AUGUST 2015 LANDLORD ADVOCATE
This Months Video Topic:
Texting – The legal benefits and pitfalls.
Exercise your control by attending court.
Texting – The legal benefits and pitfalls
Landlords are using cell phone texting as a valuable tool to communicate with tenants and prospective tenants. On the positive side, texts are short, easy to draft, and can be used – and received – by anyone with a cell phone, which these days seems to be everyone. Texts tend to be focused on one or maybe two subjects without the ease or opportunity for diversion to other subjects that phone calls and emails allow. Indeed, landlords seem to be driven to use texts primarily for their simplicity and easy access to sending or receiving.
Texting seems tailor-made for property managers, marketing representatives, and maintenance staff with prospective tenants and existing tenants. With prospective tenants, property managers and marketers can use texts to quickly remind a prospective resident about the apartment community, its amenities, any special lease offers, and the landlord’s interest in having the person become a resident at the community. As advertisers know from decades of experience, people often make purchase decisions (here, the decision to sign a lease) based on the product or opportunity that is most recently present in their mind.
Regarding maintenance issues, property managers may allow tenants to text work order requests, and then forward those to maintenance staff to handle. In turn, maintenance staff can use texts with the tenant to establish the tenant’s consent to enter the unit and complete the work on a specific date and time, and report the work’s completion to the property manager. This is a very efficient process.
However, as mentioned above, texting does have its drawbacks when it comes to litigation. Texting seems very informal and landlords often treat it that way, meaning that they do not record either the text itself, or its substance, for effective retrieval in the future. Unlike cell phone pictures, there does not appear to be a quick and easy way to get texts onto paper for a mediator or judge to review. Texts get deleted or lost when the landlord changes or loses the cell phone. They are ephemeral. In contrast, housing courts are still creatures of paper, and the judge will always rule in favor of paper and against that which cannot be presented.
Contact your landlord attorney if you see texts becoming a material part of your property management, marketing, and maintenance procedures to ensure that the necessary policies are in place to protect the landlord’s interests when it comes to possible, threatened, or actual litigation. In particular, your landlord attorney can help you ensure that the texting use fits within and does not violate any “litigation wall” policy you may implement.
Exercise Your Control by Attending Court.
Landlords control their own destiny when they bring a well-supported summary process (eviction) case against a noncompliant tenant – whether for nonpayment of rent or some other lease, rules, or statutory violation. That control is at its highest impact on the first court date assigned to your case.
At Landlord Law Firm, we understand that most cases settle, often without the need for the client to be present (after all, that is one key advantage to hiring an attorney), and that other business matters may take priority over court on any given day. With that recognition, we offer our clients the option to either attend court or be available by phone (and to be prepared to come to court), on each court date. This allows our landlords to exercise the most control over the outcome of their cases while still allowing the flexibility to attending to their daily management responsibilities.
Nonetheless, being at court, or appearing at court immediately if a case requires your attendance, is a powerful exercise of your control. You show a commitment to the case in terms of time and attention, as well as a willingness to see it through to a favorable conclusion. This impacts not only the tenant who is defending the case you commenced, but also the court and judge’s impression of your commitment to the outcome you seek.
In contrast, having a case continued because you do not attend court when needed, sends the opposite message to the tenant and the court. Additionally, the delay in general, will very often favor the defense (here, the tenant).
Keep this tip in mind – and remember to exercise your control – the next time that you receive a court date notice from your landlord attorney
The reading of this newsletter does not form an attorney-client relationship. The contents of this newsletter are for informational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice. Nothing in this newsletter is intended to imply or predict the outcome of any legal matter that you may be considering or be involved in. The Landlord Law Firm makes no warranties of any kind regarding the information contained in this newsletter.