Assignability Of Contracts: Everything You Need to Know
The assignability of contracts is when one side of a contract agreement transfers the contract to another entity, so that the new entity fulfills the terms of the contract. 3 min read
The assignability of contracts is when one side of a contract agreement transfers the contract to another entity, so that the new entity fulfills the terms of the contract. Being able to assign contracts depends on a variety of factors, mainly the language contained in the contract.
How Contract Assignments Work
Some contracts prohibit assignment altogether, while others may allow it with the other party's consent. An example of a basic contract assignment may look like this:
- Bob contracts with a dairy to deliver a gallon of cream to his house every day.
- The dairy assigns Bob's contract to another dairy.
- As long as Bob is notified of the change in provider and gets his gallon of cream every day, his contract is with the new dairy.
Because the law has a preference for the free alienation of property, parties are free to assign contract rights and delegate contractual obligations.
Assigning a contract to another doesn't always take away the assigning party's liability. Some contracts include a clause that at least one of the original parties guarantees performance — or fulfills the contract terms — no matter what the assignment.
The performance, however, can't be changed in contract assignment. There's a limit to substitution, so the new party has no power to change the performance per the rights stated in the contract. For example, if the obliging party has pledged to perform only if some event happens (with no certainty that it will happen), no assignment should increase the risk to the obliging party if the event doesn't happen through no fault of the obligor.
The nature of a contract's obligations determines its assignability.
When Assignments Won't Be Enforced
In certain cases, contracts can't be assigned.
- A clause in the contract prohibits assignment. This is usually called an anti-assignment clause.
- Assignments can't take place if they materially alter what's expected under the contract. If the assignment affects the expected performance as outlined in the contract, lowers the value of returns (including anticipated returns), or increases risks for the other contract party (the one who's not assigning contractual rights), it's unlikely that any court will enforce the arrangement.
- If an assignment violates public policy or the law, it won't be enforced. For instance, the federal government prohibits certain claim assignments against the government, and many states prohibit an employee from assigning future wages.
Other assignments may not be illegal, but they could still violate public policy. As an example, personal injury claims can't be assigned because doing so might encourage litigation.
When looking into whether one party can transfer a contract or some rights and obligations in the contract, the transferring party has to check into applicable laws and statutes. That party must also check the contract's express language to determine whether or not it can transfer the assignment without obtaining consent from the non-transferring party.
If the contract requires that consent is given and the transferring party doesn't get that consent, it risks a contract breach as well as an invalid, ineffective transfer.
How to Assign a Contract
Follow these steps to assign contracts, when it's allowed for you to do so.
- Carefully study the contract for prohibitions or limitations, such as anti-assignment clauses. In some cases, there isn't a separate anti-assignment clause, but it may be stated in another way, such as language that says, "This contract may not be assigned."
- Execute the assignment. As long as you're free to assign the contract, prepare and enter into the assignment, which is basically an agreement transferring your rights and obligations.
- Notify the obligor, or the non-transferring party. After you assign contract rights to the assignee, notify the other party that was the original contractor, also known as the obligor. This notice relieves you of any liability as stated in the contract, as long as the contract doesn't say differently — for instance, the contract states that you, as the assignor, guarantee performance under the contract.
Before trying to assign a contract to a third party, it's very important to understand if you're allowed to do so. You'll have to research legal statutes as well as the language in the contract to ensure you follow rules and regulations. Otherwise, you risk a breach of contract .
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What Is an Assignable Contract?
Understanding assignable contracts, assignment of a futures contract, factors in the futures market, unwinding futures contracts, real estate assignment, example of an assignable contract.
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Assignable Contract: Overview, Factors, Example
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An assignable contract is a provision allowing the holder of a contract to transfer or give away the obligations and rights of the contract to another party or person before the contract's expiration date. The assignee would be entitled to take delivery of the underlying asset and receive all of the benefits of that contract before its expiry. However, the assignee must also fulfill any obligations or requirements of the contract.
Assignability may be found in some options and futures contracts. There are also assignable contracts in the real estate market that allow the transfer of property.
- An assignable contract has a provision allowing the holder to give away the obligations and rights of the contract to another party or person before the contract's expiration date.
- The assignee would be entitled to take delivery of the underlying asset and receive all of the benefits of that contract before its expiry.
- An assignment agreement can allow a bank or a mortgage company to sell or assign an outstanding mortgage loan.
Assignable contracts provide a way for current contract holders to close out their position, locking in profits or cutting losses, before the expiration date of the contract. Holders may assign their contracts if the current market price for the underlying asset allows them to realize a profit.
As mentioned earlier, not all contracts have an assignment provision, which is contained in the contract's terms. Also, an assignment doesn't always take away the assignor's risk and liability , because the original contract could require a guarantee that—whether assigned or not—the performance of all terms of the contract must be completed as required.
Owners of assignable futures contracts may opt to assign their holdings instead of selling them in the open market via an exchange. A futures contract is an obligation stating a buyer must purchase an asset, or a seller must sell an asset at a preset price and a predetermined date in the future.
Futures are standardized contracts with fixed prices, amounts, and expiration dates. Investors can use futures to speculate on the price of an asset such as crude oil. At expiration, speculators will book an offsetting trade and realize a gain or loss from the difference in the two contract amounts.
If an investor holds a futures contract and the holder finds that the security has appreciated by 1% on or before the closing of the contract, then the contract holder may decide to assign the contract to a third party for the appreciated amount. The initial holder would be paid in cash, realizing the profit from the contract before its expiration date. However, a buyer of an assigned contract can take a loss by paying an above-market price and risk overpaying for the asset.
Most futures contracts do not have an assignment provision. If you are interested in buying or selling a contract, make sure to carefully check its terms and conditions to see if it is assignable or not. Some contracts may prohibit assignment while other contracts may require the other party in the contract to consent to the assignment.
It's important to note that an assignment may be void if the terms of the contract change substantially or violate any laws or public policy.
A futures contract might be assigned if there was an above-market offer from the third party in an illiquid market where bid and ask spreads were wide. The bid-ask spread is the difference between the buy and sell prices. The spreads can be wide meaning there's an additional cost being added to the prices because there's not enough product to satisfy the order at a reasonable price.
Liquidity exists when there are enough buyers and sellers in the market to transact business. If the market is illiquid, a holder might not be able to find a buyer for the contract, or there might be a delay in unwinding the position.
An investor looking to buy the futures contract might offer an amount higher than the current market price in an illiquid environment. As a result, the current contract holder can assign the contract and realize a profit, and both parties benefit. However, unwinding or selling the contract outright is the cleaner solution, and it also guarantees that all liabilities concerning the contract's obligations are discharged.
