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Bill Of Sale – Definition and Examples

In simple terms, a bill of sale is a piece of documentation which is created to record the ownership of an item of property, in a similar way to a receipt from a merchant. A bill of sale will not be needed when services are being purchased. In a case in which a service such as content production or interior design is being purchased, the paperwork in question will need to be a general contract for services. A bill of sale will not be needed for merchant payments.  

The items which can be sold using a bill of sale include vehicles such as cars or motorbikes, items of furniture, electrical devices and indeed any personal items which are being purchased by a private individual. It should be borne in mind that residential property can’t be sold using a bill of sale, and also that other items need their own specific bill of sale. A vehicle which is being sold, for example, will need to be supplied with a custom-made bill of sale which includes vehicle specific information such as the model of the vehicle, its registration and a valid Vehicle Identification Number (VIN).   

Why you might need to fill out a bill of sale

A bill of sale provides tangible evidence of the sale being recorded when goods are being purchased from a private individual. A bill of sale could therefore be used to avoid disputes over the sale in the future or, if any disputes do arise, to form the basis of an agreement. When an item is being purchased from a private individual it probably won’t come with a warranty or guarantee, and a bill of sale can be used in place of such safeguards, in order to establish when the item or items in question were purchased. 

Protections offered by a bill of sale

One of the provisions of any bill of sale is that it states that the items in question are being purchased ‘sold as seen’. This provision ensures that there will be no dispute in the future over the condition of the items when they are purchased. Stating, on the bill of sale, that the items are sold ‘as seen’ means that the seller is protected in the future if the buyer has any problems or issues with the goods. This means, in some cases, that if the seller has sold a motor vehicle and the vehicle then breaks down as it is being driven away, the seller will – thanks to the bill of sale – not be liable for the cost of repairs or damages caused by the breakdown.

Provisions included in a bill of sale

The provisions included in any bill of sale will need to include the following:

  • The identities of the buyer and seller

  • The nature of the items being sold and a more detailed description of them

  • The price for the goods which has been agreed between both parties

  • The date on which the sale is made

  • The condition the items are in.

Bill of sale history

The concept of the bill of sale has been a part of UK common law since the Middle Ages. In that era, they were more likely to be used as contracts in commercial operations, such as within the shipping industry. This changed in the Victorian era when ordinary people began to amass ownership of more personal goods, and buying and selling those goods became more frequent, which called for an agreed form of protection for buyers and sellers.   

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