Promise to make gift is not enforceable

Q. I recently moved into a new apartment. The apartment pays a referral fee. I told them my friend referred me. My friend actually did not refer me, but I knew he lived in the complex. When I told my friend he was going to get the money, he agreed to split it with me. Now he refuses to share. Can I take him to small claims court?

A. In my opinion, you do not have any basis for a lawsuit. Your friend promised to give you a gift. He simply agreed to share his money with you. Such promises are not enforceable.

As a general rule, for a promise to be enforceable it must be a contract. To be a contract, the promise must have what the law calls “consideration.” This means that there must be something given in exchange for the promise. For example, a promise to pay for something you will receive, or in exchange for another person’s promise to do something is an enforceable contract. If your friend had said, “If you tell them I referred you, I will split the money with you,” his promise would be enforceable. He asked for something in return for his promise. On the other hand, his promise to share money was not given in exchange for any action on your part, and, therefore, was an unenforceable promise to make a gift.