Written Documents and Signatures
Certain types of contract will only be legally binding and effective if in writing and signed, e.g. a contract for the sale or other disposition of an interest in land. Other types of contract, referred to as Deeds, may need not only be in writing and “signed” but also to comply with other additional formalites to be enforceable.
Contracts do not need to be on paper or signed by means of “wet ink” in the traditional sense. In these cases, a document in electronic form is still in “writing” and an electronic signature is still a “signature”.
Therefore an exchange of emails can amount to a binding contract for various types of transaction. As an example, it is even possible that, in relation to a real property sale, a chain of emails between solicitors can amount to a legally binding contract.
This means that it is easy to enter into a binding contract inadvertently. You might in fact not have intended to do so because, for example, you have not yet reached agreement on all terms or have not set out all of the terms in the emails. For tips on how to avoid such an unintended consequence, please see Guidance Note: Electronic Signature of Deeds and Contracts under "Related Documents" below.