Are Text Messages a Legally-Accepted Form of Notifications?

Are Text Messages a Legally-Accepted Form of Notifications?

Today, tenants and landlords alike tend to use their cell phones as a primary form of communication. The quick and convenient nature of texting has caused its rise to prominence within the property management industry. However, the frequent use of this communication channel, brings to light an important question; is the nature of this form of communication considered legitimate notifications in a court of law?

Unfortunately, there is no straight answer to this question. Essentially, the validity of text messages depends on whether or not it counts as a written notification. Specifically, it depends on the terms of the contract between the landlord and tenant. Some contracts may require that tenants are sent notifications by mail, in which case any form of electronic communication would not be considered a valid form of notification. However, in many cases, text messages are indeed considered valid. As text messages are physically written by one party, there are a few questions that can help determine the validity of text message notifications. For instance;

  • Have you and your tenant communicated by text before?
  • Are you sure the text message has been received by the tenant?
  • Does this instance require other formal documentation or legally binding contracts? (such as eviction notices or subletting contracts

Preventative Measures for Notifications

One preventive solution that serves to completely avoid debating whether or not text messages are considered a legally-acceptable written notification, is to simply have an initial discussion with your tenants to see if text messages between both parties will be considered as a legitimate form of communication , or asking for permission to record time, date, and contents of relevant text messages for recordkeeping purposes. By proactively discussing with stakeholders and having tenants sign a contract that acknowledges electronic communication mediums as a legally binding form of communication, this debate and corresponding issues can be avoided.

Overall, text messages may or may not be considered as valid in a court of law depending on the terms of specific contracts. If the terms of what is considered written notifications are not specified, the next logical step is to review communication history – particularly which communication channels have been previously used, and to assess the details of the specific situation at hand.