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When Can a Buyer Sue for Specific Performance?

In a typical contract dispute, the most common form of remedy is monetary damages, which is otherwise known as restitution. In certain situations, no amount of money can rectify the damage of a broken contract. In these unique scenarios, a buyer can sue the seller in the contract for specific performance. Specific performance is only allowed in specific contract situations, so it is important to understand when you can use specific performance as a means of remedy in your contract dispute. Speak with an attorney in your area to learn more today.

What is Specific Performance?

Specific performance is an equitable remedy and is used by the courts when monetary damages are not enough to remedy the legal dispute. Specific performance is only allowed by the courts for contracts pertaining to unique items that cannot have a monetary value properly attached, such as parcels of real estate, one-of-a-kind artwork, and other unique items. In these cases, the buyer can ask the court to force the seller to go through with the contract, known as specific performance.

As a buyer, in order to ask for the court to utilize specific performance in your contract dispute, the following elements must be present:

  • There is a valid and binding contract that can be enforced.
  • You must prove that monetary damages are inadequate relief to compensate you for the loss.
  • There is mutuality of obligation, which means that both parties have already undertaken steps to fulfill the terms of the contract.

Even if specific performance is included as a potential remedy in a contract, it is still up to the judge’s discretion as to whether the seller will be forced to go through with the terms of the deal. The buyer must prove to the judge that he or she performed his or her part of the contract and the seller remains able to continue performing his or her part, as well.

Suing for Specific Performance as a Buyer

The buyer is allowed to sue for specific performance if the seller refuses to move forward with her obligations under the agreed upon contract. This most often arises in real estate deals because the court considers every piece of land to be unique, and monetary damages are not adequate to remedy the situation if the deal falls through on one side. In order for a buyer to ask the court for specific performance in a contract, the buyer must tender the purchase price of the unique item or prove that proper financing exists in order to move the court to order specific performance on the part of the seller. The seller will then be forced to undertake their terms of the contract as well as pay any rents or monetary gains received by holding onto the unique item for longer than contractually allowed.

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