Message to landlords: don’t text tenants

Electronic memos can sometimes constitute a contract, attorneys say

TRD New York /
Jun.June 24, 2014 03:32 PM

The landline is nearly a thing of the past, and that means landlords are increasingly sticking to cellphones – and text messages — to communicate with tenants. But despite the flippancy with which we all text, those messages can carry more legal weight than you might expect.

Although rules for what constitutes a contract between landlord and tenant differ from state to state, Centennial, Colorado-based attorney Christopher Leroi, told that they can sometimes be binding.

“A text or email can be a contract if there is an offer and an acceptance by both parties,” Leroi told AOL. He added, however, that it isn’t advisable for a landlord to serve notice of a rent increase via text.

If a landlord texts to offer a benefit, such as snow removal or cleaning, it probably isn’t legally binding, attorney Peter Kirner of Cleveland, says.

“Generally a lease will be looked at between the four corners of the document, meaning what is specifically ON your lease. If snow removal — or any other service — is not in there, then it is not a duty.”

And specifically in New York City, a landlord cannot evict tenants by text message, or tell them to vacate.

“The controlling New York statute does not allow for a text message,” New York landlord/tenant attorney Steven Smollens said. “It requires a written notice as well as ‘service’ in the same manner as an actual landlord and tenant lawsuit. This statute is only for New York City and is directed at how a New York City landlord may terminate a month-to-month tenancy.” [AOL]Christopher Cameron

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