A couple was selling one home and moving into another that needed work. They arranged to lease the house they sold, while a contractor did the work on the new house. At closing, the sellers had a written 7-month lease agreement with a specified move-out date.
Before the lease was up, the buyer and seller discussed a new move-out date via text. Through texts, the sellers agreed to turn over possession earlier.
As often happens, the contractor got behind and needed more time. The sellers were not able to move out earlier than the original move-out date as they had indicated.
The sellers had a signed lease with a move- out date, but the buyer claimed that there was a contract to move out at the earlier date based on their texts.
Do Texted Changes to a Lease Agreement Hold Up?
Our client checked in with the CRES on-call Legal Advisory Services to find out if the texts were a contract.
The short answer is No.
Texts can be used for status updates or check-ins, but they do not hold legal weight in this situation. Because texts are not dated and signed, they do not replace the previously signed agreement. To end a lease agreement sooner, all parties must sign and date an amended agreement.
Best Texting Practices to Know
Clearly in this situation, there was an expectation that didn’t hold up legally. But what about in other situations? Texting is an easy way to communicate updates or answer quick questions, but it isn’t appropriate for all situations.
Real estate agents should protect themselves by confirming in writing key parts of a transaction. After logging information in your client file, you should send a copy via mail, fax, or email to your client with a request to date, sign, and return. Note that texting is not a recommended way to transfer this information.
Why is email okay, but not texting? If it comes down to email vs. text in real estate transactions, email can be easier to retrieve if necessary. Either way, it’s essential to know what creates an electronic contract or changes to one.
If you are a CRES client and have questions about changes made to a lease outside of a signed agreement, report it to the CRES ClaimPrevent® Hotline. The hotline is available to our clients 7 days a week to help with any issues that put you at risk.
What best practices do you follow when texting with clients?