The Anatomy of Contracts: Distinguishing Valid, Void, and Voidable

Void Ab Initio Agreement

A void ab initio agreement, a Latin term meaning “void from the beginning,” indicates that a contract was null and void at its inception. This renders the parties legally unbound by the agreement’s contents, as the contract was never valid. However, there are some exceptions. This type of agreement is inherently non-binding because it lacked legal validity from the outset. Article sourced from


Examples that can make a contract void ab initio, meaning void from the beginning, include, but are not limited to:

– Fraud: For instance, if the company managing your home loan fails to disclose that they are not actually providing you with funds, but are instead leveraging your credit.
– Deceit: Situations where the company handling your loan or credit account engages in deceitful practices.
– Inadequate Disclosure: This encompasses both fraud and deceit, as well as any other forms of insufficient disclosure. If key information is not properly revealed, the contract is considered void ab initio, or void from the start.


Impossibility of Performance

In contract law, unforeseen events may arise that hinder or prevent the fulfillment of contractual obligations, a situation referred to as impossibility of performance. Governed by the doctrine of frustration, this leads to the contract’s dissolution, with parties responsible for costs related to its discharge and termination, distinguishing it from void ab initio contracts.


Valid Contract

A legally enforceable agreement is a valid contract. It obligates one party to act or refrain from acting in a certain way, as stipulated in the contract. Non-compliance can lead to court-ordered remedies. For instance, if you fail to grant land access to a buyer after a sale, you may face legal action for payment recovery.


Void Contract

A void contract is unenforceable and creates no legal obligations for either party. Characteristics include:

– Lack of legal enforceability.
– Absence of legal rights or obligations.
– Possible illegality or contravention of public policy.
– No necessity for compensation to either party.
– Potential invalidity due to duress.
For example, a contract becomes void if one party, like a vendor, passes away, releasing both parties from legal obligations and necessitating the return of any benefits received.


Voidable Contract

A contract is voidable if one party has the choice to invalidate it. Key features include:

– Optional enforceability by one or more parties.
– Possible influences like undue pressure, misrepresentation, coercion, or fraud.
– Entitlement to compensation upon rightful contract revocation.
– The option to void the contract for the party whose consent was compromised.
For example, discovering a vehicle’s misrepresented condition allows you to nullify the purchase contract, ensuring a refund and freedom from the obligation to buy.

Cancelling a voidable contract requires timely action and proof of misrepresentation, coercion, or fraud. Failure to prove these may uphold the contract.


Unenforceable Contract

A contract becomes unenforceable if the court deems it invalid due to formal deficiencies or technical issues.


Invalid Contract

This term encompasses various reasons a contract may be unenforceable, including illegal promises, fraud, inadequate consideration, and duress.

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