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Communicating With Tenants - Do You Have Legal BackUp?

Communicating With Tenants - Do You Have Legal BackUp?

At our members meeting in February, we had much discussion about how best to communicate with tenants - it is obvious that while email is tried and trusted, many younger tenants don"t 'do" email very often and it is much better to use SMS text (txt) messages or apps like WhatsApp if you want a quick answer or to know that they have seen your message.

But if, 6 months down the line, you are in dispute with one of the tenancy deposit schemes or worse, have resorted to the courts to resolve an issue, what is the legal status of such communications and what can you do to ensure they are not lost when you change phone or provider?

The simple answer is that as far as we know, it is all admissible in court and as long as you can provide a full and complete transcript of any such conversations, it will support your case and can be used.

The issue is how do you keep it / how do you ensure you don"t lose them?  Read on for some hints and tips that may help.

Email

Firstly, you need to file messages received and sent to and from tenants as a matter of course - do not delete them.  However trivial they may seem, they could be useful in the future.  Whether your email folders are saved 'for eternity" somewhere on the cloud or not depends on the service and application you use.

If you are using one of the free services like Yahoo or Gmail, it is all on the cloud and you should be OK.  If you are using a local front end to access your mail, like Outlook,  then it will depend where you specify your folders to be stored whether they are local to your computer (in which case you will need to ensure you keep regular backups) or somewhere 'in the cloud" in which case they ought to be safe and recoverable.   But 'ought" is the key word here - better to waste time creating copies of copies and backing up to an alternative storage option than risk losing it all just when you need it.

Txt Msgs  - Android

If you have an Android phone (typically not an Apple or a Windows one),  you will have a Gmail account (whether you use it or not, as part of the setup process you create a Gmail account which comes with email and various other capabilities by default).

You can save specific messages by following these steps:

  1. Head to the "Advanced Settings".
  2. Select "Backup settings".
  3. Choose which types of messages you would like to back up to Gmail. ...
  4. You can also tap on the SMS section to change the name of the label created in your Gmail account. ...
  5. Tap the back button to save and head out.

You can also save them to your computer

  1. Download and Install Android Manager on PC or Mac.
  2. Connect Android Phone to Computer. ...
  3. Select Text Messages You Need to Transfer. ...
  4. Transfer Selected Messages from Android to Computer.

There are also applications, like SMS Backup which do all of this automatically for you and are worth considering if you have a large volume of txt communications with tenants that need saving.

Txt Msgs - iPhone

There is no official method of exporting or saving an iPhone text message, an iPhone message conversation, or anything of that sort. There is not currently a method on the iPhone to simply print out all iPhone messages received from a person or within a Messages app conversation. It"s possible down the road that will exist, but currently iOS does not offer a "Save Messages" or "Export Messages" or "Print Messages" type of feature. 

There are some 'clunky" techniques involving taking screenshots of messages and saving those but we would recommend loading an app like iExplorer. Other apps are available, but here are the steps to follow when using iExplorer

  1. Launch iExplorer on the computer then choose "Continue with Demo" *
  1. Next, either connect the iPhone to the computer with USB, or if you"re going to read messages from an iPhone backup on the computer choose "Browse iTunes Backups"
  1. Choose "Messages" from the onscreen menu for the iPhone / backup
  1. Optionally, if the iPhone backup is encrypted (and it"s a good idea to always enable iTunes backup encryption) then click on "Decrypt Backup" and enter the iTunes backup password to decrypt the backup and access the messages
  1. Browse through the iPhone messages shown on screen, you"ll have access to all iPhone text messages, iMessages, picture messages, video messages, and other media shared through the Messages app on iOS
  1. To save a particular message thread, select it and then choose "Export Conversation" and then choose the output file type to save the iPhone message thread as PDF, TXT, or CVS file

* The demo version will work on both Mac and Windows PC to test and confirm that you are able to access and read the iPhone text messages and other message data with the iExplorer app. Optionally, you can pay to have the full version of iExplorer to gain full access to all features and iPhone message saving and export capabilities, including the ability to easily save all iMessages and save all iPhone message media like pictures and videos. For our purposes here we will simply use the free demo version, which lets you read the iPhone messages on a computer either by connecting the iPhone to the computer through USB or by reading the iPhone backup file on the computer.   (These tips copied from osxdaily.com, more details here:  http://osxdaily.com/2018/08/29/how-save-iphone-text-messages/ )

Txt Msgs - Windows

Of the 3, a Windows phone is probably easiest when it comes to backing up txt messages.

Contacts + Message Backup app is a Settings app that enables you to make a backup of all your contacts (in VCF format) and messages (SMS & MMS including attachments) to SD card (in XML format) for later restore to same or another Windows Phone. Backup is stored in 'backup+restore' folder on the SD card.

WhatsApp

Surprisingly simple compared to txt messages.   To make a manual backup of your chats at any time, go to WhatsApp > Settings > Chats > Chat Backup > Back Up Now. You can also enable automatic, scheduled backups by tapping Auto Backup and then choosing your backup frequency.

Snapchat

You have to be careful when using Snapchat as by default, once a message (or memory as they call it) is seen, it disappears for ever. However, it is relatively simple to ensure this does not happen.  To do this, open Snapchat, swipe down, and tap on the Settings icon in the top-right corner. Select Memories, followed by "Save To…," and then pick either "Memories& Camera Roll" or "Camera Roll Only." Now your new Snaps will automatically save to your phone by default.

If there is an alternative we have missed, feel free to tell us: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

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Written & oral information and advice from the Portsmouth & District Private Landlord's Association is given in good faith, but no responsibility whatsoever is accepted by the Association or it's officers for the accuracy of it's information & advice nor shall the Association be held responsible for the consequences of reliance upon such information.

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