By Celesté Snyders 

People often find themselves in contractual disputes and are unsure whether the type of contract they entered is valid. There are five elements or requirements for a contract to be valid. Namely: consensus, lawfulness, legal capacity to enter into a contract; possibility and signed and in writing. All these elements of a contract need to be present for an agreement to be enforceable. With this being said, a verbal contract is still a valid contract however it is advisable, as you cannot enforce the contract in a court of law.   

Signing on the dotted line
The contract should clearly outline the transaction. It should list the agreement details, who, what, when, why and how much. Before you sign your name on the dotted line, you should ensure you know what you are signing. Should a dispute arise, you should know who to enforce the contract against. What should happen in case of a breach of contract?   

To enforce the contract, the party seeking relief must ensure that all the relevant parties to the agreement have signed the contract. In addition, the parties that signed the contract should also be of legal age, being over the age of 18 to enter such agreements.  The party or parties seeking to enforce the contract should be a party to the contract. One cannot simply enforce an agreement if you did not sign on the dotted line.   

Contractual disputes 
Different types of contractual disputes can arise if there is a breach of contract when a party does not perform in terms of the contract. A breach of contract is when one party failed to perform in terms of the requirements set out in the contract. When a creditor prevents the debtor from performing in terms of the agreement. Suppose the debtor fails to make payment as per the agreement. When a party no longer is bound to the contract. Assuming one of the parties does not fulfil its legal obligation in terms of the agreement. All of the abovementioned is when a breach of contract may arise.  

Disputes may arise between voidable and void contracts. The difference between the two is that the one is legal and the other one is not. A void contract is a contract that is illegal from the start and cannot be enforceable as it lacks one of the four requirements of a valid contract. An example of a void contract would be when you are selling your car in exchange for drugs, this type of contract has an absence of legality.  A voidable contract that has the option to cancel. The contract might be valid at the inception of it, but in the near future might be voidable. An example of a voidable contract would be when one party is forced to sign a contract under duress or undue influence, or upon signing the contract, the contracting party did not provide full, complete information to the other party.   

How to deal with a dispute 
If one party breaches their side of the contract, a court may enforce the other party to compensate the party suing for breach of contract for damages or loss suffered. In addition, a court may also order specific performance in terms of the said agreement.   

Do not put your name on the dotted line if you are unsure of the contents of the contract. Make sure you understand all the terms and conditions in the contract before you sign, and the consequences of any breach of the contract. Once you have signed the agreement, you are contractually bound, and it is presumed that you know what you are signing.   

Therefore, it is imperative that you know and understand any type of contract that you sign and enter into. If one of the formalities are not met, the contract is void, and you cannot enforce the agreement. Any contract disputes must, however, be consulted by legal professionals. In order to draft a contract that is valid and comprises all the necessary elements for a valid contract, it is best to consult legal professionals. This way, you can ensure the contract is accurate, fair and serves the needs and interests of all the parties involved.  

Contact an attorney at SchoemanLaw for your contract and commercial needs by visiting our website.