Unilateral Contracts: Our Easy Explainer of the Basics

Two business partners getting a contract in court

A contract is a legally binding agreement between two or more parties. It outlines the terms and conditions of an exchange of goods or services. In this Business Kitz blog, we will focus specifically on unilateral contracts. A unilateral contract is a type of contract in which one party extends an offer to another party, in exchange for the service or act that was requested in the agreement. This type of contract is often used in situations where one party wants to incentivise the other party to take a specific action.

What is a unilateral contract?

A unilateral contract is a legal agreement in which only one party makes a promise or undertakes an obligation. In this type of contract, the party making the promise is obligated to fulfill it if and when the other party performs a specified action or condition. The other party is not obligated to perform any action, and their failure to do so does not affect the validity of the contract.

For example, a reward offered for finding a lost item is a unilateral contract; the party offering the reward is obligated to pay it if someone finds the item, but the person finding the item is not obligated to search for it or claim the reward. The key characteristics of a unilateral contract include the fact that only one party is making a promise, and the other party is not obligated to perform any action until the first party has fulfilled their promise.

How do you establish a legally binding contract?

Establishing a legally binding contract involves four key elements that need to be fulfilled. Firstly, there needs to be an offer made by one party to another which outlines the terms of the contract. Secondly, the other party must accept this offer unconditionally. Thirdly, there must be consideration, meaning each party must offer something of value to the other, such as money or services. Lastly, there must be an intention to create legal relations between both parties. Once these four elements are met, a legally binding contract is formed, and both parties are obliged to fulfil their obligations, as per outlined in the contract.


The first element that makes a legally binding contract is the offer. An offer is a clear and definite promise or proposal made by one party to another. It must be specific in its terms, including the price, the subject matter, and the conditions of the contract. The offer must also be communicated to the other party, who can then accept or reject it. Once the offer is accepted, a binding contract is formed. If the offer is not accepted, it expires and cannot be revived. The offer is a crucial element in establishing a legally binding contract.


Acceptance is when one party agrees to the terms and conditions of the contract as outlined by the other party. It must be a clear and unambiguous acceptance of all the terms of the contract. Any modifications or changes to the original offer must be agreed upon by both parties. Acceptance can be communicated verbally, in writing, or even by conduct. It is essential to have acceptance for a contract to be legally binding and enforceable in a court of law.


A man signing a business contract

Consideration is the third essential element that makes a legally binding contract. It is the exchange of something of value between the parties, such as money, services, goods, or promises. Consideration shows that both parties have agreed to the terms of the contract and have received something in return. Without consideration, a contract is not enforceable in court. The amount or nature of consideration does not have to be equal or fair, as long as it is something of value to each party. Therefore, consideration is crucial in determining the validity of a contract.


Intention is a crucial element that makes a contract legally binding. It refers to the intention of the parties to create legal relations by entering into a contract. In order for a contract to be enforceable, the parties must be genuinely committed to being bound by its terms. This means that they must understand the nature and effect of the contract, and must intend to create legal obligations between them. If there is no intention to create legal relations, then there is no contract. Therefore, it is important to establish the intention of the parties when determining the validity of a contract.

Unilateral contract for small businesses

Unilateral contracts are an essential tool for small businesses to ensure the completion of specific tasks or delivery of goods. They work by outlining a clear set of instructions or obligations for one party, with no expectation of compensation until the completion of the required task. In essence, this type of contract is a promise made by one party in exchange for a future reward or benefit.

The power of unilateral contracts lies in their flexibility and ability to be customized to fit the unique needs of a small business. They can be used in a wide range of situations, from hiring freelancers to securing vendors for necessary materials. Additionally, they offer a layer of protection to the business owner, ensuring that the other party is committed to fulfilling their part of the agreement.

It’s important for small business owners to take the time to carefully draft their unilateral contracts, ensuring that all details are clear and concise. This will help to prevent misunderstandings or legal issues down the road, allowing the business to operate smoothly and efficiently. By using unilateral contracts, small businesses can build strong partnerships with other organizations and individuals, creating a foundation for long-term success.

Legal Advice

If you require assistance drafting your contracts or agreements Business Kitz has customisable templates and free customer support to make it easier for you! If you require legal advice, we recommend contacting our our sister company Legal Kitz. You can book a free 30-minute consultation with their experienced and highly qualified team via our website now.

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