Can a buying party back out of a hand written purchase agreement where both parties signed and a deposit was given?

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Can a buying party back out of a hand written purchase agreement where both parties signed and a deposit was given?

I had a boat for sale. A guy inquired about and personally inspected it. He offered to pay in full but I told him I would need time to remove belongings. We agreed to him paying balance and taking ownership within 30 days. All written on a small sheet of paper he has the document and I have a photo. The next day he wanted to back out of the purchase agreement and told me I can easily sell it. Doesn’t he have a legal obligation to fulfill the contract? Isn’t the agreement void after the 30 days leaving me able to keep the deposit (not stipulated as non refundable) and attempt to sell again?

Asked on June 21, 2012 under Business Law, California

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

1) A handwritten contract, executed by both parties, is enforceable--if you complied with all your obligations, the buyer would not seem to have grounds to terminate or void the contract and would instead be obligated to it.

2) If the buyer doesn't perform under a contract, the seller can keep the deposit (again, so long as the seller were performing his/her obligations).

3) Whether or not you could re-sell the boat is beside the point; his breach would let your retain his deposit regardless of how much (or little) time it takes to resell.


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