Electronic lease agreements provide convenient options for landlords who want to streamline the leasing process with soon to be tenants. Sending a lease agreement via email or through e-signature providers, like DocuSign for Rentec, eliminates the time-consuming process of printing a lengthy document and coordinating schedules to meet in person for the lease signing.
While sending a lease via email can save time, it is important that a landlord understands that emailing an electronic version of the lease to a tenant could pose some risks, if done so improperly. Mainly, never ever send a lease that is in a word doc format (for example, .doc, .docx) for a tenant to sign.
As one Reddit user found, word documents can be easily edited and returned to landlords.
“My lease came as a Word file instead of a PDF. I made a slight change before signing it.”
GloriousGherkins shared an image to Reddit and the picture sharing community Imgur last week that depicts a tenant addition to a lease that was sent for review as a word file.
The Birthday Cake clause included by the tenants states “Lessor shall provide birthday cake for Lessee(s) on weekend closest to their birthdays, which are June 7th and February 17th.”
GloriousGherkins added in the comments that “[the landlord] signed it after I made the change, and I am going to hold him to it.”
Posted on March 3, 2016, the viral image has already received 1,808 comments on Reddit and over 2.5 million views on Imgur.
Comments to the post include…
- “If I was a lessor and I had made this mistake… I would bake the cakes,” from RegularsizedRudy.
- “This is why I only use hard copy and watermarked paper,” from hitthee.
- “FWIW: If a tenant did that to me after I made a rookie mistake like that, I would probably honor it. If it were something major I’d probably point out that the alteration was made deceptively. It would be a curious day in court,” from Reddit user mattluttrell.
As Mattluttrell points out, issues of legality come to mind about the enforceability of the altered lease terms. One could argue that if the landlord signed the contract after the tenant made these terms, he is indeed agreeing to the Birthday Cake Clause. Both parties need to agree to the same terms of a contract in order for it to be valid. If a landlord had a hard copy of the original document, signed prior to the alteration, the Birthday Cake Clause would be invalid.
Luckily for the landlord, the tenants seem to have a sense of humor and did not alter the lease to remove important lease terms, like rent amounts, due dates, or rules of the property. A rental agreement is one of the most important documents and pieces of the landlord-tenant relationship. A lease agreement set forth legally enforceable terms of the landlord-tenant relationship. If the terms are not upheld, the lease can be considered void and can result in monetary fines, eviction and a negative rental history for the tenant.
Landlords are equally bound by the lease agreement they sign. If a landlord is found guilty of violating lease terms, tenants may withhold rent or move before a lease term ends. Lease violations are a serious issue; both tenants and landlords should consult an attorney familiar with landlord-tenant laws in your state before taking any measures such as withhold rent or moving forward with an eviction.
In the case of the Birthday Cake Clause, this whole situation could have been avoided if the landlord provided an electronic copy of the lease for the tenant to sign in an unalterable format. One of the best ways to ensure the integrity of a legal document is to send important forms via a verified electronic signature provider, like DocuSign.
Leading providers of electronic signatures services offer advanced authentication methods, like linking a signature to a password-protected account and email address to prove who signed the document. Record integrity is managed with hashing, encryption and secure retention and storage to ensure the document has not been altered.
For property managers and landlords, the easiest way to access electronic signatures for processing lease agreements online is through integrated features in your property management software. These programs ensure the best compliance and enforceability of your rental agreements in all 50 states.
Rentec Direct provides electronic signatures to fully automate online leasing for property managers and landlords through a partnership with DocuSign. DocuSign offers industry-leading levels of eSignature enforceability and that helps users comply with the U.S. federal ESIGN Act and UETA Act, as well as many other international laws and statutes.
With newly updated and advanced functions, landlords and property managers can create any type of document in the Forms Editor to send to tenants, owners and vendors to be electronically reviewed and signed.
Using secure electronic methods for online leasing like those offered in your property management software will help landlords stay efficient and effective property managers, and keep their birthday cake delivery at a minimum.