Over the last 5 years, the use of electronic signatures in business transactions worldwide has seen exponential growth. Paperless contracts are being signed for the smallest of transactions up to million dollar deals. But for many South Africans, electronic signatures are still a relatively unknown technology. Through this blog we hope to educate users and make them aware that esignatures are an affordable, easy to use and eco-friendly option for signing legally binding contracts and agreements online.
For those of you in the property game, this blog post is especially for you.
As it stands South African law does not allow for electronic signatures to be used for property sale agreements, however esignatures are ideal for signing lease agreements and mandates to rent/sell. But what about the legal implications of no wet ink signature on the document? We posed a few questions to rental property law specialist Marlon Shevelew. He has kindly given his time to address the legality of esignatures with regard to rental agreements and mandates.
1. If you could give us some background on yourself & your firm?
My law firm, Marlon Shevelew and Associates Inc. has been in existence for over eight years. I was previously a partner at a niche commercial law firm. My firm currently employs four lawyers, a paralegal and three legal secretaries. Our focus is on commercial, consumer and contractual law but my passion is rental property law, due diligence and all that goes with it.
2. How long have you been involved in this industry?
Almost 15 years.
3. What made you focus on rental and landlord law?
When people think of property law, they assume it revolves around sale agreements, conveyancing, real estate development, etc. I discovered that the rental property market was not receiving the attention it requires and it still is somewhat maligned. It is simply unforgivable to think that rental property management, or legal advices on rental property issues is not a full-time profession. It revolves around property owners, tenants who the owners rely upon to pay them rental, investment properties, gearing the property to get the best return and of course having an attorney that knows how to draft lease agreements, advise on disputes, evict non-paying tenants, to represent owners in court or at the tribunal etc, after all, rental properties inevitably are speculative for purposes of bringing in annuity income so why not have this as a speciality practice?
4. In your experience, what are the main areas where disputes arise in the rental market?
Non-rental payments, tenants who become unlawful occupiers by remaining at the property after the lease is cancelled, tenants who are disgruntled with the actions or inactions of landlords.
5. Without a doubt one of the most common questions posed to us when people enquire about esignatures is, “is it legal?” Without going into too much detail what would be the simplest answer to this question specifically focused on lease agreements and mandates?
The fact of the matter is that not only is it legal but it’s logical. There is nothing in the Rental Housing Act, the Electronic Communications and Transactions Act, nor the Consumer Protection Act which negates the logic of this form of communication. Conversely it actually appears to endorse it, as do our courts.
6. QuicklySign keeps a permanent record of the original signed agreement online as a clear reference along with a full audit trail of the signing process. Do you think this will assist you if a dispute over the lease does arise?
This will certainly assist regarding a dispute. It would rule out a person denying receipt of the lease agreement let alone the signing thereof.
7. When we first approached you about bringing electronic signatures to the property market, what was your initial reaction?
I thought, it’s about time!
8. Why do you think that esignatures are so well suited for the rental market in South Africa?
To expect documents to be delivered between landlord and tenant or a landlord and rental agent, with physical copies needing to be made available with original signatures thereon is simply a ridiculous scenario. The most expeditious way in which to have a mandate or an agreement of lease signed by the respective parties is to get a copy faxed or e-mailed. The esignature simply makes this process more expeditious and potentially much more safer.
9. QuicklySign is the newest addition to the rental products that you endorse. You are asked to endorse numerous products that you turn down. What is it about QuicklySign that makes you excited to tell other people about it?
It’s just such an easy and obvious way to getting the most important aspect of a rental transaction finalised. Any lease or mandate revolves around the agreement between the parties. The fact that any of these agreements can be done quickly, simply and safely is just plain common sense.
10. As a law firm do you see the potential for esignatures to be used within your business and the law profession in general
Absolutely, in fact I foresee the possibility of esignatures becoming part and parcel of general commercial transactions. I am thrilled to have been involved in endorsing such a wonderful product.
Thank you Marlon and thank you to our readers for keeping Marlon and us on our toes with your questions and feedback.
Remember to keep an eye out for our next few post as we get closer to our launch.
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