How to enforce a verbal contract?

UPDATED: Aug 24, 2013

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How to enforce a verbal contract?

My 2 sisters and I inherited a house from my father’s estate in a Will. My sister approached me and asked to buy me out. I said yes with the stipulation that she never sell the house (she had already been living in the home for quite a few years). At the time the house was worth $60,000. She offered me $10,000 and I agreed. My only witness was my mom who is now deceased. However, recently my sister just sold the house for $110,000 and didn’t say a word to me. Can I take her to court for a verbal agreement? She moved out of that house a few years later but she rented it out for several years. I wasn’t upset when she was renting the house because of the taxes, maintenance, etc. Can she sit on this and get away with it?

Asked on August 24, 2013 under Business Law, Oregon


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

While most oral (verbal) contracts are enforceable, an oral contract in regards to real estate must almost always be in writing to be enforced. (This comes out of what is usually called the "Statute of Frauds.") Therefore, it is very unlikely that you could enforce the agreement that you describe. Given how much money is at stake, it is worthwhile for you to consult with a real estate attorney in more detail about the situation, but be advised that it is highly unlikely that you have an enforceable contract.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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