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Q&A: Is Texting or Emailing a Tenant Legally Binding?

A person scrolling on a phone.

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.

This article was originally published in the Summer 2022 issue of RENT Magazine, a publication of the American Apartment Owners Association (AAOA) . You can view the original online here:


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