You may remember the disembodied voice floating out from the computer saying, “You’ve got Mail!” It was an exciting time to receive a new-fangled “electronic mail”—or “e-mail” as it came to be known; you opened it right away in eager anticipation. Of course, now we treat e-mail as standard communication, as beset with junk mail as former snail-mail was.
The law often takes time to catch up to modern technology. We still require mailing documents, when e-mails are faster, cheaper and expedient. We require publishing notices in newspapers (people didn’t read the legal notices when they DID buy newspapers, even less when reading the paper on their phone), or posting notices on doors.
Within landlord/tenant law, the Michigan legislature has taken a step toward understanding and utilizing modern technology. Landlords are now allowed to provide initial notices to tenants by e-mails under the new law going into effect August 2015.
However, landlords must still carefully follow the law, and avoid the obstacles within.
First, the notice must still be in document form. It cannot be a one-line e-mail listing the rent owed. We would recommend utilizing the Approved Forms and converting them to .pdf or other means universally available for reading and/or printing.
Second, the tenant must consent in writing to service by electronic means. Very few (if any) current leases contain the requisite language necessary for tenant consent. We recommend now is a great time to update the lease language to include such consent and allow proper notice to the tenant. Be aware, landlords cannot force tenants to consent and the wording should be carefully prepared to avoid being a requirement.
But what about existing leases? Most leases allow for amending the lease terms, and this would be an excellent opportunity to clean up any lease language, and include the electronic consent.
Third, we strongly recommend obtaining numerous e-mails. Think about how many e-mail accounts you have or had in your life–5 or 6? 10 or 20? We want the tenant to be informed immediately; not to send it to an abandoned, little-used e-mail. And after the lease is signed—send an e-mail! Make sure it is spelled correctly; have it confirmed with a response.
Our firm has reviewed thousands of leases and is well-versed in the pitfalls, requirements and benefits available under the landlord/tenant law in Michigan. Take this opportunity to modify your lease, verify it conforms to the laws—including the new electronic consent law—and save yourself the headaches, costs and labor resulting from inadequately worded leases.
Call us today for assistance.