Does Email Count as Written Notice? What Landlords Need to Know

Email counts as written notice in most states. However, states have different laws governing when written notices need to be provided and how they should be presented. Here, we'll cover a general overview of the concept, as well as each state's laws regarding it.

By
Vivian Tejada
|
Last Updated
January 9, 2024
Does Email Count as Written Notice? What Landlords Need to Know

Rental owners are often required to provide tenants with written notices before entering their property or processing an eviction. Over the last decade, written communication has become increasingly digital, moving tenant-landlord communications off paper and onto screens.

Many tenants and property owners prefer communicating via email or text message vs. physical documents — but is email an acceptable form of written notice before entering a tenant's property or processing an eviction?

In this blog, we’ll discuss what counts as written notice, when written notices are required, and how to effectively use email as written notice. We’ll also cover state laws governing written notices so that both tenants and landlords know what to expect from each other.

Is an email considered written notice?

Generally, yes — email is considered written notice. While states have varying laws regarding when property owners should provide written notices and what forms of communication count as such, emails are generally accepted as written notices. 

Employment contracts follow the same logic, allowing employers to communicate job changes to an employee via email. The actual language included in an email will depend on why the written notice is being delivered.

What other forms of digital communication count as legal written notice?

Emails and text messages are the most commonly used forms of communication between rental owners and tenants in today's digital age. While it's best to have your preferred form of communication explicitly stated in the lease agreement, both parties should know that their text messages are legally binding and admissible in court.

If you and your tenant have established texting as your main form of communication but your tenant is not being responsive, you should send a follow-up email or paper written notice. Not only does this ensure your tenant receives information relevant to their tenancy, but it also helps you establish a paper trail of communication in case a tenant later claims you failed to provide proper notice.

When is a proper notice required? 

There are several circumstances that necessitate that the landlord provides their tenants with adequate advance notice before taking action. Not only does providing notice to a tenant honor their tenant rights, but it's what any reasonable person would do before making drastic changes to a person's living situation.

For instance, property owners are required to provide tenants with a written notice before entering their rental unit, as tenants have a right to privacy within their apartment. In most cases, landlords need to let tenants know that they'll need to access the rental unit at least 24 hours in advance. 

Landlords are also restricted to only entering occupied units during reasonable times, usually between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. However, there are emergency situations where this time frame can't be honored, such as if a gas leak was discovered in the middle of the night or if a fire broke out.

In addition to repairs, property owners need to provide a written notice for the following reasons:

  • Property showings: Written notices are always necessary when bringing a prospective tenant, buyer, or other unknown person into a tenant's apartment.
  • Lease termination: Early termination of a tenancy, whether it be through eviction or mutual accord, needs to be documented in written form and acknowledged by both parties.  
  • Major changes: Any major changes made to the building, such as the removal of an elevator or entryway, require written notice. Tenants should also be notified in writing of any changes to their lease agreement. 
  • Rent increases: Raising a tenant’s rent by more than 5% requires written notice. Such notice is best communicated via a written document instead of an email.
  • Court cases: Rental owners need to provide a written notice demanding their tenant either pay rent or address a lease violation before taking their tenant to court.

How to effectively use email as a written notice

Clear communication is important when using emails as written notices. There are a few written communication strategies property owners can implement to make sure their emails are communicated effectively:

  • Use clear and accurate subject lines that reflect the information included in the email; for example, “Second Eviction Notice.”
  • Send emails as soon as possible. Sending written notices more than 24 hours in advance increases the chances of a tenant seeing your message in time. 
  • Use plain language. Keeping emails simple and concise will help tenants focus on the most important aspects of your message.
  • Attach reference documents, such as signed rental agreements or relevant links for easy access.
  • Invite the tenant to confirm electronic delivery with a quick response and reach out if they have any questions regarding email contents. Be sure to include either your or your property management company’s contact information at the bottom of the email.

Each state's laws governing written notices and landlord entry

Some states have explicit laws regarding when property owners are allowed to enter occupied rental units, while other states have no laws at all. Local laws dictate what kind of notice is required and how far in advance the notice needs to be delivered to the tenant.

Take a closer look at each state’s landlord entry laws below:

