Real Estate Sales Contract – Nature and Mode of an Acceptance

Acceptance is the unconditional and unqualified assent of the offeree to all the terms of the offer. If the offeree alters the terms of the offer, his reply will be a counter-offer rather than acceptance. Acceptance may be written, oral or implied from the conduct of the parties. Though this concept is understood by most in essence, individuals looking to rent or lease Jamaica real estate apartments often accept an offer then never return thinking that there are no legal consequences.

Mode of Acceptance

The offeror may state that he wishes the acceptance to be communicated in a certain way, such as “by return of post” or in a certain place, or in a certain form, for example in writing. It is uncertain whether precise observance of these conditions is necessary in order to make the acceptance binding. The rules are as follows:

(i) The offeror may not impose silence as the prescribed method of acceptance.

(ii) If the offeror asks for acceptance in a prescribed way, the law takes the view that he must have some special object in view. If he asks for reply by “return of post” his object is usually to secure a speedy acceptance. Thus it seems that an acceptance which accomplishes that object just as well as, or better than, the stipulated method, will bind the offeror. If, therefore, the offeree returns his acceptance by telegram the offeror will be bound even though he requested acceptance by post.

(iii) If the offeror states that a reply must be sent by a certain prescribed way and that method only the acceptance will only be binding if the offeree complies with the condition. Very clear words are necessary before the courts will construe a mode of acceptance mandatory.

Note the following rules:

1. Communication of acceptance – Generally, an offer is not accepted until it is brought to the notice of the offeror, but there are exceptions to this rule:

(i) Acceptance by letter or telegram is usually complete as soon as the letter is posted or the telegram handed in (the “posting’ rule) even though it never reaches its destination.

(ii) In the case of instantaneous communications, for example, telex and telephone, the contract is only complete when the acceptance is actually received by the offeror or his agent. Thus if through a fault in the line the offeree goes on speaking but the offeror cannot hear him, no contract will result.

(iii) Unilateral contracts: This is where the offer takes the form of a promise to pay money in return for an act. In such circumstances the act will usually be deemed an adequate indication of assent.

(iv) If no particular method is prescribed, the form of communication will depend upon the nature of the offer and the circumstances in which it is made. Thus if an offer is made by telegram, it is evidence that the offeror intends an equally speedy form of acceptance and an acceptance by post will be ineffective.

2. Conditional Acceptance – A conditional assent of an offer does not constitute acceptance. Thus an acceptance which is made “subject to a formal contract being drawn up” is not effective until the condition has been fulfilled.

3. Tenders – If, for example, a person wishes a house to be painted or certain goods to be supplied, he may ask contractors or suppliers to submit estimates. These estimates, called tenders, are offers which may be accepted by the person requesting the tender.

It will become increasingly important in the future to sensitize the all the players in the Jamaica real estate market, including vendors, purchasers, landlords, tenants, mortgage companies, Jamaica real estate apartment agents, brokers and salesmen of the proper method of operating with respect to an offer and acceptance.