Take out a residential lease by e-mail? Is that possible?

Alain De Jonge Alain De Jonge

Even though a residential lease must, in principle, be concluded in writing, once an agreement to rent has been reached by e-mail, it is binding and you may ask a tenant who wants to get out of it for a break fee.

More and more, e-mail is the communication medium par excellence, even for negotiating the lease of a property. And it often happens that a lease and the clear agreements relating to it are sealed in this way.

At that moment, however, there is no written agreement.

The question then arises whether this is binding and whether the tenant and/or the landlord can still get out of it. Recently a judge ruled about it ...

1. A written lease is mandatory! What is then the value of an agreement by e-mail?

In the three regions, there is a legal obligation to conclude a rental agreement in writing. In principle, a verbal residential lease is no longer possible. This means, among others, that you can force your tenant to conclude a written contract, if necessary before the Justice of the Peace.

So what is the value of agreements via e-mail?

There are sometimes misunderstandings about this. It is not because the contract must be written on paper that agreements via e-mail have no value.

If the e-mails clearly show that the tenant wishes to rent the premises in question, at a certain rent and from a certain date, then it is a binding lease. 

2. This was recently confirmed by the court

In this case, the tenant had reversed his decision to rent the property by claiming that no document existed. Although only e-mails had been sent back and forth, the court found that a tenancy agreement had been concluded because it was clear that there was an intention to rent. The court judged that the tenant's emails constituted a so-called out-of-court confession and were therefore sufficient to prove the tenancy. The court ordered the tenant to pay damages equal to two months' rent.

This is an important judgment that has to be taken into account!

3. Conclusion

Once clear agreements have been made by e-mail, even as a landlord you cannot simply get out of them. You can only stop the rent when the tenant agrees. But if he does not want to, you remain bound by the lease, even if it was only concluded by e-mail. If you still wish to get out of the rental agreement for any reason whatsoever, you will have to apply to the Justice of the Peace. In that case, you risk having to pay a cancellation fee.

Please note! If you do not wish to be bound by e-mail correspondence, you can clearly state in your e-mail that you only agree to the rent after signing the written lease agreement.

Would you like to receive more information or assistance from the specialists of Seeds of Law? Don't hesitate to contact us at +32 (0)2 747 40 07 or via info@seeds.law.

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Alain De Jonge

Alain De Jonge

Koen De Puydt

Koen De Puydt

Ulrike Beuselinck

Ulrike Beuselinck