vague contracts

It is understandable that whenever parties enter into negotiations or want to reduce their intentions to a contract, they would want to do so in the most specific and accurate way. Uncertainty and confusion are rife in the course and scope of business and contracts, it is however worth noting that the law and our Courts do not impose an overly strict view in these instances. In fact, there are many times Courts will take a more lenient approach and want to determine the parties’ intentions to contract so that the intention behind the contract can be effected.

It is always advisable to appoint an attorney when contracting in your business. It is however not a requirement for you to do so – businessmen and women who are not fully acquainted with legal jargon and will not always have contracts which are in line with the conservative “legal” drafting, though these individuals may understand them (Hillas & Co. Ltd v Arcos Ltd (1932) 147 LT 503 (HL).

It is interesting to note that Courts may give effect to another value sentiment, namely, the promise to pay when you can or when you are in a position to make payment. Courts will look at the evidence to see when the payment has in fact become due by using external and objective factors such as, for instance, looking at when the debtor’s financial position improves to such an extent that he or she is able to effect payment (Kolonisatie Vereeniging v Breed 1909). This can be extended to look at, for example, the financial position of the business wherefrom the debtor would draw money – this would not be too vague to be allowed.

The term “moderate amount” to be paid back can also be said to be adequate and not too vague if an objective factor such as the financial position of an individual or business is looked at to determine what is qualified as “moderate”.

Note that this is different to the instance where there is a unilateral decision of a party who states that he or she will pay when they feel like paying. Such a contract will be regarded as being void thanks to Williams and Taylor v Hitchcock 1915.

If you are unsure of your rights, remedies or obligations in the course of contracting, do not hesitate to contact us to assist you with your commercial or contractual matters.

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