However, holders of futures contracts don't need to assign the contract to another investor when they can unwind or close the position through a futures exchange. The exchange, or its clearing agent, would handle the clearing and payment functions. In other words, the futures contract can be closed before its expiration. The holder would incur any gains or loss depending on the difference between the purchase and sale prices.
An investor who assigns a futures contract can realize a profit from the contract before its expiry.
An investor might receive an above-market price for assigning a contract in an illiquid market.
Most futures contracts are not assignable.
A buyer of an assigned contract can take a loss by paying an above-market price for the asset.
An assignment agreement can allow a bank or a mortgage company to sell or assign an outstanding mortgage loan. The bank may sell the mortgage loan to a third party. The borrower would receive notice from the new bank or mortgage company servicing the debt with information on payment submission.
The terms of the loan, such as interest rate and duration, will remain the same for the borrower. However, the new bank would receive all of the interest and principal payments. Aside from the name on the check, there should be little difference noticed by the borrower.
Banks will assign loans to remove them as a liability on their balance sheets and allow them to underwrite new or additional loans.
Let's say an investor entered into a futures contract that contains an assignable clause in June to speculate on the price of crude oil, hoping the price will rise by year-end. The investor buys a December crude oil futures contract at $40, and since oil is traded in increments of 1,000 barrels, the investor's position is worth $40,000.
By August, the price of crude oil has risen to $60, and the investor decides to assign the contract to another buyer because the buyer was willing to pay $65 or $5 above market. The contract is assigned to the second buyer for $65, and the original buyer earns a profit of $25,000 (($65-$40) x 1000).
The new holder assumes all responsibilities of the contract and can profit if crude oil is trading above $65 by year-end, but also can lose if the oil trades below $65 by year-end.
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Assignment of Contract
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What is an Assignment of Contract?
An assignment of contract is a legal term that describes the process that occurs when the original party (assignor) transfers their rights and obligations under their contract to a third party (assignee). When an assignment of contract happens, the original party is relieved of their contractual duties, and their role is replaced by the approved incoming party.
How Does Assignment of Contract Work?
An assignment of contract is simpler than you might think.
The process starts with an existing contract party who wishes to transfer their contractual obligations to a new party.
When this occurs, the existing contract party must first confirm that an assignment of contract is permissible under the legally binding agreement . Some contracts prohibit assignments of contract altogether, and some require the other parties of the agreement to agree to the transfer. However, the general rule is that contracts are freely assignable unless there is an explicit provision that says otherwise.
In other cases, some contracts allow an assignment of contract without any formal notification to other contract parties. If this is the case, once the existing contract party decides to reassign his duties, he must create a “Letter of Assignment ” to notify any other contract signers of the change.
The Letter of Assignment must include details about who is to take over the contractual obligations of the exiting party and when the transfer will take place. If the assignment is valid, the assignor is not required to obtain the consent or signature of the other parties to the original contract for the valid assignment to take place.
Check out this article to learn more about how assigning a contract works.
Contract Assignment Examples
Contract assignments are great tools for contract parties to use when they wish to transfer their commitments to a third party. Here are some examples of contract assignments to help you better understand them:
Anna signs a contract with a local trash company that entitles her to have her trash picked up twice a week. A year later, the trash company transferred her contract to a new trash service provider. This contract assignment effectively makes Anna’s contract now with the new service provider.
Hasina enters a contract with a national phone company for cell phone service. The company goes into bankruptcy and needs to close its doors but decides to transfer all current contracts to another provider who agrees to honor the same rates and level of service. The contract assignment is completed, and Hasina now has a contract with the new phone company as a result.
Here is an article where you can find out more about contract assignments.
Assignment of Contract in Real Estate
Assignment of contract is also used in real estate to make money without going the well-known routes of buying and flipping houses. When real estate LLC investors use an assignment of contract, they can make money off properties without ever actually buying them by instead opting to transfer real estate contracts .
This process is called real estate wholesaling.
Real Estate Wholesaling
Real estate wholesaling consists of locating deals on houses that you don’t plan to buy but instead plan to enter a contract to reassign the house to another buyer and pocket the profit.
The process is simple: real estate wholesalers negotiate purchase contracts with sellers. Then, they present these contracts to buyers who pay them an assignment fee for transferring the contract.
This process works because a real estate purchase agreement does not come with the obligation to buy a property. Instead, it sets forth certain purchasing parameters that must be fulfilled by the buyer of the property. In a nutshell, whoever signs the purchase contract has the right to buy the property, but those rights can usually be transferred by means of an assignment of contract.
This means that as long as the buyer who’s involved in the assignment of contract agrees with the purchasing terms, they can legally take over the contract.
But how do real estate wholesalers find these properties?
It is easier than you might think. Here are a few examples of ways that wholesalers find cheap houses to turn a profit on:
- Direct mailers
- Place newspaper ads
- Make posts in online forums
- Social media posts
The key to finding the perfect home for an assignment of contract is to locate sellers that are looking to get rid of their properties quickly. This might be a family who is looking to relocate for a job opportunity or someone who needs to make repairs on a home but can’t afford it. Either way, the quicker the wholesaler can close the deal, the better.
Once a property is located, wholesalers immediately go to work getting the details ironed out about how the sale will work. Transparency is key when it comes to wholesaling. This means that when a wholesaler intends to use an assignment of contract to transfer the rights to another person, they are always upfront about during the preliminary phases of the sale.
In addition to this practice just being good business, it makes sure the process goes as smoothly as possible later down the line. Wholesalers are clear in their intent and make sure buyers know that the contract could be transferred to another buyer before the closing date arrives.
After their offer is accepted and warranties are determined, wholesalers move to complete a title search . Title searches ensure that sellers have the right to enter into a purchase agreement on the property. They do this by searching for any outstanding tax payments, liens , or other roadblocks that could prevent the sale from going through.
Wholesalers also often work with experienced real estate lawyers who ensure that all of the legal paperwork is forthcoming and will stand up in court. Lawyers can also assist in the contract negotiation process if needed but often don’t come in until the final stages.
If the title search comes back clear and the real estate lawyer gives the green light, the wholesaler will immediately move to locate an entity to transfer the rights to buy.
One of the most attractive advantages of real estate wholesaling is that very little money is needed to get started. The process of finding a seller, negotiating a price, and performing a title search is an extremely cheap process that almost anyone can do.
On the other hand, it is not always a positive experience. It can be hard for wholesalers to find sellers who will agree to sell their homes for less than the market value. Even when they do, there is always a chance that the transferred buyer will back out of the sale, which leaves wholesalers obligated to either purchase the property themselves or scramble to find a new person to complete an assignment of contract with.
Learn more about assignment of contract in real estate by checking out this article .
