What’s the Difference Between Assignment and Novation?


There are similarities between an assignment and novation as they perform resembling actions in contract. However, there is a difference and we will identify that for you in this article.

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What is an assignment?

An assignment in contract is transferring an interest or benefit from one party to another. Likewise, there is no transfer of the burden (obligations) under the contract. Read more about What is an Assignment?

An example is where a holding company needs to perform a particular obligation and ask for the payment to a subsidiary company. The diagram below shows how this works.

What is a novation?

If you are looking to transfer the obligations of a contract as well as the benefits under it, you are talking about novation. It is similar to assignment because it transfers the benefits under a contract but also transfers the burden of a contract. Read more about What is Novation?

An example may be when two parties have a contract however one of the parties is involved in a takeover or sale of business. Therefore to prevent the contract lapsing there is a novation to substitute the new party in place of the departing party. The diagram below shows how this works.

Basic Differences

Only intangible rights are being transferredBoth rights & obligations are being transferred
Original contract remains unchangedOriginal contract is terminated
Not necessary to form new contractNew contract or deed must be made
No need to obtain consent from the other parties to the original contractConsent must be obtained from all parties to the original contract


As you have discovered that both an assignment or novation are similar in their executions but have different outcomes. Therefore, it is important to understand those differences. Moreover, assignment is a partial transfer (in respect to the rights of a contract) to a third party. A novation is a complete transfer of that contract (rights & burden) to another party. In both instances of transferring rights or obligations to a third party, consult a contract lawyer.

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