Are verbal commitments enforceable?

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Are verbal commitments enforceable?

My parents have been on a list to move into a retirement rental property which is income based. They were contacted over a month ago and informed that they had been selected for the style of condo at the property in question because one had come available due to a sudden death. They filled out all the paper work and turned in all the documents required. Another retired person who selected a different style of condo was told that she had been selected for her style of condo but an opening hadn’t come available yet. Today when the compliance dept. reviewed this persons file they found out that she made to much income to be eligible for the condo she had requested and would only be eligible for the style my parents had chosen. So the compliance person gave her the condo that my parents had already been told they were getting because the compliance person reviewed her file first before my parents. My parents were expecting to go into the condo office today to sign their lease for the condo and were contacted instead and told this. My parents have everything packed, made moving arrangements to move in such as selling their home, changing utilities, etc. I should also add I was to purchase their home so they could take this condo, moved up wedding plans, paid deposits on a church and reception hall, and so based on the fact that this retirement condo property had given my parents a verbal commitment that they were to get this condo they had been selected for. The property manager over this past month had let them come in and measure for things and let my parents take me and other family members through the condo to show us their new place. Not this. My mom is crying and my dad doesn’t understand how they can do this. What can I say to this compliance dept. when I talk to them tomorrow?

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Asked on March 4, 2019 under Real Estate Law, Ohio

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 2 years ago | Contributor

Unfortunately, in your state (and in most others), under what was traditionally called the "statute of frauds," a contract to buy real estate must be in writing to be enforceable; see, e.g. ORC Section 1335.05, Certain Agreements To Be In Writing. An oral committment--that is an unwritten one--to sell them a condo is not enforceable. If the property manager, etc. had put that your parents were getting the condo in writing, even if it was not in the form of a formal contract, that may be enough, at least if the writing is suffiiciently detailed and definitive that it can be taken to articulate a binding agreement; but without something solid in writing, your parents may have no recourse.


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