RENT Magazine Q3 '22

Is texting or emailing a tenant legally binding? Remember the fax machine? It was an innovative marvel of communication when it came out. Fast forward 50 years, and it is all but extinct. While technology advances at a rapid pace, the law does not necessarily follow suit. Currently, texting or emailing are not authorized methods of service of just about any legal notice to tenants in most states. And proper service is paramount in landlord/tenant disputes. Lawsuits are lost solely because a notice was improperly served. Notwithstanding the above, some local jurisdictions may permit service of certain notices by email. For example, both San Francisco and Oakland have landlord/tenant ordinances that authorize service of certain locally required notices by email, but not by text.

A landlord should always determine the proper method of service before serving a notice. Unfortunately, text or email will most likely not be proper. Notwithstanding the above, landlords and tenants may communicate by text or email. These are the most common methods of communication these days. A rental agreement may even provide for such communications. And these communications may be legally used in landlord/tenant disputes just the same as an old-fashioned mailed letter could be used. So, texts and emails are not without utility in the landlord/tenant relationship. Just don’t rely on them for legal service of most notices.

Steven C. Williams Attorney and Partner Fried, Williams & Grice Conner (415) 421-0100

What am I allowed to require of a California rental applicant? I have a rental applicant that refuses to provide me with any identification, can I decline them for a rental or ask for bank statements or utility bills in their name?

If you don’t get a driver’s license or California ID or passport that is current and has a photo from a prospective tenant, that is a red flag for fraudulent identity or the tenant is not being truthful in the application process. They need to provide that so you can run a credit check also. You should get bank statements as a second form of identification, but mainly to show they have the money in the bank to pay rent consistently. They also need to financially qualify. It is permissible to get 3 months of bank statements, pay stubs, and

picture ID that is current and not expired, and to run a credit check. The photo ID is important to prevent identify theft, and to ID someone if there is an emergency. Check the picture ID. If it looks off or taped or tampered with that could be sign of identity theft or fraud being committed in the application process.

Nate Bernstein, Esq. Managing Counsel LA Real Estate Law Group (818) 383-5759


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