When starting a business partnership in the UK, it is essential to establish clear guidelines and agreements to ensure a smooth and harmonious relationship. While many partnerships are formalized through written contracts, it is also possible to create a verbal partnership agreement. In this article, we will explore the key aspects of verbal partnership agreements, their advantages and disadvantages, the steps to create one, and how to resolve disputes when they arise.
What are verbal partnership agreements?
In simple terms, a verbal partnership agreement is a legally binding contract between two or more individuals who agree to contribute resources, share profits and losses, and collaborate together in a business venture. Although verbal agreements may not provide the same level of certainty and protection as written contracts, they can still hold legal weight if certain conditions are met.
When entering into a verbal partnership agreement, it is important to understand the key elements that make it legally enforceable. These elements include mutual consent, consideration, capacity, and legality. Mutual consent means that all parties involved willingly agree to the terms of the partnership. Consideration refers to the exchange of something of value, such as money, goods, or services. Capacity ensures that all parties are legally capable of entering into a contract, and legality means that the agreement does not involve any illegal activities.
Definition of a verbal partnership agreement
A verbal partnership agreement is an oral agreement between business partners that outlines the terms of their partnership. It typically includes details such as the business purpose, profit and loss distribution, and the roles and responsibilities of each partner. While there is no specific form or format for a verbal partnership agreement, it must meet the requirements of a legally enforceable contract.
One advantage of a verbal partnership agreement is its flexibility. Unlike written contracts, which can be time-consuming and costly to draft, verbal agreements can be made quickly and informally. This can be particularly beneficial for small businesses or partnerships that are just starting out and may not have the resources to invest in formal legal documentation.
However, it is important to note that the lack of written documentation can also be a disadvantage. Verbal agreements can be easily misunderstood or forgotten, leading to disputes and disagreements down the line. This is why it is crucial for partners to maintain clear and open lines of communication and to document important discussions and decisions.
Legal status of verbal agreements in the UK
In the UK, verbal agreements are generally enforceable by law. However, proving the existence and terms of a verbal partnership agreement can be challenging without any written evidence. It is crucial for partners to maintain thorough documentation of conversations, emails, and other forms of communication that demonstrate the intention to form a partnership and the agreed terms.
While verbal agreements can be legally binding, they are often subject to a higher level of scrutiny compared to written contracts. This is because written contracts provide a clear record of the parties’ intentions and can be easily referred to in case of disputes. In contrast, verbal agreements rely heavily on the credibility and recollection of the parties involved.
When it comes to enforcing a verbal partnership agreement, the court will consider various factors, such as the conduct of the parties, the consistency of their actions, and any supporting evidence that can help establish the existence and terms of the agreement. This is why it is crucial for partners to keep detailed records of their business activities and interactions.
In conclusion, while verbal partnership agreements can be legally binding, they come with their own set of challenges. It is always advisable to consult with a legal professional to ensure that your partnership agreement is properly documented and enforceable.
Read also: Are verbal contracts legally binding?
Key elements of a verbal partnership agreement
A verbal partnership agreement should include several key elements to ensure clarity and prevent misunderstandings. Let’s explore some of these essential components.
Identifying the partners
The agreement should clearly identify all partners involved, including their full names, contact information, and roles within the partnership. This helps establish the legal relationship between the partners and defines their respective rights and obligations.
Defining the business purpose
The partnership agreement should outline the business purpose, describing the nature of the venture, the products or services provided, and the target market. Defining the business purpose helps ensure that all partners have a shared understanding of the goals and objectives of the partnership.
Establishing profit and loss distribution
Partners should agree on how profits and losses will be distributed among them. This includes determining the percentage or proportion by which profits or losses will be allocated. Clearly defining these distribution terms helps avoid disputes and promotes transparency within the partnership.
Advantages and disadvantages of verbal partnership agreements
Verbal partnership agreements offer certain advantages and disadvantages that partners should consider before opting for this type of arrangement.
Benefits of verbal agreements
One of the main advantages of a verbal partnership agreement is the simplicity and flexibility it offers. Verbal agreements can be created quickly and informally, allowing partners to start their business venture promptly. Additionally, verbal agreements can be more adaptable to changing circumstances and can be easily modified or terminated if necessary.
Potential risks and challenges
However, there are also potential risks and challenges associated with verbal partnership agreements. Without a written contract, partners may have different interpretations of the agreed terms, leading to disagreements and disputes. Verbal agreements may also lack the level of detail and specificity provided by written contracts, making it more difficult to enforce certain terms or protect partners’ interests.
Steps to create a verbal partnership agreement
When creating a verbal partnership agreement, partners should follow a structured and collaborative process to ensure that all aspects of the partnership are thoroughly discussed and agreed upon.
Discussing and agreeing on key terms
The first step is to engage in detailed discussions with all partners to identify and agree upon the key terms of the partnership. This includes discussing the business purpose, profit and loss distribution, roles and responsibilities, and any other relevant matters. It is crucial to allow all partners to share their perspectives and negotiate until a consensus is reached.
Documenting the agreement
Although verbal partnership agreements do not require a written contract, it is highly recommended to document the agreed terms in writing to minimize misunderstandings and provide evidence of the partnership’s existence. Partners can create a written summary or memorandum of understanding that outlines the main terms and conditions agreed upon verbally.
Seeking legal advice
While not mandatory, partners may consider seeking legal advice to ensure that their verbal agreement is legally binding and enforceable. A solicitor can help partners understand the legal implications of the verbal agreement and provide guidance on how to protect their interests.
Read also: How to better understand a contract
Resolving disputes in verbal partnership agreements
Disputes are an unfortunate but inevitable aspect of any business partnership. When disputes arise in verbal partnership agreements, it is crucial to handle them in a fair and constructive manner. Here are some suggestions for resolving disputes effectively.
Common dispute scenarios
Partners may face several types of disputes in a verbal partnership agreement, such as disagreements over profit distribution, decision-making authority, or breach of partnership duties. It is essential to identify the root cause of the dispute and gather all relevant evidence to support each party’s position.
Legal remedies and mediation
In case of an unresolved dispute, partners may explore legal remedies available to them. This may involve filing a lawsuit to enforce the terms of the verbal agreement or seeking specific performance or damages. Alternatively, partners can opt for mediation, where an impartial third party helps facilitate communication and negotiation between the parties to reach a mutually acceptable resolution.
The key takeaways
While written agreements are generally recommended for business partnerships in the UK, verbal partnership agreements can serve as a viable alternative under specific circumstances. By understanding the key elements, advantages, and disadvantages, partners can make an informed decision on whether a verbal partnership agreement is suitable for their business venture. It is important to approach the creation of a verbal partnership agreement with caution, seek legal advice when necessary, and be prepared to manage and resolve disputes professionally and amicably.