AskDefine | Define unenforceable

Dictionary Definition

unenforceable adj : not enforceable; not capable of being brought about by compulsion; "an unenforceable law"; "unenforceable reforms" [ant: enforceable]

User Contributed Dictionary




  1. Resistant to enforcement.


Extensive Definition

An unenforceable contract or transaction is one that is valid, but which the court will not enforce. Unenforceable is usually used in contradistinction to void (or void ab initio) and voidable. If the parties perform the agreement, it will be valid, but the court will not compel them if they do not.
An example of a transaction which is an unenforceable contract is a contract for prostitution under English law. Prostitution is not actually a crime under English law, Although both soliciting a prostitute and living off the earnings of a prostitute are criminal offences but so long as the contract is fully performed, it remains valid. However, if either refuses to complete the bargain (either the prostitute after being paid, or the payor after receiving the service) then the court will not assist the disappointed party. Similarly under English law, a gambling contract is valid, but unenforceable (gambling contracts are sometimes said to be "binding in honour only"). If a bookmaker refuses to pay out on a bet, then the punter has no legal recourse. Not even for a return of his original stake.


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