The age of the written contract is drawing to a close, it seems to me. There was a time, not so long ago either, when the written contract was solid gold. You entered into an agreement with absolute confidence that all agreed clauses would be adhered to, because you had troubled to sign something to that effect, in the presence of a lawyer.
Now, such contracts are solid only until one or both parties violate the conditions contained within the agreement, and then you learn the document is not, in fact worth the paper it is written on.
It leads you to wonder why we are all still signing such contracts. Indeed, why are we paying lawyers to draw up such expensive documentation which contains no authority of protection for either party?
Some time ago I took a great deal of trouble to research which tenancy agreement would best serve my interests when I agreed to rent a cottage I owned to a professional couple. We all dutifully trotted off and signed the contract and paid Mr Solicitor a sizeable fee for handling the documentation.
Six months down the line, the lady loses her job, her husband leaves her without paying the rent and I am left with a dependent tenant. I could not ask her to leave because she now found herself pregnant and I was advised the courts would frown upon my evicting an expectant mother.
Two years later I finally got rid of her, having had to suffer her living in my house rent free for the entire period. She left the house riddled with vermin and looking as if a family of rats had chewed the nicotine-stained wallpaper. The kitchen was so disgustingly filthy half the appliances had to be disposed of, the rest were broken.
The contract the lady had signed, undertaking to pay the rent on time and to keep the property in good repair, was worthless. I was unable to afford a barrister to sue her through the courts, but had I attempted to bring her to justice, she would have received the services of a barrister free of charge via the benefit system.
I was advised by my solicitor to be grateful to receive my property back with all the walls still standing. The matter took two years to get to court because the courts were so overcrowded and at least the woman had finally agreed to vacate the premises.
I have little respect for written contracts, having experienced first hand the ineffectual protection such documents afford, although I will usually agree to sign something provided I am not expected to support a fee if the terms are reasonable.