Tacit Contract

Tacit Contract
Tacit Contract
Quick Summary of Tacit Contract

A tacit contract is an agreement between parties that is not explicitly stated or written down but is instead implied through their actions and behaviours. This type of contract creates enforceable obligations that are recognised by the law. For instance, when you go to a restaurant and order food, there is a tacit contract between you and the restaurant that you will pay for the food. This contract is not explicitly stated but is instead implied through your action of ordering and consuming the food, as well as the restaurant’s action of preparing and serving the food. Similarly, when you hire a plumber to fix a leaky faucet in your home, there is an implied agreement that the plumber will fix the faucet and you will compensate them for their services. This contract is not explicitly stated but is instead implied through your hiring the plumber and their fixing the faucet. In both of these examples, the tacit contract is formed through the actions and behaviours of the parties involved, rather than through a written or explicitly stated agreement.

What is the dictionary definition of Tacit Contract?
Dictionary Definition of Tacit Contract

A tacit contract refers to an agreement between multiple parties that is not explicitly expressed or documented yet is still acknowledged and enforceable by law. This implies that even if the terms of the agreement were not formally deliberated or consented to, the involved parties are still bound to fulfil their obligations and can face consequences if they fail to do so. The term “contract” can pertain to the actual agreement itself, the written record outlining the agreement, or the legal responsibilities and duties arising from the agreement.

Full Definition Of Tacit Contract

In the realm of contract law, the concept of a tacit contract, also known as an implied contract, holds a significant place. Unlike explicit contracts, which are clearly defined and articulated, tacit contracts arise from the conduct, actions, or circumstances of the parties involved. This essay aims to provide a comprehensive legal overview of tacit contracts, delving into their formation, recognition, and enforcement within the context of British law.

Definition and Nature of Tacit Contracts

A tacit contract is formed not through explicit agreement but through the behaviour and circumstances surrounding the parties. These contracts are often inferred from the actions, conduct, and relations of the parties, suggesting a mutual intention to enter into a contractual relationship. The essence of a tacit contract lies in the reasonable expectation that one party will receive something of value in return for the performance of certain actions by another party.

Formation of Tacit Contracts

The formation of a tacit contract involves several key elements:

  • Conduct of the Parties: The actions and behaviour of the parties must clearly indicate an intention to form a contract. This can include scenarios where services are rendered or goods are delivered without explicit agreement, but with an understanding that payment or compensation will follow.
  • Circumstances: The context in which the parties interact plays a crucial role. For instance, if a customer enters a restaurant and orders food, a tacit contract is formed based on the mutual understanding that the customer will pay for the meal provided.
  • Mutual Intent: There must be a mutual intention to enter into a contractual relationship. This intention is usually inferred from the conduct and circumstances rather than explicit communication.
  • Reasonable Expectation: One party must reasonably expect to receive something of value in exchange for their performance, and the other party must be aware of this expectation.

Legal Recognition and Enforcement

In British law, tacit contracts are recognised and enforceable under certain conditions. The courts rely on established legal principles and precedents to determine the existence and validity of such contracts. Key aspects include:

  • Objective Test: The courts apply an objective test to assess whether a reasonable person, given the circumstances, would conclude that a contract existed based on the conduct of the parties.
  • Implied Terms: Tacit contracts often involve implied terms, which are not explicitly stated but are necessary to give effect to the parties’ intentions. These terms can be implied by fact, law, or custom.
  • Equitable Principles: The courts may invoke equitable principles to ensure fairness and justice in enforcing tacit contracts. This includes preventing unjust enrichment, where one party benefits at the expense of another without providing fair compensation.
  • Statutory Provisions: Certain statutes, such as the Sale of Goods Act 1979 and the Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982, provide a framework for recognising and enforcing implied terms in tacit contracts related to goods and services.

Examples of Tacit Contracts

Tacit contracts can arise in various everyday situations. Some common examples include:

  • Employment: An employee who continues to work after the expiration of a fixed-term contract may be deemed to have entered into a tacit contract with the employer, based on the continued provision of services and payment of wages.
  • Banking: When a customer deposits money in a bank, a tacit contract is formed, implying that the bank will keep the money safe and allow the customer to withdraw it upon request.
  • Professional Services: A client who engages a solicitor without a formal written agreement may still be subject to a tacit contract, whereby the solicitor provides legal services and the client agrees to pay for them.

Challenges and Limitations

While tacit contracts are a vital aspect of contract law, they also present certain challenges and limitations:

  • Proof of Agreement: Demonstrating the existence of a tacit contract can be challenging, as it relies on circumstantial evidence and the interpretation of conduct and intent.
  • Clarity and certainty: Tacit contracts may lack the clarity and certainty of explicit contracts, leading to potential disputes over terms and obligations.
  • Statute of Frauds: Certain types of contracts, such as those involving the sale of land, must be in writing to be enforceable under the Statute of Frauds. This limitation can restrict the applicability of tacit contracts in specific contexts.
  • Consumer Protection: In consumer transactions, statutory protections often require clear and explicit terms to ensure consumers are fully aware of their rights and obligations. Tacit contracts may not always meet these requirements.

