Legal Memorandum: Valid Real Estate Leases in VA

Issue: Under Virginia law, in a lease for real estate, is e-mail considered a binding document?

Area of Law: Real Estate Law
Keywords: Real estate lease; Binding; Email
Jurisdiction: Virginia
Cited Cases: 151 S.E. 295; 153 Va. 746; 493 S.E.2d 512; 228 Va. 671; 254 Va. 514; 297 S.E.2d 647; 198 Va. 595; 100 Va. 275; 179 S.E.2d 466; 211 Va. 579; 200 S.E. 652; 325 S.E.2d 91; 95 S.E.2d 224; 219 S.E.2d 859; 384 S.E.2d 752; 360 S.E.2d 177; 40 S.E. 922; 105 S.E. 543; 611 F.2d 969; 266 S.E.2d 887; 172 Va. 111; 221 Va. 81
Cited Statutes: Va. Code § 11-2
Date: 02/01/2001

The Virginia Statute of Frauds, Va. Code § 11-2, provides that in order for a lease of real estate for more than one year to be enforceable, the “promise, contract, agreement, representation, assurance, or ratification, or some memorandum or note thereof” must be “in writing and signed by the party to be charged or his agent.”  Va. Code § 11-2 (2000).  Accordingly, if the agreement included a term of longer than one year, it may be subject to the statute. 

For leases that are subject to the statute, “some memorandum” of the agreement may suffice to satisfy the writing requirement.  See Va. Code § 11-2.  Although Virginia courts appear not to have yet addressed whether this requirement may be satisfied through e-mail exchanges,[1] the Virginia Supreme Court has held that when letters and telegrams[2] exchanged between the parties express all of the terms of an agreement, a binding contract is formed even when there is an understanding that the agreement should later be formally expressed in a writing.  See Chittum v. Potter, 216 Va. 463, 219 S.E.2d 859 (1975); Manss-Owens Co. v. H.S. Owens & Son, 129 Va. 183, 105 S.E. 543, 547 (1921) (“The whole question is one of intention.  If the parties are fully agreed, there is a binding contract, notwithstanding the fact that a formal contract is to be prepared and signed . . . .”); see also Rowland Lumber Co. v. Ross, 100 Va. 275, 40 S.E. 922 (1902) (early Virginia case stating that offer and […]

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