Who Handles Assignment of Contract?
The best person to handle an assignment of contract is an attorney. Since these are detailed legal documents that deal with thousands of dollars, it is never a bad idea to have a professional on your side. If you need help with an assignment of contract or signing a business contract , post a project on ContractsCounsel. There, you can connect with attorneys who know everything there is to know about assignment of contract amendment and can walk you through the whole process.
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Assignment of Contract – Assignable Contract Basics for Real Estate Investors
What is assignment of contract? Learn about this wholesaling strategy and why assignment agreements are the preferred solution for flipping real estate contracts.
Beginners to investing in real estate and wholesaling must navigate a complex landscape littered with confusing terms and strategies. One of the first concepts to understand before wholesaling is assignment of contract, also known as assignment of agreement or “flipping real estate contracts.”
An assignment contract is the most popular exit strategy for wholesalers, and it isn’t as complicated as it may seem. What does assignment of contract mean? How can it be used to get into wholesaling? Here’s what you need to know.
What Is Assignment of Contract?
How assignment of contract works in real estate wholesaling, what is an assignment fee in real estate, assignment of agreement pros & cons, assignable contract faqs.
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Assignment of real estate purchase and sale agreement, or simply assignment of agreement or contract, is a real estate wholesale strategy that facilitates a sale between the property owner and the end buyer.
This strategy is also known as flipping real estate contracts because that’s essentially how it works:
- The wholesaler finds a property that’s already discounted or represents a great deal and enters into a contract with the seller,
- The contract contains an assignment clause that allows the wholesaler to assign the contract to someone else (if they choose to!), then
- The wholesaler can assign the contract to another party and receive an assignment fee when the transaction closes.
Assignment of contract in real estate is a popular strategy for beginners in real estate investment because it requires very little or even no capital. As long as you can find an interested buyer, you do not need to come up with a large sum of money to buy and then resell the property – you are only selling your right to buy it .
An assignment contract passes along your purchase rights as well as your contract obligations. After the contract assignment, you are no longer involved in the transaction with no right to make claims or responsibilities to get the transaction to closing.
Until you assign contract to someone else, however, you are completely on the hook for all contract responsibilities and rights.
This means that you are in control of the deal until you decide to assign the contract, but if you aren’t able to get someone to take over the contract, you are legally obligated to follow through with the sale .
Assignment of Contract vs Double Closing
Double closing and assignment of agreement are the two main real estate wholesaling exit strategies. Unlike the double closing strategy, an assignment contract does not require the wholesaler to purchase the property.
Assignment of contract is usually the preferred option because it can be completed in hours and does not require you to fund the purchase . Double closings take twice as much work and require a great deal of coordination. They are also illegal in some states.
Ready to see how an assignment contract actually works? Even though it has a low barrier to entry for beginner investors, the challenges of completing an assignment of contract shouldn’t be underestimated. Here are the general steps involved in wholesaling.
Step #1. Find a seller/property
The process begins by finding a property that you think is a good deal or a good investment and entering into a purchase agreement with the seller. Of course, not just any property is suitable for this strategy. You need to find a motivated seller willing to accept an assignment agreement and a price that works with your strategy. Direct mail marketing, online marketing, and checking the county delinquent tax list are just a few possible lead generation strategies you can employ.
Step #2: Enter into an assignable contract
The contract with the seller will be almost the same as a standard purchase agreement except it will contain an assignment clause.
An important element in an assignable purchase contract is “ and/or assigns ” next to your name as the buyer . The term “assigns” is used here as a noun to refer to a potential assignee. This is a basic assignment clause authorizing you to transfer your position and rights in the contract to an assignee if you choose.
The contract must also follow local laws regulating contract language. In some jurisdictions, assignment of contract is not allowed. It’s becoming increasingly common for wholesalers to assign agreements to an LLC instead of an individual. In this case, the LLC would be under contract with the seller. This can potentially bypass lender objections and even anti-assignment clauses for distressed properties. Rather than assigning the contract to someone else, the investor can reassign their interest in the LLC through an “assignment of membership interest.”
Note: even the presence of an assignment clause can make some sellers nervous or unwilling to make a deal . The seller may be picky about whom they want to buy the property, or they may be suspicious or concerned about the concept of assigning a contract to an unknown third party who may or may not be able to complete the sale.
The assignment clause should always be disclosed and explained to the seller. If they are nervous, they can be assured that they will still get the agreed-upon amount.
Step #3. Submit the assignment contract for a title search
Once you are under contract, you must typically submit the contract to a title company to perform the title search. This ensures there are no liens attached to the property.
Step #4. Find an end buyer to assign the contract
Next is the most challenging step: finding a buyer who can fulfill the contract’s original terms including the closing date and purchase price.
Successful wholesalers build buyers lists and employ marketing campaigns, social media, and networking to find a good match for an assignable contract.
Once you locate an end buyer, your contract should include earnest money the buyer must pay upfront. This gives you some protection if the buyer breaches the contract and, potentially, causes you to breach your contract with the seller. With a non-refundable deposit, you can be sure your earnest money to the seller will be covered in a worst-case scenario.
You can see an assignment of contract example here between an assignor and assignee.
Step #5. Receive your assignment fee
The final step is receiving your assignment fee. This fee is your profit from the transaction, and it’s usually paid when the transaction closes.
The assignment fee is how the wholesaler makes money through an assignment contract. This fee is paid by the end buyer when they purchase the right to buy the property as compensation for being connected to the original seller. Assignment contracts should clearly spell out the assignment fee and how it will be paid.
An assignment fee in real estate replaces the broker or Realtor fee in a typical transaction as the assignor or investor is bringing together the seller and end buyer.
The standard real estate assignment fee is $5,000 . However, it varies by transaction and calculating the assignment fee may be higher or lower depending on whether the buyer is buying and holding the property or rehabbing and flipping.
The assignment fee is not always a flat amount. The difference between the agreed-upon price with the seller and the end buyer is the profit you stand to earn as the assignor. If you agreed to purchase the property for $150,000 from the seller and assign the contract to a buyer for $200,000, your assignment fee or profit would be $50,000.
In most cases, an investor receives a deposit when the Assignment of Purchase and Sale Agreement is signed with the rest paid at closing.
Be aware that assignment agreements can have a bad reputation . This is usually the case when the end buyer and seller are unsatisfied, realizing they could have sold higher or bought lower and essentially paid thousands to an investor who never even wanted to buy the property.
Opting for the standard, flat assignment fee is much more readily accepted by sellers and buyers as it’s comparable to a real estate agent’s commission or even much lower and the parties can avoid working with an agent.
