What's the simplest form of promissory note?

Pretend, if you will, that I’m renting a house but am not on the lease. Pretend also that for entirely honorable reasons, my housemate who is on the lease effing ripped me o–ahem, failed to pay last month’s rent and is now attempting to abscond–I mean depart the area without paying this month’s rent, leaving me to negotiate a new lease with the landlord.

After hypothetically consulting with legal advisors I am led to believe that I am likely not personally liable for any of the considerable mess this fellow has created, but there is the possibility that I may need to establish some facts with my landlord, one of which is that I, at least, pay my damned rent.

It has been suggested to me that rather than hoisting the bastard by his own petard for grand larceny, I can quietly solve the problem by having him sign and notarize a promissory note stating the amount he owes me. Since my friend is of a considerably… skittish… frame of mind right now, I would like to present him with the simplest, most straightforward document I can give him.

In other words I need to create an entirely legal document that isn’t littered with legalese. Can you please provide some suggestions where I might find some examples of promissory notes which do not resemble this?

As this is a highly personal hypothetical question, I am reticent to discuss futher details. And as always, thank you in advance for your assistance.

In the simplest form I can think of a promissory note needs nothing more than:

That’s about all there is to a legal promise to pay. Of course, there is no detail on when it must be paid by and remedies if he doesn’t pay and so on but that’s a legal document.

Of course, even simpler could be a verbal contract. Have two other people present and extract a promise form him to pay a specific amount. The witnesses can back you up in court and a verbal contract is legal (albeit harder to enforce).

Of course, IANAL but I seem to recall that Howard Hughes was fond fo writing checks on the backs of napkins. Obviously most people would not accept this as payment but what I read did mention that it was an enforceable document and given that Howard Hughes wrote it he probably had the means to back-up his promise.

Wow, thanks, Whack-a-Mole. That is a simple document.

Jesus, this is wrong legal answer day for some damn reason. Whack-a-Mole, the OP can WAG himself if that’s all he wanted. If you don’t know the answer then please wait patiently for the arrival of someone who does.

One form of a simple promissory note is as follows:

<s> in the above means signature. And there ya go.

It sure is simple, but just as sure is not a promissory note.

I know I’m being a little fussy about this, but it’s really obnoxious.

Okay, fair enough. I looked around some more and did find one online which I have adapted somewhat.

What do you think of this:

On this date of October 8, 2003, in return for payment of my rent for the months of September, 2003 and October, 2003, I, Skittish Rogue, owe Sofa King the sum of $My@ss.

Skittish Rogue
Signed in the presence of:


No, dude, what you wrote is not a promissory note (at least within the meaning of the UCC, which I’ve assumed thus far is what you’re talking about).

It has to be an unconditional promise to pay a certain sum of money on a certain date that’s signed by the obligor. Saying “I owe you a dollar” is different than saying “I promise to pay you a dollar by this friday.” The first one is just an acknowledgement of a debt while the second one is a promise to do something.

This whole thing is probably moot though because you probably don’t need something that is a promissory note within the meaning of Articles 3 and 4 of the UCC (because it’s not like you’re going to transfer it to anyone else; I wouldn’t pay a cent for the damn thing). But just for contract purposes it’s better for him to actually promise to do something by a specific day than just say “I owe you money.” So what if he owes you money? He could go to his grave owing you that money and never be in violation of that document.

Just add “in return for payment of my rent for the months of September, 2003 and October, 2003” to what I wrote above so we can all get on with our lives. :smiley:

Yes…you are being fussy and it happens you are the one who is being obnoxious.

To double check I called my father who is an attorney (contract law among a few other things with 50 years of experience) and read him my version of the ‘promissory note’ and asked if it was legally binding. He said it absolutely was. I asked him that since it didn’t specify a date when the IOU had to be paid by did that limit its effectiveness? He replied that in the absence of a pay by date the court assumes it must be paid immediately (or whenever the bearer calls in the debt).

Maybe my version is not technically a ‘promissory note’ but is is a legally binding contract which is what the OP wanted. Your version is a little more specific (as to when it will be paid) but mine is more open ended in favor of Sofa King which is good for him. Either your version or mine would allow Sofa King to go to court and collect.

As such my version is perfectly fine.

After posting I saw what you just read.

The OP did indeed ask for a promissory note and it would appear that what I suggested did not have the appropriate form to be a “promissory note”. Nevertheless I think what I provided would get the job done just fine for the purposes described in the OP. If anything the other guy (not Sofa King) is the one who should demand a proper promissory note be drawn up as it protects him more than my example document.

