Signing leases online is a relatively new concept. In the past, people would have to put aside the time in the day to meet up with their tenants in person and sign a physical document. Now, all of that has all changed. People have the luxury of signing at their own convenience online, and can even sign the lease agreement from multiple states away. And although this service is still somewhat of a novelty (particularly among small-time landlords) it is becoming more and more pervasive, and increasingly expected, that tenants will be offered the use of online services. Many potential tenants, particularly younger ones, prefer the comfort and ease offered by landlords who have gone digital.
Is Signing Online Legal?
Many landlords, however, may feel some trepidation when it comes to moving their rental lease signing process online. They aren't sure if it's safe, legally-binding or affordable for their business. We can assure you that is is indeed all three of those things. In fact, we've helped over 2,500 landlords take their rentals online and sign their leases digitally.
Safe – with the standard for most website encryption already set at 128 bit encryption, any of your personal information is protected significantly better than a filing cabinet sitting in your home or office. This is especially true if you've been resorting to mailing or faxing copies of lease documentation back-and-forth.
Legally Binding – According to the Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act, enacted by Congress in 2000, digital signatures are as legally binding as written signatures. Here is a snippet directly from the act:
"(1) a signature, contract, or other record relating to such transaction may not be denied legal effect, validity, or enforceability solely because it is in electronic form; and (2) a contract relating to such transaction may not be denied legal effect, validity, or enforceability solely because an electronic signature or electronic record was used in its formation."
Affordable – with services such as Avail, customized online leases that have been legally-reviewed and can be signed electronically are as low as $99.
Should You Start Signing Electronically Now?
We're biased, but yes! Ultimately, change helps you stay ahead. As mentioned earlier, online lease signing and other digital services are becoming the new, standard way of doing business for landlords. Establishing yourself online early will help you get adjusted to the new technology, as well as position yourself ahead of competitors. Going online can really only mean good things for your business.
Still not convinced? Here's just a few ways that online lease signing can help both you and your tenant. We've also addressed any potential fears or concerns you may have about going online. Once you realize how much you have to gain from working online, making the switch will be a no-brainer.
You'll be a star landlord if you do what you can to make your tenants life easier. Digital lease signing is one way to do it. This is how it can make the difference:
- Save Time: Just as it will save time for you, it will save time for your tenant. Tenants will be able to review the lease and sign it on their own time. They won't have to take time out of their schedule to sign the lease, and can take the time to thoroughly review the lease on their own schedule. This ultimately helps you out, because an informed tenant will make their concerns known immediately. You can then make any necessary changes to your lease and cut off any number of problems before they happen.
- Easy Access to a Copy of the Lease: Savvy tenants will always want to keep a copy of the lease that they sign. By moving the portal online, they are able to have 24/7 access to their documents in a convenient format. Tenants will then be able to reference it moving forward, and you show that you have nothing to hide. Keeping these documents easily accessible will earn you brownie points in the eyes of your tenant. They'll also not have to bug you if they need a copy of the lease several months down the line.
- Save Distance: If moving in to your unit from out of state, or even out of the country, tenants can sign the lease virtually instead of having to be present. This convenience may make the difference between making these types of potential tenants into actual lessees. Even tenants that live close by will appreciate being able to sign the lease within the comfort of their homes.
- Smoother Move-In: Because tenants have been able to review the lease on their own time, they will completely understand the terms of the lease before the the move-in goes forward.
Addressing Common Concerns
So you've seen that there are a number of benefits for both lessor and lessee of moving your lease signing process online. But any longtime landlords would naturally be tentative about moving their business online, and even relatively new landlords who haven't established a way of doing business yet can have concerns. Mostly, it comes down to security and safety. It can be difficult to know whether or not your information online is secure, but these important concerns are addressed below:
- Is an online lease legal and binding? Yes, online leases are just as valid as paper and ink leases, and the signatures gotten online are as legally binding as if they had been done in person. If you still feel uncomfortable, you can always print out a hard copy of the signed lease for your records. Ultimately, the main concern is having the lease is in writing. While any verbal agreement has very little standing in a court, a written lease is legally binding.
- Is an online signature valid? Yes, whether signing in person or through an online portal, the signature is just as binding one way or the other. As long as the digital signature meets two requirements, you'll be all set: 1) must be attributable to the person doing the singing (i.e. linking the signature to a sign-on and email account lets a court know who actually signed the lease) and 2) cannot be edited or changed once signed (i.e. the data should be stored in a way where it cannot be overwritten or modified by anyone).
- How do I know the website is secure? When using online lease signing technology, be sure to do your research. You don't want to use a service with less than rigorous security measures. The service offered by Avail will be able to protect you and your information.Looks for a high level of data encryption, such as 128 or 256-bit encryption. If the website is at an "https" address, the site is pretty secure. The signing process should also be behind a sign-on/log-on so that other people cannot access your account. And obviously passwords and personal data should be encrypted.
- What happens if the website goes down? If you're using Avail, this shouldn't be a problem. It is very unlikely for online portals to go down. The only reason it would be out of commission is for maintenance, but this is relatively rare. More likely, if there are any difficulties with accessing the platform, problems are often coming from the user's end. General troubleshooting, such as checking your internet connection or restarting your computer, will solve many problems. Most online providers offer a high level of support. On Avail, you can chat live with a customer support person if you need additional assistance.
- How easy is it to use the system? Avail is made to be user-friendly. It is easy to learn and no-nonsense to use. Landlords are guided through the steps needed to create a customized lawyer-approved lease and then to set their tenant up to sign it. Tenants have it even easier. All they have to do is sign in and sign the lease.
- Do tenants ever have a problem with signing an online lease? Usually no. It depends on the tenant and their own level of technological literacy. But as technology becomes more and more prevalent, it becomes less and less of a fear. Younger or more technologically literate people in particular would see online portals as a useful tool. Nevertheless, even if they do have initial difficulties using the system, they are easily remedied after the first use and the tenant gets an understanding of how the website works. What's more, Avail offers 24/7 support for you and your tenant.