Back
We continue to provide our legal services through the COVID-19 lockdown. Please visit our COVID-19 Hub for legal insights, or contact us directly.
Get in Touch Menu

Contract was created in casual email

07 April 2011

A recent case shows how easy it is for a contract to be created in what may seem a fairly casual exchange of emails.

In the case, Nicholas Prestige Homes, an estate agent, sought damages in respect of lost commission from their former client Sally Neal. She had entered into a sole agency agreement with them but ended up selling her property through another agent.

Nicholas Homes argued that the contract had been confirmed in an email stating that they would have sole selling rights over Ms Neal’s property from 1 January 2007. Their terms of business, setting out when their commission would fall due, were attached to the email. Ms Neal e-mailed her reply, saying “that’s fine, look forward to viewings”. The agent said that this amounted to an acceptance of their terms.

Despite her emailed response, Ms Neal argued that no sole agency agreement existed and she had not fully read the email or the attached terms.

The property was ultimately sold through a different agent but during the period in which Nicholas Homes (according to their original email) envisaged that a sole agency agreement would be in place. They brought proceedings to claim an agency fee and the case later went to appeal.

The appeal court upheld the earlier findings in confirming that a contract had been created by the emails. The court found that, had a different agent not been appointed, Nicholas Homes themselves would have sold the property to the buyer. Accordingly, they won damages for the lost opportunity of selling the property.

The case emphasises the need for care and caution when dealing with suppliers via email. Even the briefest exchange (in this case, the crucial email was only six words long) may create a contract … with the obligations and liabilities that flow from it.

If you need clear and pragmatic legal advice, we’re here to help so please get in touch.

Contact us

Contact
Nick Cox LLB (Hons)
Partner
View profile
Nick Cox
Related services
Share this article
Resources to help

Related articles

Corporate & commercial issues: COVID-19 FAQ

Corporate

The global outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19) and the government’s resulting emergency measures have had severe implications for many businesses. Read on for answers to some frequently-asked questions on corporate &…

Sophie Martyn BSc (Hons)
Associate, solicitor

Fixed price legal advice for SMEs & the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme

Corporate

The Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) has thrown a much-needed lifeline to businesses experiencing cashflow difficulties as a result of the coronavirus outbreak. The eligibility criteria of CBILS was…

Chris Wills LLB (Hons)
Partner

Commercial contracts & coronavirus: What are the implications?

Commercial

As the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic develops, we have seen significant disruption to businesses across multiple sectors in the UK. Understandably, this has led to widespread concern about the implications for…

Sophie Martyn BSc (Hons)
Associate, solicitor
Contact us