5 ways you can sign a lease online - step-by-step guide
The post dial-up generation doesn’t realize how lucky they have it. Before the Internet, signing a lease entailed driving to a special office to physically fill out stacks of paper in the presence of an office manager who gatekept the keys until each dotted line was signed. Those special trips to the leasing offices only compounded the stresses of moving.
Today, signing leases can be a matter of logging onto your smartphone while lounging poolside at a tropical resort. Although it isn’t always so simple, the Internet has made completing such documents markedly easier by facilitating a number of ways to get the job done.
1. Online notary services
We know we promised that online options will take the humans out of the signing equation, but this isn’t always the case. Some jurisdictions require leases to be notarized for legal validity. In Ohio, for instance, the law requires all leases exceeding three years to be notarized. In other states where it’s not mandated, landlords could still request documents be notarized for extra peace of mind.
Although this approach may seem like a hassle, it still beats handwritten agreements and, luckily, plentily of online notary services have emerged to facilitate the process. Of course, your first step is to choose a reputable online notary service that complies with legal standards in your jurisdiction.
This isn’t too lofty of a task, as many online platforms provide notary services. Online testimonials or reviews can be a good way to gauge whether the services are legitimate and well regarded by others that have previously used the service.
It’s unlikely, but if you strike out finding a notary on Google, some states maintain directories of notaries public. You can check your state's official website or contact the Secretary of State's office for a list of registered notaries.
Before finalizing your choice, verify the notary's credentials. Ensure they are currently licensed or commissioned in your state. You can also ask for their notary commission number and check it with the appropriate state agency. Other queries might include whether the notary has experience with lease agreements, and if they have any specific requirements to finalize the process.
Remember, rules and regulations regarding notaries can vary by state, so be sure to choose a notary who is familiar with the specific requirements in your jurisdiction. Better still, always check the current regulations as they may have changed since my last knowledge update in January 2022.
2. Online lease signing platforms
Whether you’re looking for a date or used car, you can find anything online these days. There’s no reason to believe finding an online notary service is any different.
Indeed, dedicated online lease signing platforms, like one called Turbo Tenant, exist to offer end-to-end solutions specifically designed for the leasing process. These systems often include features like document storage, identity verification, and secure payment processing.
Once you select a platform based on your needs, create an account and punch in all the necessary details needed to get started. From there, simply upload the lease agreement before entering the email addresses of those that need to sign it.
The platform will then send off notifications, prompting users to review and sign the document. Some may require additional steps, such as identity verification or payment processing.
Once everyone has signed the lease, the platform finalizes it and participants can access a stored copy.
Some perks of this approach can include reduced paperwork, enhanced security and tracking. It’s also more efficient than traditional methods and allows participants to sign documents from anywhere, eliminating the need for physical presence or mail exchanges.
Rather than having to make an appointment during an already hectic moving period, participants can also sign lease agreements. This flexibility is especially beneficial for those making long-distance moves.
Oh, and online options like these also leave users with one less thing to unpack during their next move. Afterall, online platforms make lease documents easily accessible. Participants can view, sign, and download documents from any device with an internet connection, promoting accessibility and ease of use.
3. Scanned signatures
If you ask us, this isn’t the most efficient way to finalize a lease agreement, but signing and scanning hardcopies is still a legitimate option for those who prefer to do things the old fashioned way.
It’s true that many people are familiar with the process of physically signing a document and then scanning it and are more comfortable with this type of process. This method is straightforward and requires minimal technical know-how, making it accessible to a wide range of users.
After all, scanned signatures require minimal setup or tech infrastructure and participants can adopt this method without the need for specialized software or extensive training.
Following the scanning of the documents, users can save it in a recognized format, including PDFs which are widely-used for lease agreements. Once participants sign the document manually, they can upload the signed version to the portal for record-keeping. That last part is important, as a lost lease could present challenges for both tenants and landlords.
The sign-and-scan method is still a better alternative than packing and mailing physical paperwork, and reduces costs associated with printing and handling paper documents.
Meanwhile, users looking to add digital signatures to a PDF can do so by using PDF editing software or online platforms that support digital signatures. It’s as easy as opening the lease document, adding a digital signature and saving the file. Once the file is saved, they can attach the signed document to an email and send it off to the relevant people.
4. Blockchain signatures
This approach is intricate, but not as complicated as it seems from a user’s perspective. It involves using blockchain technology to create and verify digital signatures. Blockchain does so in a secure and tamper-resistant manner by recording transactions across a network of computers.
Users don’t have to concern themselves too much with the behind-the-scenes sausage making, however. They are likely more interested in knowing that once a “block”, or lease agreement, is added to the chain, it cannot be changed, instead becoming part of an unalterable record.
It provides a reliable timestamp for each transaction, including the creation and verification of digital signatures, ensuring a clear chronological order of events and adding an extra layer of security.
To use blockchain to sign a lease, users should first pick a platform that supports smart contracts and digital signatures. Ethereum and Binance Smart Chain are examples of blockchain platforms that can be used for this purpose.
To take this approach, participants need to create digital identities on the blockchain. This involves generating public and private key pairs. The public key is used as the digital address, while the private key is kept secure and used for signing transactions.
Then, the lease agreement must be created and uploaded before it can be signed via a digital signature. The smart contract executes once it receives both the landlord's and tenant's digital signatures.
If conditions specified in the contract are met, the agreement is considered binding and is recorded on the blockchain.
5. Electronic signatures
There’s no rush to unpack the pens while signing leases thanks to e-signatures, one of the most widely used methods for finalizing such documents online. This method involves using a secure digital platform to affix a legally binding electronic signature to the lease agreement.
When going this route, the first and most important step is choosing a reputable e-signature platform. One option is BlueInk, which allows users to access and sign documents at their own pace through its Smartlink forms that enable self-service signing.
Once you’ve selected an e-signature provider, it’s time to upload the lease agreement to the platform and enter the email addresses of all parties involved in the agreement. Each person will receive a notification to sign the document.
From there, each party reviews the document and electronically signs it. The platform typically provides options to add initials, date, and other required fields. Once all parties have signed the lease, the platform generates a final signed copy for each participant.
BlueInk’s comprehensive eSignature solutions are convenient and legally binding. They ensure fast delivery of documents, automated alerts and notifications throughout the journey. Expediting agreement workflows frees up more time to spend more time with moving-relating tasks like arguing with your spouse over proper packing procedures.
Plenty of options exist for signing a lease, but one thing is for sure: those listed above are largely an improvement from pen and paper processes.