Contracts form the backbone of any business transaction, and understanding the basics of contract law is essential to ensure that the agreements you make are legally binding. In the United States, contracts must meet certain criteria to be considered valid. Here, we`ll explore the three things that make a contract legally enforceable.
1. Offer and acceptance
The first step in creating a contract is a clear offer. This means that one party (the offeror) presents a proposal to another party (the offeree) to do or not do something in exchange for consideration. Consideration is something of value, such as money, goods, or services, that one party agrees to give or do in exchange for the other party`s performance.
The offeree must then accept the offer without any changes or modifications happening. If the offeree tries to change the offer, it is considered a counteroffer, which the offeror can either accept or reject. If the offeree accepts the offer, then an agreement is formed and the parties have entered into a contractual agreement.
2. Mutual agreement
Both parties entering into a contract must have a “meeting of the minds,” also known as mutual agreement, as to the terms of the contract. This means that both parties must have a clear understanding of the promises being made and the expectations surrounding those promises. For example, if a company hires an employee and the employee thinks they are being offered a salary of $60,000 a year, but the company thinks they offered a salary of $50,000 a year, there is no mutual agreement and therefore no contract.
There must also be free consent from both parties involved. Free consent means that both parties enter the contract voluntarily and without coercion, undue influence, or fraud. If one party is forced into the agreement, the contract is not considered valid.
As mentioned earlier, consideration is something of value that one party agrees to give or do in exchange for the other party`s performance. This means that both parties must be contributing something to the agreement. Consideration can be a promise to do something, an actual performance of a task, or a promise to refrain from doing something.
For example, if a company agrees to pay an employee a salary, then the consideration is the employee`s performance of their job duties. If a customer agrees to pay a subscription fee for a service, then the consideration is the service provided by the company.
In conclusion, a valid contract must have clear offer and acceptance, mutual agreement, and consideration. If any one of these elements is missing, the contract is not considered legally binding. Understanding these three essential elements of contract law is essential for ensuring that the agreements made in your business are enforceable.