  • Alabama requires a two day notice period in non-emergency situations and has no specific requirements regarding the type of notice.
  • Alaska requires a 24 hour notice in non-emergency situations and has no specific requirements regarding the type of notice. 
  • Arizona requires a two day notice period in non-emergency situations and has no specific requirements regarding the type of notice. A notice period is not necessary when the landlord is entering in response to a tenant’s maintenance request. 
  • Arkansas has no specific requirements regarding notice periods.
  • California requires a 24 hour notice period in non-emergency situations. In most cases, written notice is required. However, oral notice is acceptable if the landlord needs to show the property to a prospective homebuyer and the tenant has already been notified of the property owner’s intent to sell within the previous 120 days.
  • Colorado requires no specific notice period unless landlord entry is needed to inspect or treat a bed bug infestation. In this case, property owners should provide a physical or electronic written notice 48 hours in advance, unless the rental agreement states otherwise.
  • Connecticut requires a “reasonable” notice period in non-emergency situations which could be written or oral. 
  • Delaware has specific requirements regarding written notices. Property owners must provide tenants with a 48 hour notice period in non-emergency situations. Additionally, rental owners need to either present a copy of the written notice to an adult residing at the rental unit in person or mail the written notice via registered, certified, or first class mail. The written notice could also be posted at the rental unit with a return receipt of a mailing certificate. 
  • The District of Columbia requires a 48 hour notice period in non-emergency situations. Property owners are required to send both a written and electronic notice which could be either email or text message. If the tenant doesn’t acknowledge the electronic notice, landlords should provide them with a paper notice. 
  • Florida requires a 24 hour notice period before entering the property for repairs. Rental owners are allowed to enter in the following circumstances: in cases of emergency, when a tenant "unreasonably" withholds consent, and when the tenant leaves without notifying their landlord for a certain amount of time. There are no regulations regarding the type of notice required. 
  • Georgia has no statute regarding when a landlord can enter an occupied rental unit. 
  • Hawaii requires a two day notice period and has no specific requirements regarding the type of notice. 
  • Idaho has no statute regarding when a landlord can enter an occupied rental unit.
  • Illinois has no statute regarding when a landlord can enter an occupied rental unit.
  • Indiana requires a “reasonable” notice period in non-emergency situations. The notice can be written or oral. 
  • Iowa requires a 24 hour notice period in non-emergency situations and has no specific requirements regarding the type of notice. 
  • Kansas requires a reasonable notice period in non-emergency situations and has no specific requirements regarding the type of notice. 
  • Kentucky requires a two day notice period in non-emergency situations and has no specific requirements regarding the type of notice. 
  • Louisiana has no specific requirements regarding notice periods or type of notice.
  • Maine requires a 24 hour notice period in non-emergency situations and no notice period if the welfare of an animal is at risk. There are no specific requirements regarding the type of notice. 
  • Maryland has no statute regarding when a landlord can enter an occupied rental unit.
  • Massachusetts has no specific requirements regarding notice periods of type of notice.
  • Michigan has no statute regarding when a landlord can enter an occupied rental unit.
  • Minnesota requires a 24 hour notice period in non-emergency situations and has no specific requirements regarding the type of notice.
  • Mississippi requires property owners to provide tenants with a written notice but does not have regulations regarding notice periods. 
  • Missouri has no statute regarding when a landlord can enter an occupied rental unit.
  • Montana requires a 24 hour notice period in non-emergency situations which can be via email if the tenant’s email is provided in the lease agreement, certified mail, hand delivery, or posted on the unit’s main entry door. 
  • Nebraska requires a 24 hour notice period in non-emergency situations and has no specific requirements regarding the type of notice. 
  • Nevada requires a 24 hour notice period in non-emergency situations and has no specific requirements regarding the type of notice. 
  • New Hampshire requires a notice period that is appropriate given the circumstances and a 48 hour notice when entering a unit due to bed bug infestation. There are no specific requirements regarding the type of notice. 
  • New Jersey requires property managers to obtain a tenant’s consent or a court order before entering a residential building with less than three units. Property owners entering a residential building with three or more units must provide a reasonable notice which is usually one day in non-emergency situations. There are no specific regulations regarding the type of notice. 
  • New Mexico requires a notice period of 24 hours in non-emergency situations and a written notice. 
  • New York has no statute regarding when a landlord can enter an occupied rental unit.
  • North Carolina has no statute regarding when a landlord can enter an occupied rental unit.
  • North Dakota requires a reasonable notice period in non-emergency situations and has no specific regulations regarding the type of notice. 
  • Ohio requires a 24 hour notice period in non-emergency situations and has no specific regulations regarding the type of notice. 
  • Oklahoma requires a one day notice period in non-emergency situations and has no specific regulations regarding the type of notice. 
  • Oregon requires a 24 hour notice period in non-emergency situations and has no specific regulations regarding the type of notice. 
  • Pennsylvania has no statute regarding when a landlord can enter an occupied rental unit.
  • Rhode Island requires a two day notice period in non-emergency situations and has no specific regulations regarding the type of notice. 
  • South Carolina requires a 24 hour notice period in non-emergency situations and has no specific regulations regarding the type of notice.
  • South Dakota has no statute regarding when a landlord can enter an occupied rental unit.
  • Tennessee requires a 24 hour notice period in non-emergency situations and has no specific regulations regarding the type of notice. 
  • Texas has no statute regarding when a landlord can enter an occupied rental unit.
  • Utah requires a 24 hour notice period in non-emergency situations unless the lease agreement says otherwise. There aren't specific regulations regarding the type of notice. 
  • Vermont requires a 48 hour notice in non-emergency situations and has no specific regulations regarding the type of notice.
  • Virginia requires a 72 hour notice for routine maintenance and has no specific regulations regarding the type of notice. No notice is required if landlord entry is required due to a tenant’s request for maintenance. 
  • Washington requires a two day notice period in non-emergency situations and a one day notice period to show the property to prospective tenants or buyers. A written notice is required. 
  • West Virginia has no statute regarding when a landlord can enter an occupied rental unit.
  • Wisconsin requires a 12 hour notice period in non-emergency situations and has no specific regulations regarding the type of notice. 
  • Wyoming has no statute regarding when a landlord can enter an occupied rental unit.

Is email a legal form of written notice? The bottom line

In most states, emails are considered formal written notice by tenants, landlords, and the courts. However, some states have specific regulations regarding what counts as written notice and when it should be provided. Be sure to check local regulations to avoid misunderstandings in the future.

Property owners should also try to be clear and concise in their emails to make sure their message gets across. Always follow up with the intended recipient to make sure they received adequate notice of your intent to show the property, fulfill maintenance requests, or file a court order.

With this guide, next time you find yourself asking: Does an email count as written notice? you can feel assured that you know the answer and have the facts to back it up.

Vivian Tejada

Vivian is a freelance real estate writer based in Brooklyn, NYC providing SEO blogging services to real estate companies. Her work focuses on educating first-time real estate investors on investment strategy and explaining proptech tools to new customers.

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