: The contract's subject matter must be legal. Contracts involving illegal activities are not enforceable.
  5. Mutual Assent: Both parties must genuinely agree to the terms of the contract without any form of duress, fraud, or undue influence.

Enforceability of Verbal Contracts

Proving a Verbal Contract

One of the main challenges with verbal contracts is proving their existence and terms. Unlike written contracts, verbal agreements do not have a physical document to reference, making it crucial to have evidence supporting the contract's existence and terms. Here are some ways to establish proof:

  1. Witnesses: If there were witnesses present when the agreement was made, their testimony could support the existence of the verbal contract.
  2. Partial Performance: Actions taken by either party that indicate the existence of a contract, such as partial payment or delivery of goods/services, can serve as evidence.
  3. Correspondence: Emails, text messages, and other forms of communication that reference the agreement can help establish the terms of the verbal contract.
  4. Behavior: Consistent behavior by both parties that aligns with the contract terms can also be indicative of an agreement.

Practical Examples

  1. Example 1: Service Agreement
    • A small business owner verbally agrees with a freelance graphic designer to create a logo for $500. The designer begins work and delivers initial drafts. Despite the agreement being verbal, the designer can prove the existence of the contract through the initial drafts and any email correspondence discussing the project.
  2. Example 2: Purchase of Goods
    • A restaurant owner verbally agrees to purchase fresh produce from a local farmer on a weekly basis. The farmer delivers the produce for several weeks, and the restaurant owner pays as agreed. The consistent delivery and payment can serve as evidence of the verbal contract.

Risks and Limitations of Verbal Contracts

While verbal contracts can be legally binding, they come with significant risks and limitations:

  1. Lack of Clarity: Without written documentation, the terms of the agreement can be subject to interpretation and misunderstanding.
  2. Difficulty in Proving Terms: Proving the existence and specific terms of a verbal contract can be challenging, especially if disputes arise.
  3. Memory and Reliability: Over time, parties may forget the precise terms or even the existence of the contract, leading to disputes.

Best Practices for Small Business Owners

Given the potential risks, small business owners should consider the following best practices when dealing with verbal contracts:

  1. Document Everything: Whenever possible, put agreements in writing. Even if the initial agreement is verbal, follow up with a written confirmation via email or a formal contract.
  2. Use Confirmatory Letters: Send a confirmatory letter or email summarizing the terms of the verbal agreement. This can serve as evidence if disputes arise.
  3. Maintain Records: Keep detailed records of all communications, transactions, and actions related to the agreement.
  4. Seek Legal Advice: Consult with a legal professional to ensure that your agreements are legally sound and to understand the implications of verbal contracts.


Verbal contracts can be legally binding in Florida, provided they meet the basic requirements of contract law and do not fall under the Statute of Frauds. For small business owners, understanding the enforceability and risks associated with verbal contracts is crucial for making informed decisions. While verbal agreements offer flexibility and can be suitable for certain transactions, documenting agreements in writing is always the best practice to ensure clarity and reduce the risk of disputes. By following best practices and seeking legal advice when necessary, small business owners can navigate the complexities of verbal contracts and protect their business interests effectively. If you have questions about a verbal contract, contact the Business lawyers at MSD Business today for a free consultation.

About the Author:

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Chase Carpenter is a partner in the Business Division of Law Offices of Moffa, Sutton, & Donnini, P.A. His practice revolves around business transactions and business litigation. Mr. Carpenter handles a wide range of cases including contract drafting, partnership disputes, commercial leases, and construction litigation. These cases encompass diverse industries, including healthcare, technology, real estate investment, and government contracting.

About the Firm:

The Law Offices of Moffa, Sutton, & Donnini, P.A., also known as MSD Business, is a local business law firm in Tampa, FL, serving clients throughout Fort Lauderdale and statewide. Our firm has a long history of helping clients navigate all types of complex legal matters, including local and state tax issues. In our business law practice, we assist clients with everything from mergers and acquisitions to contract disputes, business litigation, general counsel, and more.