Electronic Notification of Eviction Becomes Law
Landlords are often frustrated in this process. So much so that the Michigan legislature just passed legislation signed into law by the Governor late last month allowing for service of process in landlord tenant cases via electronic means such as email.
The new law, Public Act 36, provides for the electronic transmission of eviction papers via email, provided the tenant consents and supplies the landlord with an email address. The law utilizes the phrase, "electronic service address" and also requires an electronic acknowledgment of the tenant's consent evidenced by one completed communication in which both landlord and tenant participate.
As much as we love to report on the ever-expanding intersection between technology and the law [check out this post from 2012], this public act raises some concerns for us over here at the Law Blogger. The State Bar of Michigan also voiced its concern in opposing this law when it was in bill form, stating some very good reasons for not adopting electronic service.
Our concerns are based on a litigant's access to justice, particularly in the landlord/tenant context where a person's residence is at stake. In our opinion, the law does not properly account for the following commonplace glitches that will end-up frustrating the eviction process and consuming even more judicial resources:
- Email is not sufficiently reliable to transmit such important documentation that affects the tenant's life;
- Without reliable means to transmit commencement of eviction proceedings, tenants could be deprived of valid defenses;
- Spam filters routinely block once-valid email transmissions;
- Tenants frequently change email addresses; and
- Internet access is unreliable for many tenants, especially lower income tenants.
Good old-fashioned personal service -where the process server strides up to the person, identifies them by their name, and hands them a stack of legal papers- is optimal when a person stands to lose their residence in the proceedings. In our opinion, personal service remains the absolute best way to get this done.