How do you communicate with your tenants-text vs. email vs.letter

20 Replies

Hi all,

Is text and/or email an acceptable way of discussing pending issues with your tenants? Or does any communication regarding rents, fees, utilities, etc. have to be done via mail? If for some reason you end up in court, would an email or a record of text conversation be enough proof that the tenant was made aware of a returned check for example?

I understand that most of you out there do not offer legal advice. I am just asking if any of you have a real life experience with this.

Thanks,

Ivan

I prefer texting for general discussion.  Anything legal like 3 day pay notices or lease violation notices I mail or hang a note on the door.  I would do whatever legally has to be done for those types of communication.

I agree 100% with Jacob.  Even old folks text nowadays.

    Official notices like pay or quit or other notices required by statute are sent via certified mail.  Otherwise, I text, email, or call. 

      For the specific reason of a returned check, I would call. If I can't resolve it immediately, I would send the certified letter and charge my returned check fee and add it to the rent.  That being said, I never, ever accept checks as payment.  Cash, certified funds,  or postal money orders if needed.  For rent, I take electronic payment. 

That depends on the nature of the correspondence.  Such as yesterday I texted a tennant to remind her that the plumber was going to be in the driveway all day while he worked in the basement.  However, today on a different property we sent out a letter to tennant to remind them not to pour cooking grease down the drain because it clogs the pipes and that is why their drains have been draining slow.

So the more important the correspendence the more of a paper trial you need.

Questions and quick answers are fine for texting.

If it is something that I NEED them to be aware of, I will always follow up the text conversation with an email.

Email serves as written communication and will hold up in court.

LEGAL notices should be mailed, return receipt requested. It can't hurt to follow up with an email as well.

Agree with @Max T. .  Calling and then text would be my last choices because with e-mail you have a copy in your sent-box that you can print out for proof.   Anything official post or mail.  With tenants who I have a good relationship with, I will call or send an e-mail along with posting...just as a courtesy if their rent is late or something so the posted notice won't seem so daunting.

From my perspective, I would appreciate if more landlords would choose a method that is easily documented and re-producible and stick with it. Failing to do something like that may cause evidentiary nightmares for the attorney you will inevitably have to hire when something goes wrong.

Note: Not intended to be legal advice or actionable educational material. If you need compliance tips, consult a local attorney for more information on what would be the best legal method of going about correspondence.

I always start with a text or phone call to discuss the issue.  This way things can't be miss read or taken out of context.  I do tell them I will be following up with and email to document. Think of it as meeting minutes.  Text messages wont hold up in court and a phone call is a "he said - she said" which wont hold up in court. 

I primarily email my tenants. If that doesn't work, then a phone call. I have a business number and never text my tenants, because I don't want them to have my cell number. If they have it, I get texts at all hours. My business line rings only during business hours, after that, it goes straight to voicemail.

There has only once been an emergency (dryer fire), and they called 911. Nothing I could have done about it anyway.

I usually text tenants and they text me back.  For legal notices I send via certified mail.

Originally posted by @Matthew Kreitzer :

From my perspective, I would appreciate if more landlords would choose a method that is easily documented and re-producible and stick with it. Failing to do something like that may cause evidentiary nightmares for the attorney you will inevitably have to hire when something goes wrong.

Note: Not intended to be legal advice or actionable educational material. If you need compliance tips, consult a local attorney for more information on what would be the best legal method of going about correspondence.

 do you have a disclosure statement when you say "good morning" to your neighbors as well? 

I was in eviction court once watching a case when the tenant presented print-outs of text messages regarding repair requests as evidence.  The judge accepted them, but he was a very accommodating judge.  The landlord won, but it wasn't because the tenant used texts as evidence.

I'm 29 years old, very much into technology, and I've never texted my tenants. I personally look at texting as unprofessional, but more importantly, I like a solid trail of evidence, aka email. If the situation warrants a phone call, I'll call them, and then follow up with an email. 

I've also been in property management for about 7 years and I have never once texted an owner of ours, or a tenant we're managing. It goes back to being professional.

Lastly, any legal notices need to be in compliance with your state's specific statutes. This means you'll probably be sending letters/notices via certified mail, and/or posting this letters on the front door of the property.

Encourage your tenants to use text and email whenever you can for general correspondence.

Any legal matters I hire lawyers.

@Ivan Ivanov I would definitely suggest having something in writing where the tenant agrees to any changes or issues you discussed. 

I use text for anything except legal stuff. Legal stuff should always be in a more substantial format - I was going to say paper format, but e-signatures are acceptable in courts today. I still print out old-fashioned paper leases and have genuine signatures on those. 

The nice thing about text, aside from convenience, is you don't have to remember what was said and you have a "paper trail" of communication. 

I may be over doing it and some of my thoughts my come from my age, there were no emails nor smart phones  when I became a landlord, but I keep a paper trail on all conversations with my tenants either by email or general and certified mail depending on the circumstances. I also run my company as a company and would not give my cell number to a tenant. They can call my office which after hours is forwarded to me through that number. I also do not reply directly to them after hours and leave the return call up to my staff or a contractor if repairs are needed. I have found that the further you personally distance yourself from your tenants the least problems you will have. I would say that less then 5% of my tenants know that I am the owner of the property because I shield that through our property management company which was formed for that reason.

Great question!  I'm in a personal hell right now with tenants having my cell.

I'm buying a prepaid and using that from now on!

As Amy pointed out be careful with text messages. I reluctantly use it but refuse to engage in text message conversations  especially with needier tenants that complain about everything. Many people have forgotten how to pick up the phone and have a conversation. 

Thank you for all of the replies, there are some great points.

I personally use google voice number and do use text as way to communicate with some of the tenants. Texting is what the younger generation does and we have to adjust. Of course, for important items email and mail are in order.

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