Is A Handshake Legally Binding In A Real Estate Deal?
It is not uncommon for agreements to be bound by a handshake, but when that is the only thing sealing the deal, the legality of the deal can easily come into question. While in some situations a mere handshake may be enforceable in court, Florida real estate law is a bit more stringent. Unless subsequent action can prove the existence of an agreement, specifically a written contract, the deal will not be upheld in court.
How the “Statute of Frauds” Applies
There are many contracts that can be sealed verbally in Florida. Fla. Stat. § 725.01, commonly referred to as the “Statute of Frauds,” mandates that any real estate contract be written and signed in order to be enforceable in a court of law. This is meant to ensure that no doubt can be cast over what the parties agreed upon.
That said, it is not uncommon for a buyer or seller to shake on a deal prior to the actual signing of a contract. Understandably, one or both of the parties may view this action as a commitment to honoring the terms which were discussed. Therefore, if one side does not follow through with signing of said contract, or presents a contract that differs from what was theoretically bound with a handshake, disputes are likely to arise. Luckily, there are some options one can explore to handle such a situation.
Legal Options for Recourse
As with nearly every area of law, there is some gray area to work with if a dispute arises. With the assistance of an experienced West Palm Beach real estate and construction attorney, buyers may be able to support claims of the agreement with “part performance.” This would need to come in the form of an exchange of money and property, as well as one of the following: the buyer made valuable improvements to the property or the statue of frauds was violated and therefore the contract can’t be enforced.
If there are no home buyers involved or one of the above cannot be proven, other forms of communication may be able to prove the existence of a contract. For instance, in a case against Florida Power and Light earlier this year, it was determined that the handshake deal was made valid by subsequent actions. In addition to having witnesses to the initial agreement, the plaintiff also supplied phone and email records to show that the deal took place. Ultimately, the court ruled in his favor, but securing a verdict such as this one is not easy to accomplish. The more evidence a person has, the likelihood for a favorable outcome increases.
If you are facing a dispute over a real estate agreement, the sooner you seek out the guidance of a West Palm Beach real estate and construction attorney, the better. At Kelley Fulton Kaplan & Eller, we offer consultations for cases like yours. Contact our office today to schedule a meeting with a member of our skilled team.