Err…make that, “…saw what you just wrote.”

Sofa King, if it hasn’t been mentioned already, you really, really want some sort of due date for the money owed. Otherwise all you have is an admission of debt without any agreed upon schedule of payment. A pink slip or some other form of collateral is strongly advised as well. Otherwise, bend over and kiss your cassh goodbye.

Not to mention, that if all you have is an IOU, what you also have is an argument about when the debt is due and payable. Sure, you can argue that it’s intended to be “pay on demand,” as WHACKAMOLE’s father indicates is the general legal rule, but there is still room for an argument between the parties regarding their intent for the time of payment – in other words, he can say “But SOFA KING told me I didn’t have to pay him until 2010!”

It’s always a better idea to have a date payment is due, and for the promise to pay to be unconditional, no ifs ands or buts about it – in other words, a true promissory note. Which is what the OP’er asked for.

With all due respect to WHACKAMOLE, non-lawyers generally shouldn’t answer legal questions because their answers may be only slightly wrong, as in this case, or they may be way wrong. (And I notice you didn’t ask your dad until after giving your not-100%-correct answer and being challenged on it.) This is also why no one should ever rely on legal advice they get off a message board on the internet.

I agree with Taxguy and Jodi.

(and although this wouldn’t fully comport with the OP’s mandate to avoid anything that might scare the deadbeat off, I offer the following add-ons: 1) This debt shall bear interest at a rate of 10% per year in the event it becomes overdue. 2) If Deadbeat defaults, OP shall be entitled to recover his costs of collection from Deadbeat, including reasonable attorneys’ fees. 3) This note is given in exchange for a contemporaneous payment of Deadbeat’s present month’s rent obligation by OP, which rent payment Deadbeat acknowledges that OP has made as of this date.

As (3) potentially presents negotiability problems, I’d only include it if the OP suspects that Deadbeat might file bankruptcy. As the Cubs are on, and as it’s kinda complicated, I’m going to dodge any explanation of preferences under bankruptcy law, except to say that even this language might not avoid the finding of a preference by a bankruptcy court, but it’s worth a shot.

Disclaimer I’ve included in other posts incorporated here. Short version: I’m not your lawyer. Don’t rely on anything I say.

Whack-a-Mole, that was the funniest couple of posts I read all day. You called your daddy? Now that’s just precious.

“. . . I like posting cuz posting is fun so I posted a post on the posting board. And it was fun.”

I’m torn. On the one hand, TG’s evisceration of someone who challenges what a knowledgeable professional says based upon hearsay strikes a chord (and made me laugh), but WAM isn’t far off, and some of his GD posts on legal issues have been extremely balanced and well-considered.

Actually I called an attorney who is practiced in this field of law. That attorney also happens to be my father. I wasn’t going to pay $350/hour to have this question answered. That you poke fun at me for finding a credible source (in the best ideals of the SDMB) is odd. Even more odd when you take me to task for not being an expert and then I bother to go out and find one. I’m not going to roll over and play dead for you or bow to the “All Great and Powerful TaxGuy” (just don’t look behind the curtain).

Sofa King did indeed ask for a promissory note and what I suggested was not the proper form of a promissory note. However, I read his post more to mean he sought a method to hold someone legally responsible for a debt and do so in the simplest and least threatening manner possible which is what I provided. Jodi noted its lack of a “pay by” date could be troublesome and if you look at my first post you will see that I mentioned this very thing. Further, I did not pull my example completely out of my ass. I had in fact asked my father in the past what constituted a legally binding written contract for a debt and what he told me is what I provided as an example (dated, payor, payee, amount, signature). That legal documents are generally written in much greater length and detail is precisely to avoid the confusion and problems of unanswered details that can arise from such a simplistic document. Personally I think that is self-evident (and even hinted at this in my first post) but Sofa King was asking for the “simplest” document possible which what I provided is. My only real mistake was calling it a promissory note.

Finally, I did stipulate in my first post that I am not a lawyer which I believe most people view as a nod to the fact that the poster is not claiming to be an expert (in legal matters) and thus the advice given should be taken with a grain of salt at the least. Further, I think Sofa King has been around long enough to know the perils of legal advice from a message board.

If we head down the road TaxGuy seems to imply as the appropriate course of responding on this board absolutely no one should respond to a question unless they can claim expert status in the field the question covers. Frankly I think it’d become a pretty dull message board at that point but that’s just me.