Breach of contract: your recourse

You’ve just signed a contract and find that the other party isn’t honouring its commitments? When negotiation is difficult, it’s best to contact a lawyer who will try to find common ground, or take the matter to court if necessary.

What does a contract entail?

A contract is created when two or more people agree to perform an act or service for each other. These contractors may be individuals, a group of people, or representatives of one or more companies. An unfulfilled contract may concern, for example, an employment contract, a service contract or a contract with a non-competition clause.

It is not always necessary to sign a contract to ensure its legitimacy; a simple verbal agreement or e-mail exchange may suffice. These are known as “unwritten contracts”. In addition, to be valid, certain contracts must be put in writing and signed by both parties: a contract drawn up between a consumer and a trader; a mortgage contract relating to real estate (signed before a notary).

What recourse do you have if you fail to meet your contractual obligations?

Several forms of recourse can be adopted in this situation:

Breach of contract: Remedy No. 1, formal notice

In the event of a breach of contract, it is advisable to consult a contractual lawyer. The first step is to send a formal notice. He will explain that you are entitled to claim compensation if the other party has refused to perform the contract according to the specified terms. Damages arising from this situation may form part of the claim, or your lawyer may decide to deal with them separately. If you still wish to maintain the contract, your legal advisor may suggest that you request a reduction in your commitments or a lowering of your rates.

Recourse no. 2, choose another person to do the work

If, for example, the other party has refused to provide the service or carry out the work required, you can have it carried out by another person and ask the other party to reimburse the expenses incurred. You’ll need to notify him first, giving him one last opportunity to honor his commitments. Talk to your lawyer to find out if you are entitled to do so under the circumstances. The law in Quebec states that “you must take the steps that a prudent and responsible person would have taken in the same circumstances not to aggravate your damages”.

Recourse no. 3: not fulfilling your own commitments

You can also refuse to assume your own commitments if the other party fails to meet theirs (under certain conditions). Your lawyer will be able to inform you of the risks involved in this decision, to help you avoid unfortunate consequences.

Remedy no. 4: terminate the contract

Certain conditions must be met. Your legal advisor has all the experience necessary to inform you.

Last resort: court action

If you have no choice but to take the case to court to settle the dispute, you should be aware that the court you have to go to depends on the amount involved. In the Court of Quebec, this can range from the Small Claims Division for small amounts to the Superior Court for larger sums.

NOTE : Cet article ne constitue pas un avis juridique. It is intended solely to inform readers of certain aspects of the law concerning unfulfilled contracts.