Case Law and Judicial Interpretation

The British courts have addressed tacit contracts in numerous cases, providing valuable insights into their recognition and enforcement. Some notable cases include:

  • Brogden v. Metropolitan Railway Co. (1877): This case involved a dispute over a contract for the supply of coal. The court held that the parties’ conduct, including the delivery and acceptance of coal, constituted a tacit contract, despite the absence of a formal written agreement.
  • Re Charge Card Services Ltd. (1986): The court considered the existence of a tacit contract between a credit card company and its cardholders. It was held that by using the credit card, the cardholders had entered into a tacit contract, agreeing to repay the amounts charged.
  • G Percy Trentham Ltd v Archital Luxfer Ltd (1993): This case involved a construction contract where the court recognised the existence of a tacit contract based on the parties’ conduct and the performance of work.

Legal Framework and Statutory Provisions

British law provides a framework for the recognition and enforcement of tacit contracts through various statutory provisions and legal principles. Key statutes include:

  • Sale of Goods Act 1979: This Act implies certain terms in contracts for the sale of goods, including terms related to the quality and fitness of goods. These implied terms can apply to tacit contracts for the sale of goods.
  • Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982: This Act implies terms into contracts for the supply of goods and services, including terms related to the quality of services and the reasonable time for performance. These provisions can also apply to tacit contracts.
  • Consumer Rights Act 2015: This Act provides comprehensive protection for consumers, including implied terms in contracts for goods, services, and digital content. While it primarily applies to explicit contracts, its principles can inform the interpretation of tacit contracts in consumer transactions.

Implications for Businesses and Individuals

Understanding tacit contracts is crucial for both businesses and individuals, as they frequently arise in everyday transactions. Key implications include:

  • Business Transactions: Businesses must be aware of the potential for tacit contracts in their dealings with customers, suppliers, and employees. Ensuring clear communication and documentation can help mitigate the risks associated with tacit contracts.
  • Consumer Rights: Consumers should be aware of their rights and obligations in transactions that may give rise to tacit contracts. Understanding the principles of implied terms and consumer protection can help ensure fair treatment.
  • Employment Relationships: Employers and employees should be mindful of the potential for tacit contracts in ongoing working relationships. Clear employment contracts and policies can help clarify terms and avoid disputes.
  • Professional Services: Professionals providing services without formal agreements should recognise the potential for tacit contracts and ensure that terms and expectations are clearly communicated to clients.


Tacit contracts play a vital role in contract law, reflecting the dynamic and often informal nature of everyday transactions. While they present certain challenges and limitations, their recognition and enforcement are essential to ensuring fairness and justice in contractual relationships. By understanding the principles and legal framework governing tacit contracts, businesses, individuals, and legal professionals can navigate the complexities of these agreements and uphold their rights and obligations under British law.

Tacit Contract FAQ'S

A tacit contract is an agreement that is implied by the actions or conduct of the parties involved, rather than being explicitly stated in writing or verbally.

A tacit contract is formed when the parties involved behave in a way that suggests they have mutually agreed to certain terms and conditions, even though those terms were not explicitly discussed or agreed upon.

Yes, tacit contracts are legally binding, just like explicit contracts. As long as there is evidence to support the existence of the agreement, such as the actions or conduct of the parties involved, a tacit contract can be enforced in court.

Examples of tacit contracts include situations where a person receives a service and pays for it without explicitly discussing the terms of the agreement, or when a person enters a store and makes a purchase without signing a written contract.

Yes, a tacit contract can be proven in court through evidence such as witness testimony, documentation of the parties’ actions or conduct, and any other relevant information that supports the existence of the agreement.

A tacit contract can be revoked or canceled if both parties agree to do so, or if there is a valid legal reason for terminating the agreement, such as a breach of contract or fraud.

If the terms of a tacit contract are unclear, a court may interpret the agreement based on the actions and conduct of the parties involved, as well as any other relevant evidence.

Yes, a tacit contract can be modified if both parties agree to change the terms of the agreement. It is important to have any modifications in writing to avoid misunderstandings or disputes.

If you believe you have entered into a tacit contract and have concerns about the terms or enforcement of the agreement, it is advisable to seek legal advice to understand your rights and options.

To avoid unintentionally entering into a tacit contract, it is important to clearly communicate your intentions and expectations in any business or personal interactions, and to seek written agreements whenever possible to avoid misunderstandings.

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This site contains general legal information but does not constitute professional legal advice for your particular situation. Persuing this glossary does not create an attorney-client or legal adviser relationship. If you have specific questions, please consult a qualified attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.

This glossary post was last updated: 10th June 2024.

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