Generally, contracts do not have to be written down to be legally binding, although sometimes it can be harder to prove exactly what was agreed to in an oral contract.
Some contracts, however, are legally required to be in writing, including:
- credit contracts and consumer leases, for example, contracts supplying credit or consumer mortgages;
- contracts for the performance of domestic building work to the value of $12 000 or more [Building Work Contractors Act 1995 (SA) s 28];
- contracts for the sale of second hand motor vehicles by dealers [Second-hand Vehicle Dealers Act 1995 (SA) s 17];
- contracts for the sale of land, or any interest in or concerning land [Law of Property Act 1936 (SA) s 26];
- unsolicited consumer agreements (e.g. door to door sales, telephone sales) [Competition and Consumer Act 2010 (Cth) Schedule 2 ss 78, 79].
While a contract is not required to be in writing for it be enforceable, it may be advisable to have it in writing regardless. This may prevent or limit a dispute at a later time.
For example, if a contract is of special importance, involves a substantial sum of money, or if there is a possibility of a dispute about it in the future, it is wise to have a written agreement.
Some agreements will not be legally enforceable, even if written down and signed. These include agreements where there was no consideration, or agreements to do things that are illegal – see Illegal Contracts.
The content of the Law Handbook is made available as a public service for information purposes only and should not be relied upon as a substitute for legal advice. See Disclaimer for details. For free and confidential legal advice in South Australia call 1300 366 424.