Photograph of Ross Hyams.

The Ross Hyams perspective

Ross Hyams is an educator and law practitioner. Here, Ross presents his unique perspective on the essential things you need to know before engaging with contracts and the law.

We know that it’s one thing to learn about contract law but it’s always different to apply these principles in the real world.

Whilst we can not give you any general legal advice about your particular contractual obligations, we can provide you with these helpful suggestions that could make navigating contracting more easy for you.

Contract law essentials

What’s important?

Understand what the purpose of the contract should be between you and the other party. Is this accurately expressed in the terms of the agreement? Is the timeframe and agreed completion date for the new extension on your house correct, or are there mistakes, errors or omissions in the written terms that need to be fixed? It might also be worthwhile consulting a lawyer at this stage, in order to prevent problems happening later on.

Bargain

Because contract is a private agreement between two individuals or companies, it means they have wide scope to discuss and bargain what the terms of that agreement ought to be before they commit. Are the timeframes to pay for the good or services acceptable to you? Would you be better off with progress or instalment payments after milestones are met?

Relationships do matter

It’s always best to try and maintain good relationships with everyone in your community, you never know when you might need to negotiate for a favour or some help. The same is true for contractual relationships. If you are a builder or service provider and you cannot meet a term of a contract because of some unfortunate event, then a good relationship with your client could allow you a few extra days to complete the job, without the need to resort to lawyers, disputes, courts, and of course, extra costs and delays.

Formalities and record keeping also matters

It sounds simple, but make sure you sign the contract, in pen, have an appropriate witness present at the time, and if necessary, ensure that witness also signs the agreement. Keep a paper and an electronic copy of the signed (executed) agreement should you ever need to review and act on it later.


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This article is from the free online course:

Law for Non-Lawyers: Introduction to Law

Monash University