If your economic circumstances have changed because of the recession, don’t breach your contracts (joint venture agreements, leases, car loans, mortgages, etc.). You can almost always negotiate a better deal with the other party instead.
Here’s why. Most people prefer something over nothing. If agreeing to better terms keeps you from walking away from a deal, realists will cut that deal if there’s not a better alternative.
Contrary to popular belief, price and terms can be renegotiated after a deal is signed. But you need some leverage to get what you want. The other side must believe that you’re willing to walk on the deal (or even go bankrupt) unless the terms of the deal are changed.
You can still create a win-win relationship with a new deal that reflects current reality in contrast with the way things were when the original deal was signed. If the other side doesn’t want to decrease price, for example, you can propose to extend the payment term (and pay additional interest over that term).
If you’re looking at having long-term ongoing relationships, don’t try to renegotiate a deal unless you’re truly in a bind. If you’re trying to pull a fast one now, the other party is unlikely to trust you in the future.