Questions & Answers for December 2016: Electronic Signatures and Dripping Faucets

Adapted from our Message Boards, where members can ask questions and get answers. Practicing landlords and service providers answer questions, and we combine the best answers into one here.

Q: Who uses electronic signatures? Have they been contested in court? I’m worried my e-signature provider is not secure enough.

Massachusetts has enacted the Uniform Electronic Transactions Act, which validates electronic signatures that meet certain criteria. Electronic signatures must pertain to a business transaction, be logically associated with the document being signed, and be attributable to the person signing it.

Attribution may be demonstrated in any manner. For instance, a third party witness can watch the tenant swipe their signature. Or if there are no witnesses, appropriate security measures can authenticate that individual apart from all others.

The advice from some members is to forget e-signatures and always use a hard-copy signed in view of a notary. Notarized documents are incontrovertible (as long as the notary is legit!).

But other members said they used electronic signatures and had for years, and never had their signature contested. Usually most folks argue about the agreement itself, not the signature.

That said, if you have reached the conclusion that your e-signature provider would enable a third party to sign fraudulently for your tenant, find a better provider! There are many providers of electronic signatures nowadays. Good luck!

Q: My faucet is dripping. That’s no big deal, right?

If it’s dripping back into the sink and down the drain, it’s not an emergency. But you can expect to pay for your inattention. We trivialize the amount of water lost because we watch five drips, tell ourselves, “That’s not much,” and walk away. If we were to stand there all day and all night long, we might realize the enormity of our losses.

In fact, a faucet that drips just once per second (think “one mississippi, two mississippi”) may leak as much as 27,000 gallons of water over the next year. (Put a glass under the drip and measure the drip rate for yourself.) For a municipality like Worcester, which produces its own water for very cheap, that would amount to almost $400/yr in water expenses. Whereas a typical faucet cartridge costs $10 and can be replaced in ten minutes. [Math: Worcester water and sewer service are currently sold at $9.14/hundred cubic feet through the meter. This assumes lowest rates and sewer at 80% of water usage. There are 748 gallons in a hundred cubic feet. $10.52/100 ft^3 x (100 ft^3/748 gal) x 27,000 gal = $380].

Note that toilets can also have leaky flappers. These drips are much harder to detect. If you hear the tank filling out of synch with a flush, that’s a sure sign you need a new flapper. For slower leaks, drop a dye source into the tank and see if dye appears in the bowl after an hour or so.

If you go to replace your faucet and your shut-off doesn’t work, call a licensed plumber and replace all the associated gate valves with brass quarter-turns. Quarter-turns will not fail as quickly or as badly as gate valves, which have plastic washers inside. Beware of cheap quarter-turns with plastic internals.