Real estate investors enjoy many benefits of an assignment of contract:
- This strategy requires little or no capital which makes it a popular entry to wholesaling as investors learn the ropes.
- Investors are not added to the title chain and never own the property which reduces costs and the amount of time the deal takes.
- An assignment of agreement is easier and faster than double closing which requires two separate closings and two sets of fees and disclosures.
- Wholesaling can be a great tool to expand an investor’s network for future opportunities.
As with most things, there are important drawbacks to consider. Before jumping into wholesaling and flipping real estate contracts, consider the downsides .
- It can be difficult to work with sellers and buyers who are not familiar with wholesaling or assignment agreements.
- Some sellers avoid or decline assignment of contract offers because they are suspicious of the arrangement, think it is too risky, or want to know who they are selling to.
- There is a limited time to find an end buyer. Without a reliable buyer’s list, it can be very challenging to find a viable end buyer before the closing date.
- The end buyer may back out at the last minute. This may happen if they do not have owner’s rights until the contract is assigned or they do not want to pay an assignment fee.
- Not all properties are eligible for wholesaling like HUD and REO properties. There may be anti-assignment clauses or other hurdles. It is possible to get around this by purchasing the property with an LLC which can then be sold, but this is a level of complication that many wholesalers want to avoid.
- Assignors do not have owner’s rights. When the property is under contract, investors cannot make repairs or improvements. This makes it harder to assign a contract for a distressed property in poor condition.
- It can be hard to confirm an end buyer is qualified. The end buyer is responsible for paying the agreed upon price set by the seller and assignor. Many lenders do not handle assignment agreements which usually means turning to all-cash end buyers. Depending on the market, they can be hard to find.
In the worst-case scenario, if a wholesaling deal falls through because the end buyer backs out, the investor or assignor is still responsible for buying the property and must follow through with the purchase agreement. If you do not, you are in breach of contract and lose the earnest money you put down.
To avoid this worst-case scenario, be prepared with a good buyer’s list. You should only put properties under contract that you consider a good deal and you can market to other investors or homeowners. You may be able to get more time by asking for an extension to the assignment of contract while you find another buyer or even turn to other wholesalers to see if they have someone who would be a good fit.
What is the difference between assignor vs assignee?
In an assignment clause, the assignor is the buyer who then assigns the contract to an assignee. The assignee is the end buyer or final buyer who becomes the owner when the transaction closes. After the assignment, contract rights and obligations are transferred from the assignor to the assignee.
What Is an assignable contract?
An assignable contract in real estate is a purchase agreement that allows the buyer to assign their rights and obligations to another party before the contract expires. The assignee then becomes obligated to meet the terms of the contract and, at closing, get title to the property.
Is Assignment of Agreement Legal?
Assignment of contract is legal as long as state regulations are followed and it’s an assignable contract. The terms of your agreement with the seller must allow for the contract to be assumed. To be legal and enforceable, the following general requirements must be met.
- The assignment does not violate state law or public policy. In some states and jurisdictions, contract assignments are prohibited.
- There is no assignment clause prohibiting assignment.
- There is written consent between all parties.
- The property does not have restrictions prohibiting assignment. Some properties have deed restrictions or anti-assignment clauses prohibiting assignment of contract within a specific period of time. This includes HUD properties, short sales, and REO properties which usually prohibit a property from being resold for 90 days. There is potentially a way around these non-assignable contracts using an LLC.
Can a non-assignable contract still be assigned?
Even an non-assignable contract can become an assignable contract in some cases. A common approach is creating an agreement with an LLC or trust as the purchaser. The investor can then assign the entity to someone else because the contractual rights and obligations are the entity’s.
Assignment agreements are not as complicated as they may sound, and they offer an excellent entry into real estate investing without significant capital. A transaction coordinator at Transactly can be an invaluable solution, no matter your volume, to keep your wholesaling business on track and facilitate every step of the transaction to closing – and your assignment fee!
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Nick, & Cindy Davis
July 9, 2019 by Nick & Cindy Davis
The Florida Realtors/Florida Bar AS IS contract has a provision (Section 7) that permits a contract to be assignable. What you should know if this is filled out – and what does this mean for the transaction?
Assignable Contracts – What you want to understand about them
Here is a scenario.
Seller just received a contract offer from a buyer who used a Florida Realtors/Florida Bar “AS IS” Residential Contract for Sale and Purchase, and they observed that the buyer’s offer included a provision in Section 7, Assignability, that would enable the buyer to assign the contract.
Examples of the ramifications if you accept this assignable contract?
The main thing that changes in an assignable contract will be the person or entity that signed the contract (Buyer 1) most likely is not the same person or entity that will actually close on the property (Buyer 2). An assignment is simply a option for a party to a contract to hand legal rights and obligations off to another individual.
How exactly does an assignment happen? This is generally done by having the assignor and assignee sign a legal document called an assignment. In this situation, the assignor is going to be Buyer 1, whose name is on the contract. The assignee will probably be Buyer 2, who accepts the assignment and steps into the shoes of Buyer 1. As soon as the assignment is fully executed, Buyer 1 gives the contractual rights and obligations to Buyer 2, who receives and assumes those rights and obligations.
Florida Realtors does not provide an assignment-of-sales contract form, so one of the buyers is going to be responsible to draft, or hire a lawyer to draft, the assignment.
Why might a buyer want to negotiate an assignable contract? One reason is just that Buyer 1 intends to form a corporation, LLC or trust to take title at closing. In this scenario, Buyer 1 usually just requires a little time after the property is under contract to get the legal paperwork in order. This particular assignable contract generally on the lower risk side of the spectrum, although it’s always up to seller what terms they’re prepared to accept.
Other buyers might prefer an assignable contract since they want to assign their interest in the contract to another buyer they have not yet identified. This assignment of contractual interest is also known as a flip, and it may be a situation where Buyer 1 hopes to collect money from Buyer 2 to execute the assignment. Unlike the previous scenario, a seller has no idea what the personality and business practices of the unknown Buyer 2 are going to be, so as a seller you should be ready for a new person to enter the transaction.
When the parties opt to make the contract assignable, Section 7 of the contract provides two options:
The first option provides that Buyer 1 “may assign and thereby be released from any further liability under this Contract.” This clause is far more favorable for Buyer 1, because it contains a type of release, which is a means for Buyer 1 to remove some of their liability through the release language.
The second option provides that Buyer 1 “may assign but not be released from liability under this Contract.” This option is more favorable for the seller, and Buyer 1 should be more cautious about vetting Buyer 2 when using this clause.
Understand that this is a very general summary of this topic, therefore if buyers or sellers would like a thorough analysis of risks and benefits associated with making a contract assignable, they should consult a lawyer. The lawyer may suggest additional tools, such as carefully tailored assignment clause that has more protection for a party than is available in the very brief options in the form contract.
