The legal tool every property manager should know about: The confirmation letter

David Roberson
David Roberson | 3 min. read

Published on June 11, 2015

While handling day-to-day tasks, property managers sometimes run into tenants and have innocent, friendly chats about kids, the news, the neighborhood, and so on. Sometimes, though, these conversations head in a different direction, turning into what I call “critical incidents.” For example, a tenant may reveal they have an unauthorized pet or occupant living at the property.

Such conversations are more weighty than chatting about the weather and should be recorded in what attorneys call a “confirmation letter.” (Some in the legal community call it a “confirming letter.”)

After the conversation, I draft a confirmation letter to the tenant on my office computer (an email works just as well). Here is how I write a confirmation letter:

  • I begin the message with: “I wanted to confirm the conversation we had earlier in the day.”
  • Next, I restate the facts of the conversation, reminding them of their lease violation and any agreements we made to address the problem.
  • At the end of the email or letter, I say, “If this is not our mutual understanding of our conversation today, please let me know right away.”

After sending any confirmation letter, make a copy of it and put it in a well-organized file cabinet, or save the email in an appropriately labeled folder in your email program. If the tenant doesn’t respond to the email or letter, you still have a record of the conversation. Later, if the tenant tries to rebut the details of your conversation, they won’t look very credible in the eyes of an arbitrator or judge having failed to reply to the confirmation letter.

For example, let’s say you ask a tenant to remove their Rottweiler because such large dogs violate the conditions of the lease. As quickly as possible, send the tenant a confirmation letter that repeats the facts of the conversation. Fast forward 18 months: you’re in eviction court, and the tenant claims you never asked them to remove the dog. Fortunately, you have a written or electronic record of your agreement, which only strengthens your case.

If you make confirming letters a routine part of doing business, you won’t have to try to remember or recreate past conversations when you argue your case before a judge. As a property manager, I consider myself a risk manager above all. By using confirmation letters, you help reduce your risk — and your clients’, too.

This blog submission is only for purposes of disseminating information. It does not constitute legal advice. No attorney-client relationship is formed by virtue of reading this blog entry or submitting a comment thereto. If you need legal advice, please hire a licensed attorney in your state.

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David Roberson

David Roberson is a licensed real estate attorney, a licensed real estate broker, and has been involved in real estate since 1986. David’s company, Silicon Valley Property Management Group, manages both residential and commercial properties in Silicon Valley.

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