Changes to a contract, or a contract modification, can occur when one or both parties need or want to make adjustments to a legally-binding agreement. Such modifications can be made either in writing or verbally, and can be done prior to all of the involved parties signing the contract, or even after. Additionally, contract modifications can be applied to the contract in it’s entirety, or just to certain sections.

Any modifications that are made to a contract must be agreed upon by all of the involved parties, just as the initial contract needs to be agreed upon by all parties. Assuming that all parties are in agreement, then the modifications will be enforceable by law, just as the original contract itself would be. However, if there are parties who are not in agreement to the modifications, then it may not be possible to enforce said modifications.

Reasons for Contract Modifications

There are any number of reasons as to why one or more parties may want to make changes to a contract. Some of these reasons include:

  • Extend the length of the contract
  • Change the duration of the contract
  • Alter certain requirements under the contract, such as the number of items being requested
  • Change certain terms within the contract, such as payment date, amount, dates by which goods and services are to be received, etc.
  • Add or subtract terms within the contract

Additionally, there are other circumstances under which a contract may be modified. In fact, in some cases, by signing the original contract, you may be agreeing to future contract modifications. For example, your mortgage lender may have included language in the contract giving them the right to change your interest rate down the road. By having signed that contract, you are agreeing to potential future contract modification.

When Can Contract Modifications Occur?

Modifications to a contract can essentially take place at any time, assuming that all parties are in agreement, although it is easier to make modifications before the contract has been signed. Additionally, provided that the modifications being made are relatively minor (and, all parties involved are okay with this), the changes can even be handwritten on the original contract, and then dated and initialed by the individuals involved. If the changes being made are larger in scope, thus potentially changing the overall integrity of the agreement, it is best to have a new contract drafted, which will then be reviewed and signed by the parties involved.

Some initial contracts may include language regarding the process to follow, should modifications need to be made. If that is the case in your contract, then you and the applicable parties will need to ensure that those protocols are being followed in order to ensure that the modifications are enforceable.

Just as there are things to consider and look out for, when you sign an initial contract, you will want to keep some things in mind before agreeing to, or signing, any contract modifications, including:

  • Do any of the provisions being proposed feel, to you, at all unfair or biased?
  • Are your suggested modifications (if you have any) being included, or at least discussed?
  • Is the wording of any modifications clear to you; are you clear on the proposed changes?
  • Have you already begun working on meeting the terms and conditions of the original contract, and if so, will these modifications put you in a tough spot with continuing to uphold your end of the agreement?
  • Are you prepared for multiple rounds of contract negotiations, should all parties not be in agreement to the initial modifications that are proposed?
  • Is the new contract, or the modifications, still in accordance with the contract laws of your state?

Just as you may want to seek legal counsel before signing a contract, it is advisable to do the same when it comes to making contract modifications, as there are any number of variables to consider.

When Can Contract Modifications Not Be Made?

While there are plenty of times in which you may make modifications to a contract, there are also those times in which it may not be legally permissible. The most obvious among these are if the initial contract contains language that clearly states that modifications cannot be made. Provided that the contract is not in violation of contract law, then all parties will be expected to honor the terms and conditions.

If you need help with making changes to a contract, you can post your legal need 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.