Have a questions or concern? Nick, Cindy & Nicholas Davis with RE/MAX Premier Group are here to assist you with all your Real Estate Needs. We are always available at 813-300-7116 to answer your questions or you can simply click here and we will be in touch with you shortly.
Need to get started with your mortgage process? You can contact Kyle Edwards with Iberia Bank at 813-495-5131, or simply click here to start your online application.
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Assignment of a Contract - Explained
What is Assignment and Delegation of a Contract?
Written by Jason Gordon
Updated at April 5th, 2023
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What is assignment and delegation of contracts?
Assignment is the transfer by one party of her right to receive performance from the other party to the contract. Delegation is the transfer by one party of her duties to perform under a contract.
Next Article: Duty of Performance Back to: CONTRACT LAW
How do you Assign or Delegate a Contract?
The rights under a contract can be assigned or the duties delegated through agreement between the assignor and assignee. Assignments/delegations can be a gift or an exchange for other value. In general, unless the contract deems otherwise, obligees may assign their rights or delegate their duties under the contract to third parties.
- Note : The assignor/delegator must give notice to the other party immediately upon assignment/delegation.
Writing Requirement - Assignments and delegations of common law contracts do not have to be in writing. Assignments of contracts for the sale of goods, however, must be in writing if the original contract was subject to the statute of frauds.
Non-Assignable/Delegable Contracts : Unless the agreement limits assignment of rights, most contracts are assignable. Delegation of duties pursuant to contract is more limited. The following contracts are not capable of delegation:
Material Changes of Responsibility - A contract that materially alters the obligors duties under the agreement is not transferable. Particularly, an assignment that greatly increases a partys delivery requirements cannot be assigned. Doing so may detriment the obligor who has to meet a new (and possibly more taxing) delivery schedule.
- Example : I sign a contract to supply all of the cement that your company needs. You are a small construction business with about $1 million per year in revenue. You attempt to assign the contract to ABC Corp, which is a large company with $10 million per year in revenue. If this will dramatically increase my supply requirements, it cannot be assigned without my consent.
Increases Burden or Risk - Generally, any contract that materially increases the other partys burden, risk, or ability to receive return performance is not delegable. As such, requirement contracts generally cannot be delegated because the producers duty depends on the individual output requirements of the purchaser.
- Example : I sign a contract to supply all of the cement that your company needs. You signed the contract with my company because of my reputation and ability to perform. I cannot then delegate the duties under the contract to another company without your consent. This could increase your risk of not receiving performance.
Special Skills - A party to a contract cannot delegate performance of duties under a contract when performance depends on the character, skill, or training of that party.
- Example : One singer cannot transfer her obligations under a contract to another singer if the other party depended upon the skill of that particular vocalist.
Multiple Assignments - A party can partially assign a contract or assign the same contract to multiple parties. Different jurisdictions follow different rules regarding the priority of the assignees. Some jurisdictions allow that the first assignee of a contract who gives notice to the obligor has priority over other assignees. Other jurisdictions follow the rule that the first assignee to receive assignment of a contract has priority to performance by the obligor. Still other jurisdictions follow the rule that the first assignee has priority, unless:
Purchaser in Good Faith for Value - If an assignee pays value for the assignment in good faith without notice of a prior assignment (and the prior assignee did not receive the assignment in good faith and for value), she has priority over prior assignments.
- Example : ABC Corp has a duty to deliver goods to me. I assign the right to receive the goods to 123 Corp as a gift. I later decide to assign the right to receive goods to XYZ Corp in exchange for $1,000. XYZ Corp has no knowledge of my prior assignment to 123 Corp. ABC Corp will have priority over 123 Corp, as 123 Corp did not pay anything for receiving the assignment.
Court Action - If an assignee receives a judgment against the obligor. If a court adjudicates the matter, the assignee winning at court may be vested with the authority to establish priority in performance of assigned rights.
- Example : I am a party to a contract with ABC Corp. I assign my rights under a contract to Tammy and later to June. Tammy sues me and ABC Corp to establish her priority regarding performance of the contract. The court may award priority to Tammy or June.
Novations - If the assignee executes a novation, the novation establishes priority. A novation is a new contract between individuals that replaces a party to the contract or obligations or rights under the agreement.
- Example : I am a party to a contract with ABC Corp. I assign my rights under a contract to Tammy and later to June. June enters into a novation agreement with ABC Corp that replaces me under the contract and establishes her as the obligee. June will have priority of performance above Tammy.
Written Assignment - If a later assignee receives a written assignment capable of transfer that is not in writing, she will have rights superior to those of an earlier assignee. Some agreements, such as assignments that are subject to the statute of frauds, are only capable of being assigned via a valid writing. If a prior assignment does not satisfy the statute of frauds, a subsequent transfer could take precedent. It is important to review the specific rules applicable to the specific jurisdiction when determining ones rights under an assigned contract.
- Example : I am party to a written contract to sell goods to ABC Corp. I verbally transfer my right to receive payment to Amy. I later transfer the right to receive payment to Zora in a written agreement. Zora may have priority over Amy.
Revoking an Assignment - A gratuitous (gift) assignment cannot be revoked if the assignment is made pursuant to a written document signed by the assignor. If no writing exists, revoking a gratuitous assignment that has not been performed is extremely easy (because no physical transfer has taken place). It can be revoked by an assignor later assigning the same right (the last assignment controls), the death or incapacity of the assignor, or by the delivery of notification of revocation to the assignee or obligor.
- Example : I verbally assign to you my rights to receive payment under a contract. I later tell you that I am revoking the assignment. This is effect to revoke the assignment because the original assignment was a gift and I did not make the assignment in writing.
Modification after Assignment - Generally, a contract cannot be modified after assignment. As previously discussed, once a contract has vested, the parties generally cannot modify the contract in a way that impairs the assignees rights. If, however, a modification does not affect the assignees rights, it may be modified.
- Example : I have the right under a contract with ABC Corp to receive payment. I transfer the right to receive payment to you. I later approach ABC Corp and alter my obligation to deliver goods on a specific date. If the alteration of my duties does not affect your rights as assignee, the alteration is not prohibited.
- Note : There is an exception in commercial contracts under the UCC that allows for modifications or substitutions in accordance with commercially acceptable standards. This allows for slight modifications that are within the expectations of the parties.
Continued Delegator Responsibilities - The party delegating the contract is still potentially liable under the contract if the delegatee fails to perform. If, however, the delegatee and the obligee under the contract enter into a novation, the delegator is relieved of responsibility.
