1983 Called. They want their telegrams back.
Although most residential real estate attorneys have communicated via e-mail and facsimile for years, under binding case law and regulations, until yesterday (April 4, 2017) the only officially sanctioned method of disapproving a residential real estate contract during the initial three day attorney review period was via certified mail, telegram, or personal service. Communication by facsimile, e-mail, and other overnight mail services was not technically allowed. In a case decided on April 4, 2017 by the New Jersey Supreme Court, the Court acknowledged that times have changed, and that notifications by facsimile, e-mail, or overnight delivery are acceptable, so long as the communicating party has proof of delivery.
The case arose when a seller in a residential real estate contract cancelled it by sending a cancellation letter by fax and e-mail to the buyer during the attorney review period. The Buyer’s really wanted the house, and challenged the cancellation of the contract because it was not done by one of the three officially sanctioned methods. The Supreme Court ruled against them, and essentially said, “Get real.” The courts noted that the methods in which people communicate have progressed with most attorneys commonly using facsimile, e-mail, and overnight mail to communicate.
The contract in question had been executed by e-mail and facsimile. The Court noted that requiring parties to a residential real estate contract to only use certified mail, telegram or personal delivery was anachronistic, most notably since telegrams do not exist anymore. While this might not seem that important, a number of cases had recently ruled that if an attorney didn’t comply with one of the three officially sanctioned methods, a cancellation letter might not be enforceable. This decision cleaned up a grey area and recognized modern methods of communication. Now, a party to a real estate contract won’t have to set up their own telegram company to make changes to the contract.
Sapiro Gottlieb & Kroll has been representing residential (and commercial) real estate clients for over 40 years. Give us a call at (732) 613-8000 if you have any questions about buying or selling a property. Rest assure, we’ve remained connected to technology trends – and using fax and e-mail for years!
Written by Larry Kroll, Attorney At Law
April 4, 2017