As a landlord, you deal with many different documents. The more tenants you have, the more documents can start to take over your office. The last thing you have time to for is to regularly go through files and shred old papers. From a legal standpoint, electronic documents are no different from paper documents. They take up no space in your office, and they're easier to store and share.
In addition, based on the 2000 Election Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act, or ESIGN, no signature can be deemed unenforceable because it was created digitally rather than with pen and ink. In fact, e-signatures often prove more enforceable and verifiable than handwritten signatures. When you request an e-signature, you not only collect signatures but also build a communication trail validating their authenticity. Only three states don't abide by ESIGN (New York, Illinois, and Washington), but their state laws governing e-signatures are similar.
Your Paperless Life: Tools of the Trade
Before you can transition to a paperless office, you need some critical equipment including a computer, a scanner, and software that can save files in PDF format. These tools will enable you to scan old documents and convert them to electronic documents, and they will also ensure that all incoming paper documents are easily converted to electronic form.
Sharing Electronic Documents
You can email electronic documents to your tenants in a variety of ways. You can use your desktop computer, your mobile device, or an e-signature service.
- Scan it using your desktop computer. If you have a document such as a lease to send to a tenant, you can scan a paper copy of your lease, save it as a PDF file, and attach it ?to an email. Your tenant can then print the form, sign it, save it as a PDF, and email it back to you.
- Send it from your smartphone. To use your mobile device to send documents, download an app such as TurboScan. It lets you photograph documents using your smartphone camera. You can then crop the photographed documents, save them, and email them as PDF files.
- Use an e-signature service. Many services allow you to upload your PDF files, add e-signature fields, and send them to your tenants. Your tenants electronically sign the documents and send them back to you, and all interactions run through your e-signature service.
Storing Electronic Documents
You can store electronic documents both locally and in the cloud. If you store them on a local computer, make sure to backup your files regularly on an external hard drive. You can also use a cloud storage service such as Dropbox to preserve all of your files. Most of these services offer some storage for free, but you'll have to pay to store a lot of documents. Also, some cloud storage services have been targeted by hackers. If you use a cloud storage service, choose a complex password so that cyber attackers can't access your documents.
Some services, such as Landlord Station, allow you to securely store electronic documents, collect e-signatures, and share documents in one simple interface. Because it's part of a comprehensive portfolio of digital property management services, you avoid paying unnecessary fees to outside vendors for storage and e-signing.
Things to Remember
One of the biggest mistakes landlords make is to spend a lot of time converting old paper files into electronic documents. Avoid wasting time trying to retrofit your office to make all of your old papers disappear. Instead, either box them up or shred them. Then, scan files related to current tenants, and go paperless with your future tenants.
Going paperless not only eliminates a fire hazard but also makes your life much easier. You have plenty of options for managing electronic documents, so choose one that fits the way you like to work.
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