- Example : I am obligated to perform services to ABC Corp. I delegate my responsibilities to you. If you fail to perform the consulting duties, ABC Corp can still sue me. If, however, you enter into a novation with ABC Corp that substitutes you for me in the original contract, your failure to perform does not affect me.
- Note : If the delegator expresses her intent to repudiate the contract upon assignment to the delegatee, there is an implied novation if the obligee does not object. Also, the delegatee will be liable under the contract if she expressly or impliedly accepts responsibility for performance.
Most of the above rules regarding assignment and delegation are capable of modification in a contract between the parties.
How do you feel about treating assignments of rights and delegation of duties under contracts differently? Which of the assignment priority rules do you believe is most fair to the parties? Why? Should a party be able to modify a contract after assigning her benefits?
Cleo is a party to a contract with ABC Corp to provide consulting services. Cleo verbally assigns her rights to receive payment to Austin. Cleo later verbally assigns her rights to receive payment to Steve. Austin complains to Cleo about her subsequent assignment. What can Austin do to establish his priority to receive payment from ABC Corp?
- A party to a contract may at any given time transfer their rights in the contract to another person or to multiple people. This transfer of rights by a party to a third party is referred to novation. However, the transfer of rights to multiple people works on the principle of priority, meaning that the first person to receive the rights from the party to the contract holds priority to the others who received the rights after them. In the event of a dispute arising from how to allocate the benefits of the transferred right, the person to whom the rights were transferred to first has a right to sue. In this scenario, if Austin does not receive payment from ABC Corp, he can sue the company. If he is a creditor beneficiary, he could also sue Cleo.
- Contract Law (Intro)
- What is a Contract?
- Contract Theory Definition
- Meeting of the Minds
- Doctrine of Utmost Good Faith
- Aleatory Contract Definition
- What are the sources of contract law?
- Restatement of Contracts
- Uniform Commercial Code
- Convention on Contracts for the International Sale of Goods (CISG)
- What is a Unilateral Contract vs a Bilateral Contract?
- What is an Express Contract vs an Implied Contract?
- What are the requirements to form a Contract (Offer, Acceptance, Consideration)?
- What is an Enforceable Contract vs. a Valid Contract?
- What is a Void Contract vs a Voidable Contract?
- Adhesion Contract
- What is Mental Capacity to contract?
- What is the requirement of a Lawful Purpose?
- What are common types of Voidable Contract?
- What is an Offer?
- Sum Certain (Contracts) Definition
- When does an offer to contact terminate?
- Counterparty Definition
- Mirror Image Rule?
- Rule for Sale of Goods
- Silence is Not Acceptance ?
- Mailbox Rule
- Shrink-wrap Agreement Definition
- Click-Wrap Agreement Definition
- What is Consideration?
- What is Promissory Estoppel?
- When is a contract required to be in writing Statute of Frauds?
- What type of writing satisfies the statute of frauds?
- Exceptions to the Statute of Fraud
- Documents Under Seal
- Who Can Sign Contracts on Behalf of a Company?
- Privity of Contract
- Who are third-party beneficiaries to a contract?
- What is assignment and delegation of a contract?
- When is a party's Duty of performance?
- Aleatory Contract
- What is an Executed contract vs an Executory contract?
- Inchoate Definition
- Evergreen Contract
- What is Performance, Substantial Performance, and Breach of a contract?
- What is performance of a Divisible Contract?
- When is a party's duty of performance discharged?
- What are conditions to Contract (Precedent & Subsequent)?
- Abandonment Option (Contract) Definition
- Cooling Off Rule Definition
- What is tender performance of a contract?
- What are Impossibility and Impracticability
- What is a Frustration of Purpose?
- Waiver or Release from Contract
- Accord and Satisfaction
- Force Majeure Clause
- What is a Breach of Contract?
- Repudiation (Contract) Definition
- Anticipatory Repudiation
- Acceleration Clause (Contracts) Definition
- What methods exist for resolving a breach?
- What remedies exist for a breach of contract?
- Rescission (Contract)
- Exculpatory Clause
- Hold Harmless Clause
- What is Efficient Breach?
- Organization of a Contract
- How to Read the Contract
- Contract Representations & Warranties
- Contract Covenants
- What rules does a court follow in interpreting a contract?
- Allonge Definition
- What is the Parol Evidence Rule?
- What is a complete integration vs a partial integration?
- Exceptions to the Parol Evidence Rule
- Patent and Latent Ambiguity in a Contract
- Service Level Agreement Definition
- Offtake Agreement
- Security Interest in Assignment of Accounts Receivable or Contract Rights - Explained
- Unilateral and Bilateral Contracts - Explained
- Interpreting What a Contract Means
- Blank Endorsement - Explained
- assignments basic law
Assignments: The Basic Law
The assignment of a right or obligation is a common contractual event under the law and the right to assign (or prohibition against assignments) is found in the majority of agreements, leases and business structural documents created in the United States.
As with many terms commonly used, people are familiar with the term but often are not aware or fully aware of what the terms entail. The concept of assignment of rights and obligations is one of those simple concepts with wide ranging ramifications in the contractual and business context and the law imposes severe restrictions on the validity and effect of assignment in many instances. Clear contractual provisions concerning assignments and rights should be in every document and structure created and this article will outline why such drafting is essential for the creation of appropriate and effective contracts and structures.
The reader should first read the article on Limited Liability Entities in the United States and Contracts since the information in those articles will be assumed in this article.
Basic Definitions and Concepts:
An assignment is the transfer of rights held by one party called the “assignor” to another party called the “assignee.” The legal nature of the assignment and the contractual terms of the agreement between the parties determines some additional rights and liabilities that accompany the assignment. The assignment of rights under a contract usually completely transfers the rights to the assignee to receive the benefits accruing under the contract. Ordinarily, the term assignment is limited to the transfer of rights that are intangible, like contractual rights and rights connected with property. Merchants Service Co. v. Small Claims Court , 35 Cal. 2d 109, 113-114 (Cal. 1950).
An assignment will generally be permitted under the law unless there is an express prohibition against assignment in the underlying contract or lease. Where assignments are permitted, the assignor need not consult the other party to the contract but may merely assign the rights at that time. However, an assignment cannot have any adverse effect on the duties of the other party to the contract, nor can it diminish the chance of the other party receiving complete performance. The assignor normally remains liable unless there is an agreement to the contrary by the other party to the contract.
The effect of a valid assignment is to remove privity between the assignor and the obligor and create privity between the obligor and the assignee. Privity is usually defined as a direct and immediate contractual relationship. See Merchants case above.
Further, for the assignment to be effective in most jurisdictions, it must occur in the present. One does not normally assign a future right; the assignment vests immediate rights and obligations.
