Stephen A. Martin, Attorney at Law
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The challenges of enforcing oral contracts

As a landlord, sometimes you may find it easier to just make an oral agreement with a new tenant. While it is true that Missouri law does recognize oral agreements to some capacity, there is added risk to using a spoken agreement over a verbal one. These risks can leave a landlord at a disadvantage if the oral contract is ever litigated by a tenant or other party. lists some general challenges oral contracts present. By definition, an oral agreement is spoken and not written down. Therefore, it can be a problem to prove that the oral agreement exists in the first place, or even if you can, what the provisions of the oral contract are. Unless a witness was on hand to hear you make the verbal agreement with a tenant or other party, a court may rule that the agreement cannot be enforced.

When it comes to landlord-tenant law in the state of Missouri, the state attorney general website points out that state law provides some guidelines for how oral agreements are to be made. An oral agreement cannot last for more than one month. A month is defined by state law as an entire calendar month, which must also include one full rental period. If either landlord or tenant wishes to end the tenancy, it must be in written form, not verbal.

Even the state attorney general website provides caution for using an oral agreement with a tenant. The site explains that a tenant should not rely on spoken statements by a landlord. Any provisions and promises made by a landlord to a tenant should be placed in writing. The website also points out that landlords prefer to use written agreements over oral ones, and written agreements are more likely to provide better protection for both landlord and tenants.

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