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Can a landlord send a tenant a notice of termination via email?

A landlord wants to ask a tenant to vacate a unit. The notice of termination must be in writing, but can it be emailed?

November 18, 2012|By Martin Eichner

Question: I own a couple of condos that I rent out. I have a pretty good relationship with my tenants, but I need to ask one of them to vacate so that my son can move into the unit. I like to use email to communicate with my clients, and I know that a notice of termination needs to be in writing. Can I send this notice of termination via email?

Answer: Email won't work for you in this situation.

California law is very specific about the method for serving a notice of termination of tenancy. To be legally enforceable, service of a termination notice must comply with California Code of Civil Procedure Section 1162. This statute allows service by personally handing the notice to the tenant or by leaving it with another adult at the rental unit and then mailing an additional copy to the tenant at the address of the rental unit.

A third permissible method, if no one is present at the unit when personal service is attempted, is commonly described as "nail and mail." This method requires "affixing" a copy of the notice in a conspicuous place like the front door and mailing a second copy to the tenant at the address of the rental unit.

None of these methods includes the use of email. The statutory reference to "mailing" requires use of traditional mail, not email.

Eichner is director of Housing Counseling Programs for Project Sentinel, a nonprofit agency providing tenant-landlord and fair housing counseling in four Bay Area counties. To submit a question, contact info@housing.org.

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