No specific language is required to create an assignment so long as the assignor makes clear his/her intent to assign identified contractual rights to the assignee. Since expensive litigation can erupt from ambiguous or vague language, obtaining the correct verbiage is vital. An agreement must manifest the intent to transfer rights and can either be oral or in writing and the rights assigned must be certain.
Note that an assignment of an interest is the transfer of some identifiable property, claim, or right from the assignor to the assignee. The assignment operates to transfer to the assignee all of the rights, title, or interest of the assignor in the thing assigned. A transfer of all rights, title, and interests conveys everything that the assignor owned in the thing assigned and the assignee stands in the shoes of the assignor. Knott v. McDonald’s Corp ., 985 F. Supp. 1222 (N.D. Cal. 1997)
The parties must intend to effectuate an assignment at the time of the transfer, although no particular language or procedure is necessary. As long ago as the case of National Reserve Co. v. Metropolitan Trust Co ., 17 Cal. 2d 827 (Cal. 1941), the court held that in determining what rights or interests pass under an assignment, the intention of the parties as manifested in the instrument is controlling.
The intent of the parties to an assignment is a question of fact to be derived not only from the instrument executed by the parties but also from the surrounding circumstances. When there is no writing to evidence the intention to transfer some identifiable property, claim, or right, it is necessary to scrutinize the surrounding circumstances and parties’ acts to ascertain their intentions. Strosberg v. Brauvin Realty Servs., 295 Ill. App. 3d 17 (Ill. App. Ct. 1st Dist. 1998)
The general rule applicable to assignments of choses in action is that an assignment, unless there is a contract to the contrary, carries with it all securities held by the assignor as collateral to the claim and all rights incidental thereto and vests in the assignee the equitable title to such collateral securities and incidental rights. An unqualified assignment of a contract or chose in action, however, with no indication of the intent of the parties, vests in the assignee the assigned contract or chose and all rights and remedies incidental thereto.
More examples: In Strosberg v. Brauvin Realty Servs ., 295 Ill. App. 3d 17 (Ill. App. Ct. 1st Dist. 1998), the court held that the assignee of a party to a subordination agreement is entitled to the benefits and is subject to the burdens of the agreement. In Florida E. C. R. Co. v. Eno , 99 Fla. 887 (Fla. 1930), the court held that the mere assignment of all sums due in and of itself creates no different or other liability of the owner to the assignee than that which existed from the owner to the assignor.
And note that even though an assignment vests in the assignee all rights, remedies, and contingent benefits which are incidental to the thing assigned, those which are personal to the assignor and for his sole benefit are not assigned. Rasp v. Hidden Valley Lake, Inc ., 519 N.E.2d 153, 158 (Ind. Ct. App. 1988). Thus, if the underlying agreement provides that a service can only be provided to X, X cannot assign that right to Y.
Novation Compared to Assignment:
Although the difference between a novation and an assignment may appear narrow, it is an essential one. “Novation is a act whereby one party transfers all its obligations and benefits under a contract to a third party.” In a novation, a third party successfully substitutes the original party as a party to the contract. “When a contract is novated, the other contracting party must be left in the same position he was in prior to the novation being made.”
A sublease is the transfer when a tenant retains some right of reentry onto the leased premises. However, if the tenant transfers the entire leasehold estate, retaining no right of reentry or other reversionary interest, then the transfer is an assignment. The assignor is normally also removed from liability to the landlord only if the landlord consents or allowed that right in the lease. In a sublease, the original tenant is not released from the obligations of the original lease.
An equitable assignment is one in which one has a future interest and is not valid at law but valid in a court of equity. In National Bank of Republic v. United Sec. Life Ins. & Trust Co. , 17 App. D.C. 112 (D.C. Cir. 1900), the court held that to constitute an equitable assignment of a chose in action, the following has to occur generally: anything said written or done, in pursuance of an agreement and for valuable consideration, or in consideration of an antecedent debt, to place a chose in action or fund out of the control of the owner, and appropriate it to or in favor of another person, amounts to an equitable assignment. Thus, an agreement, between a debtor and a creditor, that the debt shall be paid out of a specific fund going to the debtor may operate as an equitable assignment.
In Egyptian Navigation Co. v. Baker Invs. Corp. , 2008 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 30804 (S.D.N.Y. Apr. 14, 2008), the court stated that an equitable assignment occurs under English law when an assignor, with an intent to transfer his/her right to a chose in action, informs the assignee about the right so transferred.
An executory agreement or a declaration of trust are also equitable assignments if unenforceable as assignments by a court of law but enforceable by a court of equity exercising sound discretion according to the circumstances of the case. Since California combines courts of equity and courts of law, the same court would hear arguments as to whether an equitable assignment had occurred. Quite often, such relief is granted to avoid fraud or unjust enrichment.
Note that obtaining an assignment through fraudulent means invalidates the assignment. Fraud destroys the validity of everything into which it enters. It vitiates the most solemn contracts, documents, and even judgments. Walker v. Rich , 79 Cal. App. 139 (Cal. App. 1926). If an assignment is made with the fraudulent intent to delay, hinder, and defraud creditors, then it is void as fraudulent in fact. See our article on Transfers to Defraud Creditors .
But note that the motives that prompted an assignor to make the transfer will be considered as immaterial and will constitute no defense to an action by the assignee, if an assignment is considered as valid in all other respects.
Enforceability of Assignments:
Whether a right under a contract is capable of being transferred is determined by the law of the place where the contract was entered into. The validity and effect of an assignment is determined by the law of the place of assignment. The validity of an assignment of a contractual right is governed by the law of the state with the most significant relationship to the assignment and the parties.
In some jurisdictions, the traditional conflict of laws rules governing assignments has been rejected and the law of the place having the most significant contacts with the assignment applies. In Downs v. American Mut. Liability Ins. Co ., 14 N.Y.2d 266 (N.Y. 1964), a wife and her husband separated and the wife obtained a judgment of separation from the husband in New York. The judgment required the husband to pay a certain yearly sum to the wife. The husband assigned 50 percent of his future salary, wages, and earnings to the wife. The agreement authorized the employer to make such payments to the wife.
After the husband moved from New York, the wife learned that he was employed by an employer in Massachusetts. She sent the proper notice and demanded payment under the agreement. The employer refused and the wife brought an action for enforcement. The court observed that Massachusetts did not prohibit assignment of the husband’s wages. Moreover, Massachusetts law was not controlling because New York had the most significant relationship with the assignment. Therefore, the court ruled in favor of the wife.
Therefore, the validity of an assignment is determined by looking to the law of the forum with the most significant relationship to the assignment itself. To determine the applicable law of assignments, the court must look to the law of the state which is most significantly related to the principal issue before it.
