The validation of oral variations of agreements

2015-06-24 06:00
CANDICE REYNDERS

CANDICE REYNDERS

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I HAVE been renting a cottage in my landlord’s backyard since last year.

After initially signing a lease agreement that stated he would be increasing the rent this year, we had a verbal discussion in which he agreed not to increase the rent this year.

Can I rely on our verbal agreement?

CONTRACTS manage the relationship between parties entering into any legal transaction such as a lease agreement, and exist to grant both parties certainty and avoid future disputes.

Whether you can rely on your landlord’s word to waive a contractually-determined rental increase will therefore depend on the wording of your contract and the existence or not of a so-called “non-variation clause” in your agreement.

A non-variation clause, if present, in essence, means that any cancellation or variation of the agreement will not be valid unless it is put in writing and signed by both parties.

If there is such a non-variation clause in your lease agreement, our law determines that when parties have reached and signed such a contractual agreement in writing, they bind themselves to what is stipulated in the agreement.

In other words, if you and your landlord chose to have a non-variation clause in the lease agreement, you have thereby agreed not to verbally change the lease agreement and only to do so in writing.

To answer your question of whether your verbal agreement with your landlord is valid, one must go back to the provisions of the lease agreement.

If the agreement does not expressly state that any changes must be put in writing and signed by both parties, verbal variations such as your agreement may be valid and enforceable.

However, in the event of a dispute later, it will be necessary for you to be able to prove the existence of such a verbal variation – something which could be quite difficult if not put in writing.

It is therefore always safer to play it smart and make sure your variations are recorded in writing and signed by both parties.

Candice Reynders, candidate attorney, Phatshoane Henney Attorneys

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