Like 46 other states (as well as DC, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands), the state of Arizona has adopted the Uniform Electronic Transactions Act (“UETA”). This Act, published in 1999 by the Uniform Law Commission, was designed with the express intention of giving the same effect previously given to handwritten signatures under the statute of frauds to electronic signatures.
What is an electronic signature? It’s a broader category than you may realize: under A.R.S. section 44-7002(8), an electronic signature can be any “electronic sound, symbol or process that is attached to or logically associated with a record and that is executed or adopted by an individual with the intent to sign the record.”
“Record,” in case you’re wondering, includes “contract.”
But it should be noted: just because someone uses email to send a document or to communicate does not mean that these electronic signature requirements have been fulfilled. Even if they have what is commonly referred to as an “electronic signature” at the bottom of the email text, which are often auto-filled—these two things are not equivalent under law. The UETA was not designed to undermine the rules underlying the formation of contracts as they have come down to us through hundreds of years of common law. And among these rules are the highly important condition that a signature related to a document is valid and enforceable only if the signer truly intended to sign it.
Therefore, if a document sent in an email is to be considered legally signed with an electronic signature then the document must be associated with a higher level of electronic signature—often alongside an express declaration that the mark or sound included with the transmission is intended to serve as a valid and enforceable electronic signature. And for this to apply, the UETA requires that the parties to the transaction must have agreed in a clear manner that they both intend for this transaction to be completed electronically.
If you’re looking to buy or sell a property in Phoenix or anywhere else in the state of Arizona, you’ll need an experienced attorney with strong scruples by your side to aid in ensuring both sides commit to enforceable signatures on the closing documents. At Provident Law, our real estate attorneys represent parties on either side of real estate and financing transactions, including landlords, tenants, buyers, sellers, lenders, borrowers, trustees, guarantors, shareholders, partners, and others. We structure, negotiate and document a variety of real estate and financing transactions, including leases, purchase and sale agreements, loans and development agreements for a variety of commercial and residential projects. Contact us if you’d like us to give you a hand.
Christopher J. Charles is the founder and Managing Partner of Provident Law ®. He is a State Bar Certified Real Estate Specialist and a former “Broker Hotline Attorney” for the Arizona Association of REALTORS ® (the “AAR”). Mr. Charles holds the AV ® Preeminent Rating by the Martindale-Hubbell Peer Review Ratings system which connotes the highest possible rating in both legal ability and ethical standards. He serves as an Arbitrator and Mediator for the AAR regarding real estate disputes; and he served on the State Bar of Arizona’s Civil Jury Instructions Committee where he helped draft the Agency Instructions and the Residential Landlord/Tenant Eviction Jury Instructions.
Christopher is a licensed Real Estate Instructor and he teaches continuing education classes at the Arizona School of Real Estate and Business. He can be reached at Chris@ProvidentLawyers.com or at 480-388-3343.