Assignment of Contractual Rights:
Generally, the law allows the assignment of a contractual right unless the substitution of rights would materially change the duty of the obligor, materially increase the burden or risk imposed on the obligor by the contract, materially impair the chance of obtaining return performance, or materially reduce the value of the performance to the obligor. Restat 2d of Contracts, § 317(2)(a). This presumes that the underlying agreement is silent on the right to assign.
If the contract specifically precludes assignment, the contractual right is not assignable. Whether a contract is assignable is a matter of contractual intent and one must look to the language used by the parties to discern that intent.
In the absence of an express provision to the contrary, the rights and duties under a bilateral executory contract that does not involve personal skill, trust, or confidence may be assigned without the consent of the other party. But note that an assignment is invalid if it would materially alter the other party’s duties and responsibilities. Once an assignment is effective, the assignee stands in the shoes of the assignor and assumes all of assignor’s rights. Hence, after a valid assignment, the assignor’s right to performance is extinguished, transferred to assignee, and the assignee possesses the same rights, benefits, and remedies assignor once possessed. Robert Lamb Hart Planners & Architects v. Evergreen, Ltd. , 787 F. Supp. 753 (S.D. Ohio 1992).
On the other hand, an assignee’s right against the obligor is subject to “all of the limitations of the assignor’s right, all defenses thereto, and all set-offs and counterclaims which would have been available against the assignor had there been no assignment, provided that these defenses and set-offs are based on facts existing at the time of the assignment.” See Robert Lamb , case, above.
The power of the contract to restrict assignment is broad. Usually, contractual provisions that restrict assignment of the contract without the consent of the obligor are valid and enforceable, even when there is statutory authorization for the assignment. The restriction of the power to assign is often ineffective unless the restriction is expressly and precisely stated. Anti-assignment clauses are effective only if they contain clear, unambiguous language of prohibition. Anti-assignment clauses protect only the obligor and do not affect the transaction between the assignee and assignor.
Usually, a prohibition against the assignment of a contract does not prevent an assignment of the right to receive payments due, unless circumstances indicate the contrary. Moreover, the contracting parties cannot, by a mere non-assignment provision, prevent the effectual alienation of the right to money which becomes due under the contract.
A contract provision prohibiting or restricting an assignment may be waived, or a party may so act as to be estopped from objecting to the assignment, such as by effectively ratifying the assignment. The power to void an assignment made in violation of an anti-assignment clause may be waived either before or after the assignment. See our article on Contracts.
Noncompete Clauses and Assignments:
Of critical import to most buyers of businesses is the ability to ensure that key employees of the business being purchased cannot start a competing company. Some states strictly limit such clauses, some do allow them. California does restrict noncompete clauses, only allowing them under certain circumstances. A common question in those states that do allow them is whether such rights can be assigned to a new party, such as the buyer of the buyer.
A covenant not to compete, also called a non-competitive clause, is a formal agreement prohibiting one party from performing similar work or business within a designated area for a specified amount of time. This type of clause is generally included in contracts between employer and employee and contracts between buyer and seller of a business.
Many workers sign a covenant not to compete as part of the paperwork required for employment. It may be a separate document similar to a non-disclosure agreement, or buried within a number of other clauses in a contract. A covenant not to compete is generally legal and enforceable, although there are some exceptions and restrictions.
Whenever a company recruits skilled employees, it invests a significant amount of time and training. For example, it often takes years before a research chemist or a design engineer develops a workable knowledge of a company’s product line, including trade secrets and highly sensitive information. Once an employee gains this knowledge and experience, however, all sorts of things can happen. The employee could work for the company until retirement, accept a better offer from a competing company or start up his or her own business.
A covenant not to compete may cover a number of potential issues between employers and former employees. Many companies spend years developing a local base of customers or clients. It is important that this customer base not fall into the hands of local competitors. When an employee signs a covenant not to compete, he or she usually agrees not to use insider knowledge of the company’s customer base to disadvantage the company. The covenant not to compete often defines a broad geographical area considered off-limits to former employees, possibly tens or hundreds of miles.
Another area of concern covered by a covenant not to compete is a potential ‘brain drain’. Some high-level former employees may seek to recruit others from the same company to create new competition. Retention of employees, especially those with unique skills or proprietary knowledge, is vital for most companies, so a covenant not to compete may spell out definite restrictions on the hiring or recruiting of employees.
A covenant not to compete may also define a specific amount of time before a former employee can seek employment in a similar field. Many companies offer a substantial severance package to make sure former employees are financially solvent until the terms of the covenant not to compete have been met.
Because the use of a covenant not to compete can be controversial, a handful of states, including California, have largely banned this type of contractual language. The legal enforcement of these agreements falls on individual states, and many have sided with the employee during arbitration or litigation. A covenant not to compete must be reasonable and specific, with defined time periods and coverage areas. If the agreement gives the company too much power over former employees or is ambiguous, state courts may declare it to be overbroad and therefore unenforceable. In such case, the employee would be free to pursue any employment opportunity, including working for a direct competitor or starting up a new company of his or her own.
It has been held that an employee’s covenant not to compete is assignable where one business is transferred to another, that a merger does not constitute an assignment of a covenant not to compete, and that a covenant not to compete is enforceable by a successor to the employer where the assignment does not create an added burden of employment or other disadvantage to the employee. However, in some states such as Hawaii, it has also been held that a covenant not to compete is not assignable and under various statutes for various reasons that such covenants are not enforceable against an employee by a successor to the employer. Hawaii v. Gannett Pac. Corp. , 99 F. Supp. 2d 1241 (D. Haw. 1999)
It is vital to obtain the relevant law of the applicable state before drafting or attempting to enforce assignment rights in this particular area.
In the current business world of fast changing structures, agreements, employees and projects, the ability to assign rights and obligations is essential to allow flexibility and adjustment to new situations. Conversely, the ability to hold a contracting party into the deal may be essential for the future of a party. Thus, the law of assignments and the restriction on same is a critical aspect of every agreement and every structure. This basic provision is often glanced at by the contracting parties, or scribbled into the deal at the last minute but can easily become the most vital part of the transaction.
As an example, one client of ours came into the office outraged that his co venturer on a sizable exporting agreement, who had excellent connections in Brazil, had elected to pursue another venture instead and assigned the agreement to a party unknown to our client and without the business contacts our client considered vital. When we examined the handwritten agreement our client had drafted in a restaurant in Sao Paolo, we discovered there was no restriction on assignment whatsoever…our client had not even considered that right when drafting the agreement after a full day of work.
One choses who one does business with carefully…to ensure that one’s choice remains the party on the other side of the contract, one must master the ability to negotiate proper assignment provisions.
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