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  • Writer's pictureDavid Manes

How to Sue a Contractor for a Verbal Agreement

“Get it in writing” guides nearly every business agreement that starts out verbally because no one knows the future and how a connection may sour. Verbal agreements are harder to prove because the actual words agreed upon are not documented. But certain situations and surrounding facts can be used to show evidence of an oral contract. Home owners can sue for verbal agreements.

Definition of an Oral Contract

An oral contract is a verbal agreement made between two parties that is generally legally binding, where one party provides a service in exchange for payment from the other party.

Undoubtedly, the difficulty of a verbal agreement is that since the agreement was not written down that the specifics of the agreement can be argued. While the independent contractor wants to be paid, the client wants to dodge the final payment. So can you sue a contractor when there was only a verbal agreement? Yes, you can.

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Sue a Contractor When There was Only a Verbal Agreement

An oral contract on the outset may have seemed like a simple agreement, but when filing a lawsuit over a verbal agreement, you and your lawyer will have to overcome certain barricades. It won’t be easy, but it won’t be impossible either. The key is to understand how oral contracts must be proved. The Home Improvement Consumer Protection Act (HICPA) also outlines protections for home owners, desiring renovation or remodel.

Example of Oral Contract

Phil talked to a potential client, and it came out that they had similar religious beliefs. Based on this, Phil entered into a verbal agreement with this client to do a small job on the man’s house. Phil completed the work and requested payment. The client dodged phone calls and ignored emails.

Does Phil have any legal recourse for a situation like that? When stuck in a situation like the one above, you must be able to prove a few items to solidify the legally binding nature of your agreement. These include analyzing the situation, recovering any possible paperwork (emails, texts, etc.), finding witnesses of the agreement, and understanding the statute of limitations.

Prove the Existence of a Legally Binding Verbal Agreement

First of all, a verbal agreement is binding only if it satisfies two criteria: service provided and payment promised. When two parties orally agree to a service and payment, an oral contract is in play. Then, the existence of a verbal agreement solidifies with the additional evidence that a client or independent contractor can supply.

Bring evidence

Although a written contract may not be available, you may have emails, text messages, or voice mail from your interchange. Include any items that could help prove that a verbal negotiation and agreement occurred, such as tile samples or paint colors. Each item may more fully confirm the existence of a verbal agreement.

Enlist your witnesses

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If anyone witnessed your verbal agreement, their physical presence and testimony can be a powerful advocate for your side. A signed statement can be a possible stand-in, but a witness who can be present for the court is the best option. The judge will likely want to ask the witness questions about the situation.

Argue for the evidence of actions

A contractor who builds out an extensive website or does a renovation on someone’s bathroom is likely to not have done it from the goodness of their heart. The logical conclusion is that this work was done with an expectation of payment. So an oral contract might not have written words to back it up, but actions can speak louder than words in some situations.

Watch the statute of limitations

Pennsylvania lays out a statute of limitations of four years for a breach of contract claim for written or verbal agreements. Other states sometimes apply a shorter statute of limitations for verbal agreements since most believe that an oral contract will be forgotten with the passage of time. When considering pursuing legal action, always double check the statute of limitations for filing.

If you believe that your oral contract has been broken or not satisfied, contact an employment attorney now to hear your legal options.

Chat with an employment attorney: (412) 626-5626 or

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