Contracts and Consumer Information

What is a legal contract?

A legal contract is an agreement that the law will enforce. In order for the law to enforce the agreement, the contract must have certain characteristics:

  • The contract is made between people that the law considers able to make valid contracts, for example, the contract cannot be with someone who is under age.
  • There must be a valid and clear offer to make a contract and an acceptance of the offer.
  • The contract must be for legal consideration, to do or not do something, for example, in a rental agreement the consideration will be the rent paid and the premises provided.

If an agreement does not have all the above characteristics, it is not a valid contract and cannot be enforced by law.

Last Reviewed: May 2015

Does a contract have to be in writing?

A contract does not have to be in writing. An oral or spoken contract is valid as long as it has the legal characteristics of a contract. A written contract, however, will provide a record of the terms the parties agree to.

Last Reviewed: May 2015

How does the law of contract affect agreements to rent a place to live?

The law of contract has many rules that deal with the ways in which contracts are made, interpreted, carried out, broken and ended. Once you become a party to a valid contract, you undertake legal obligations.

For the purposes of agreements to rent a place to live, there are two kinds of obligations:

  • Obligations that you and the person you are contracting with agree to. These obligations will be set out in the contract, if it is written.
  • Other obligations may be implied by the law and apply automatically, whether they are in writing or not and whether you and the other party have discussed them or not.

An agreement to rent a place to live is a contract. The agreement can include obligations that the landlord and tenant work out for themselves, for example, the obligation to repair the property or the obligation to pay a security deposit. Other obligations, for example, to provide property that is fit to live in or the obligation not to damage the property, are implied by the law into the agreement automatically.

Last Reviewed: May 2015

What is a lemon law?

Lemon law is a colloquial term used in the United States to describe a certain kind of consumer protection law.

For example, many states in the US have passed a lemon law relating to the motor vehicle industry, which gives consumers rights of redress if a vehicle purchased turns out to be defective, or a “lemon”.

The law in each state must be read to determine what applies locally. In some areas, the lemon law will protect consumers even when they have entered into a warranty agreement with the seller of the vehicle.

Lemon laws may also cover other consumer goods such as computers.

Last Reviewed: May 2015

Do lemon laws exist in Canada?

No, at least not in the specific way that they do in the United States. In Canada, each province has legislation that is intended to protect consumers when they purchase goods or services. There are laws relating to fair trading and laws relating to defective goods.

In particular industries, there may be arbitration schemes that you can use once you have a problem with an item. For example, the Canadian Motor Vehicle Arbitration Plan (see link below) can help consumers resolve problems with vehicle manufacturers.

When you purchase a warranty for a consumer item, it is worthwhile to consider whether the warranty limits your rights under the general law.

A search for information about consumer products and consumer services in your area can be conducted on the Canadian Consumer Information Gateway (see link below) website.

Last Reviewed: May 2015



See Also

For more information, see these other Canadian Legal FAQs.

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