Are voicemailsand emails enough to collect money loaned to a friend or do I have to have a signed document?

A longtime friend owes me $13,500. He sought financial help and said he could pay back 2 months ago. I don’t have a signed document that it was a loan butI have several voicemails, a ton of text messages and several emails of him acknowledging it was a loan. He said that he is sorry and that he is paying me back and that he has the money, etc. Claims he sent a bank money order but it got “lost in the mail”. What can I do? Are the voicemails, etc. enough proof that he owes me now?

Asked on December 7, 2011 under Bankruptcy Law, California


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

As a general matter, oral (also called verbal) agreements are enforceable, including oral loan agreements, though they obviously pose certain challenges, compared to written ones, in terms of proving their existence and provisions. However, there is what is called a "statute of frauds." This varies state-by-state, so it is impossible to say, based on what you have written, whether this will be an issue in your state (you may wish to repost your question, identifying your state). The statute of frauds requires certain kinds of contracts or agreements to be in writing to be enforceable. In some states, only very specific ones, such as real estate sales contracts, or agreements to take over another person's already-existing debt, must in writing; but other states require any agreement over a certain dollar amount (e.g. $5,000), or any agreement that would take over 1 year to complete, to be in writing. If the statute of frauds in your state applies to your loan, you could have a problem.

The above said, there is nothing saying that a written agreement must be a single, formal "contract." If you have emails and text messges which set out the terms of the agreement and the obligation to repay, that may be enough to allow you to enforc the agreement even in the fact of the statute of frauds.

So the short answer is, the voicemails and your testimony *may* be enough to let you sue your friend for the money...but if you have extensive and thorough emails or other written documentation, that would help a great deal. In any event, given how much is at stake, if he won't repay, it would seem to be worthwhile to bring an action to see if you can enforce the agreement to pay in court.

FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

Good question. The voice and e mails are evidence of the $13,500 loan that you made your friend by way of an admission from him. I would e mail him a confirming note about the loan to be on the safe side and send him a promissory regarding the $13,500 loan for him to date, sign and return.

You can get these forms on line. Make sure you state the amount of the loan, due date and interest rate. Also distinguish if monthly payments are to be made or not.

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