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Get it in Writing: The Statute of Frauds, Explained

Jasmine and Malik had been searching for their dream home for months. Finally, they found the perfect property, a beautiful house with a large backyard, in a quiet neighborhood. They put in an offer and after some negotiation, the seller accepted. They were thrilled and started making plans to move in.

However, a few weeks later, Jasmine and Malik received a shocking phone call from the seller’s agent. The seller had changed their mind and decided not to sell the property after all. Jasmine and Malik were devastated. They had already started packing and made plans to move in a few weeks. They couldn’t believe the seller could just back out of the deal like that.

This scenario is all too common in the real estate world. However, there is a legal concept that can prevent this from happening – the Statute of Frauds.

The Statute of Frauds is a legal doctrine that has been in place for centuries. It requires certain types of contracts to be in writing in order to be enforceable. In the context of real estate, the Statute of Frauds requires that contracts for the sale of real property must be in writing and signed by the parties to be enforceable.

The purpose of the Statute of Frauds is to prevent fraud and misunderstandings by requiring that important agreements be in writing. The idea is that if an agreement is important enough to be enforceable, it is important enough to be in writing.

In Jasmine and Malik’s case, if the seller had signed a contract agreeing to sell the property, the Statute of Frauds would have required that the agreement be in writing. This would have made the contract enforceable, and Jasmine and Malik would have had legal recourse if the seller backed out.

The Statute of Frauds has a long and interesting history. It was first enacted in England in 1677 as the “Act for Prevention of Frauds and Perjuries.” The legal system in England at that time was plagued by perjury and corruption, often because of a lack of written evidence. By requiring certain agreements to be in writing, the legal system became more reliable. The Statute of Frauds doctrine was later adopted by many other countries, including the United States. The original purpose of the Statute of Frauds was to prevent fraud in the sale of goods, but it was later expanded to cover other types of contracts, including contracts for the sale of real property.

Over time, the Statute of Frauds has been modified and expanded to include new types of contracts. The Virginia legislature adopted a version of the Statute of Frauds in the early 18th century as part of the Virginia Code. Since then, it has been revised several times, most recently in 2019, to reflect changes in the law and to clarify certain provisions. See Virginia Code § 11-2.

Under the Virginia Statute of Frauds, a written promise, contract, agreement, representation, assurance, or ratification is required in several circumstances. These include situations where a person is charged upon a promise to answer for the debt, default, or misdoings of another; upon any agreement or promise to lend money or extend credit for $25,000 or more; or any contract for the sale of real estate, or for the lease thereof for more than a year.

In conclusion, the Statute of Frauds is an important legal concept that has been in place for centuries. It requires certain types of contracts to be in writing and signed in order to be enforceable, including contracts for the sale of real property and for leases more than a year. If you are buying, selling, or leasing real estate, it is important to be aware of the Statute of Frauds and make sure that any important agreements are in writing. This can help prevent misunderstandings and provide legal recourse if something goes wrong.

Written by Attorney Lisa Brook

To schedule your initial consultation, call 434-973-7474 or contact us online. Our offices are conveniently located in Charlottesville, Palmyra, Harrisonburg, and Staunton.

Lisa Brook

Litigation Attorney and Certified Mediator

Tucker Griffin Barnes P.C.

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