The purpose of this article is to shed light on details of signing a lease agreement and its validity in regards to electronic signatures.
Who Signs a Contract?
A signatory is a person (or sometimes an organization), who signs an agreement or contract. If an organization is a signatory, a representative signs their name on behalf of the organization. Signatories must be the age of majority and involved in the execution of a document. For instance, if you and your partner create and sign a Lease Agreement, you are both signatories.
A signatory can refer to a human, corporation, limited liability corporation, non-profit organization, or a
governmental body. If a company is involved in a contract, such as a Lease Agreement, an individual who has legal authority would sign the document on the company’s behalf. A company signatory can be specified through a Directors’ Resolution, stating that the director or officer is able to sign documents for the corporation. Some people erroneously think that marriage gives a person the right to sign contracts in the spouse’s name. That archaic belief dates to the time when women could not sign contracts. Now, an individual wishing to sign a contract in their spouse’s name must be named attorney-in-fact in a valid power of attorney. However, if a spouse signs a lease agreement, the liability of the contract applies to both spouses.
You can create a Power of Attorney and appoint a representative to sign real estate or other legal documents on your behalf. As this is an important duty, you should plan ahead and assign someone this responsibility in advance. For example, having a Power of Attorney is helpful if you suddenly cannot handle your own affairs due to health complications.
Each legal contract, state, and banking institution has its own requirements regarding whether a witness or notary public must sign to authenticate a document. Witnesses are neutral third parties who verify each signatory’s signature. They do not have to be familiar with the terms of the agreement. Their signatures simply prove a contract’s validity and authenticity in a court of law. A witness cannot be related to any of the signatories and cannot benefit from the contract. For example, a beneficiary of a Last Will and Testament cannot witness its execution.
A notary public is a state-licensed official who authorizes the identity of each signatory and witnesses the execution of a document. A notary also administers oaths, certifies copies of documents, and provides acknowledgments. Whether or not a document requires notarization (the process of getting your document signed by a notary public) depends on state legislation and financial institution regulations. Generally, when a notary public verifies the execution of a document, it becomes a “self-authenticating” document, meaning it is not necessary to prove the validity of the signatures in court.
There are two types of notarizations: a sworn statement or an acknowledgment. Acknowledgments are the most common and do not require that the notary see the individual sign the document (although the notary must talk with the signer later.) Affidavits are an example of a sworn statement. The notary must witness the individual signing an affidavit. Sometimes, people put only a notary signature and seal on a document. A notary signature or seal without the sworn statement or acknowledgment language adds nothing to the document’s effectiveness.
Where Do I Sign a Contract?
The last page of most legal documents is the signing page. While each document varies, signing pages generally contain solid lines with each signatory (or company) name underneath, indicating where to sign. On a signing page, you may also need to print your name, fill in your contact information, or provide the date that you signed.
Often a notary public has a separate section on the signing page to certify their acknowledgment of the contract. Additionally, an Affidavit of Execution may require a notary or witness’s signature to make a sworn statement of a contract’s content, as well as each party’s age, identity, and signature. The notary may use a stamp or seal as formal authentication of the document. Normally, the location where the document is signed does not matter as long as each party signs it in front of a witness or notary public.
Parties should pay attention to the distribution of the signed contract. Commonly, contracts are signed in counterparts. This means that each contracting party signs a different copy of the contract. Although this practice is legal, our lease agreements are not designed to be signed this way. Therefore all parties to the lease see and sign the same copy of the lease.
When Do I Sign a Contract?
While a contract does not have to be dated in order to be valid and enforceable, it is a good idea to do so. Dating a contract helps to positively identify it later and also helps place it in its proper chronological context. The date you sign a legal document depends on your situation and needs. For instance, if you plan to leave the country next week, have your Power of Attorney signed and notarized before then. A document usually becomes effective the day all signatories sign it. If they sign on different days, the document becomes effective on the day the last signatory signs. You cannot postdate or predate signatures on legal contracts.
What Do I Sign?
Signatures are the most common method of indicating that you have read over and agreed to the terms, even if a person’s signature is so stylized and unique that’s illegible. E-signatures are governed by a federal law called ESIGN, and many states also have e-signature laws. ESIGN is the colloquial term for The Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act (ESIGN, Pub.L. 106–229, 114 Stat. 464, enacted June 30, 2000, 15 U.S.C. ch. 96). The federal ESIGN law provides a general rule of validity for electronic records and signatures for transactions in or affecting interstate or foreign commerce where "the term 'transaction' means an action or set of actions relating to the conduct of business, consumer, or commercial affairs between two or more persons, including any of the following types of conduct:
1. the sale, lease, exchange, licensing, or other disposition of (i) personal property, including goods and intangibles, (ii) services, and (iii) any combination thereof; and
2. the sale, lease, exchange, or other disposition of any interest in real property, or any combination thereof.
Further, as agreements move into digital form, the basis on what qualifies as an official signature has been broadened substantially. Regardless of the form, the importance of the signature entails proof that an offer has been accepted and considered.