Can I keep a deposit if there was no written contract?

UPDATED: Nov 4, 2011

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Can I keep a deposit if there was no written contract?

I run a building that rents its space for weddings. A bride sent email confirmation in 11 months ago that she wanted to book our space for her wedding day next year. A contract was mailed but I never received a signed copy back, just her deposit, which was received 9 months ago by credit card. Now, the bride has e-mailed to say she wants to cancel and wants her deposit back. Our contract does state that all deposits are non-refundable. She says since she didn’t sign the contract her deposit should be returned. I say that the deposit is a verbal contract and I can keep it.

Asked on November 4, 2011 under Business Law, Maryland


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

If you provided her the contract--with the terms that the deposit is nonrefundable--prior to her sending in the deposit, or otherwise can prove that you made her aware that the deposit was nonrefundable prior to her sending it in, then you can keep the deposit. As long as she was aware of the terms and conditions--including, most importantly, the nonrefundability--prior to sending the deposit, she is subject to those terms. She cannot use her refusal to actually sign the contract to get out of her lawful obligations. So if she knew the deposit was nonrefundable prior to sending it, but chose to send it anyway, it will be nonrefundable.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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