1. What Is Assignment of Contracts?
2. How Do Assignments Work?
3. When Are Assignments Not Enforced?

What Is Assignment of Contracts?

Assignment of contracts is the legal transfer of the obligations and benefits of a contract from one party, called the assignor, to another, called the assignee. The assignor must properly notify the assignee so that he or she can take over the contractual rights and obligations. This can be done using a document called an assignment agreement, which allows you to protect your legal rights while transferring the contract.

An assignment agreement is appropriate for your needs if the following are true:

  • You want to transfer your contractual rights, responsibilities, and obligations to another individual or company.
  • You or your business is taking over a contract from another person or business.

The assignment agreement includes the names of the assignor and assignee, the name of the other party to the contract in question (known as the obligor), the contract's title and expiration date, whether the obligor needs to consent to the rights transfer based on the original terms of the contract, when the obligor consented, when the assignment agreement takes effect, and what state will govern the transferred contract. The assignment agreement may also be called the contract assignment, assignment contract, or assignment of contract.

While assignment contracts are typically only used for amounts of less than $5,000, you can assign a higher profit contract when both the buyer and seller agree. You cannot assign a contract if the original contract prohibits doing so. 

If you are assigning a contract, you may want to ask the obligor to sign a release, or waiver, agreement that releases you from contract liability. In addition to transferring rights and obligations, you can also use an assignment agreement to transfer an income stream to an assignee. However, when transferring rights to intellectual or personal property, it's best to instead use a trademark assignment, bill of sale, or assignment of trade name.

How Do Assignments Work?

The procedure for assigning a contract depends on the language of that contract. For example, some contracts may disallow assignment, while others may allow it only when the obligor consents.  In some cases, the assignor is not relieved of contract liability. This occurs when the original contract has a clause that guarantees performance regardless of assignment.

If you want to buy a contract, look for sellers in newspaper ads, online marketing, and direct mail. In most cases, it makes the most sense to use multiple strategies. For real estate contracts, make sure you conduct a title search on the property in question to make sure there are no liens. You can hire a title company or real estate attorney to ensure that a title is clean before signing an assignment contract.

After you sign the assignment contract, you have interest in the property and can sell it to an end buyer. Market the property through a dedicated website. Once you find a potential buyer, require an earnest money deposit. This is nonrefundable and allows you to make a profit whether or not the deal is successfully completed. If the deal is completed, the end buyer wires funds to cover the sale price of the property along with your stated fee. 

In some cases, you can make a profit just by referring a buyer to an appropriate property and taking a finder's fee. With this strategy, you assign your rights to the buyer, allowing them to close on the property, after which you receive your fee. This is a low-risk endeavor if you have detailed information on exactly what each buyer is looking for. You'll also need to  have the resources to locate great properties before they hit the market. With those two components, you'll be able to make money as a real estate investor without risking your own capital.

You can also close on the property yourself and immediately flip it to another investor.

When Are Assignments Not Enforced?

An assignment agreement is not enforced if the original contract contains a clause that prohibits assignment. If performance is affected, value is decreased, or risk is increased for the obligor, few courts will enforce the assignment. These circumstances are referred to as a material alteration in the contract.

Contract assignments are also prohibited by some state laws. In many states, an employee is prohibited from assigning future wages. Certain claims against the federal government are also prohibited from an assignment. Some assignments violate public policy rather than law, such as assignment of personal injury claims. This is not allowed because it could encourage litigation.

If you need help with assignment of a contract you can post your job on UpCounsel's marketplace. UpCounsel accepts only the top 5 percent of lawyers to its site. Lawyers on UpCounsel come from law schools such as Harvard Law and Yale Law and average 14 years of legal experience, including work with or on behalf of companies like Google, Menlo Ventures, and Airbnb.