Have you ever played Chinese Whispers? One person says a sentence, which is repeated as it passed along the line, eventually coming to the last person. When you compare the first sentence to the last it is always vastly different- but how do people get it wrong?
Misunderstandings, misinterpretations, miscommunication and some details being more important to one person than another is how some people hear things that weren’t said.
It is essential to keep accurate records of communication between you and your tenant. It will ensure that you have documented what has been agreed upon, and can be used to remind a tenant of this in the future.
Record Keeping Essentials
Not so long ago, the traditional form of communication was a letter or a fax, or if you are old enough to remember, a telegraph. In the event you were sending something that was special, you would go to the post office and pay an additional amount so that the post was registered. Registered post required the recipient to produce identification and sign for it, so that a record was kept that it had been successfully delivered to them. Even today, you can go to the post office and do registered post. However, letters are no longer the generally accepted form of convenient communication. Email has taken over.
So, when emailing with a tenant, how can you ensure that any important information or evidence is received and read?
Email Delivery Receipt
An email delivery receipt is confirmation from the receiver’s mail server that the email you have sent has been received. It confirms the date and time the mail server received it, and is an automatic response. While this confirms the mail server has received your email, it doesn’t mean that the person has actually seen the email or opened it.
If you don’t receive a delivery receipt from the receivers mail server it means that something has gone wrong. This could be:
- The recipient’s email address has changed,
- Their email box is full (sometimes you will receive a notification of this), or,
- Their mail server is down.
Following up on this is as simple as a phone call to the tenant to confirm their email address, or ask them if they are receiving emails from other people.
Email Read Receipt
An email read receipt is the confirmation from the receiver that they have read the email that you sent. However, it is important to keep in mind that it is up to the receiver whether they send back a read receipt, and they may decline. Read receipts are also not triggered unless they actually open the email within their mail application – they may read the email in the preview pane of their mail application and not trigger a read receipt.
When you do receive an email delivery or read receipt, file the email against the tenant so you have a record of what has happened should you ever need it. You may need to clarify agreed upon terms, or produce evidence for an insurance company or a court case.
Keep of Copy of Sent Emails
Not all mail applications save a copy of sent emails, and you may have to check that you have this checked in your settings. If you are unsure of where this setting is you can just BCC (blind carbon copy) or CC (carbon copy) your email address in the email to the tenant and then file the email.
Emails to Track
Emails you send relating to the tenancy, changes to the agreement, or breaches should be tracked via delivery and read receipt. Examples are:
- A copy of the fully signed lease and any subsequent leases (e.g. lease renewals),
- Entry notices,
- Breach notices,
- Notice of intention to sell or leave,
- Invoices for water or electricity,
- Changes to a tenancy (tenants add a pet, changes to arrangements such as lawn mowing/gardening, reduction in rent, or
- Confirmation of a verbal agreement (e.g. the tenant agrees to pay their outstanding rent by paying an extra $40 per week in additional to the current rent amount).
Your Insurance Policy
The saying ‘there are two sides to every story’ is definitely correct, so ensure that you have accurate records in the event that things go wrong. Read and delivery receipts can be used as evidence in a potential court or insurance claim. They only take a second to set-up and could potentially save you thousands of dollars if things go pear shaped with your tenant.
Below are some screen shots of where these options are located in Microsoft Outlook, but all mail applications will have similar settings.
Microsoft Outlook > New Message > Options
Microsoft Outlook > New Message > Options > Tracking
About the Author
Simone Files | Principal | Blackbird and Finch
Simone’s philosophy is that real estate is not about renting, selling or buying, but about helping people move, and moving is something Simone knows well. Simone has over 12 years experience in real estate in Toowoomba, and has moved a staggering number of times, an occupational hazard of being involved in the real estate industry. Read more.