Let them eat cake

Staff profile: Celica Olsson

A cheeky joke by a tenant highlights the perils of electronic tenancy agreements.
 
In what was meant as a joke, tenants in America doctored their rental agreement to include a clause requiring the landlord to supply them with birthday cake on the weekend closest to each tenant’s birthday.
 
The tenants received a draft copy of their lease agreement as an editable electronic document and decided to insert the additional clause as a gag, even going so far as to specify that “vanilla cake is not acceptable”! 
 
However, the landlord failed to notice the “birthday cake clause” and subsequently signed the agreement – and the tenants intend to “hold him to it”.
 
While the new clause was not detrimental to the landlord, it does serve as a warning for landlords and property managers when it comes to sending agreements electronically.
 
Agreeing to provide a bit of cake might be taken on the chin, but discovering that more nefarious clauses (for example changing the rent payable) were added and not picked up before the legal document was signed could pose a real problem for unwitting landlords.
 
To avoid the “birthday cake clause” effect:
  1. Check the format of the agreement before sending it electronically. The agreement should only be sent as a PDF file, with appropriate security settings so that the content cannot be altered.
     
  2. Double check the document before signing. No matter how familiar you are with it, read the agreement carefully, as even slight variations can have implications – it is a legally binding document after all.
Although the birthday cake clause would be unlikely to be upheld if challenged in court, other ‘changes’ to a document which are agreed to by both parties by signing might be a different story all together. 
 
 
 
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