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Electronic Signatures vs. Digital Signatures

December 5, 2022

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Are Electronic Or Digital Signatures Better?

Technology has permanently changed the rental business. 

Gone are the days when every lease had to be signed in person and documents had to be delivered by mail. 

Electronic signatures and digital signatures are the preferred method of leasing for most landlords in today’s world. They save substantial time and money compared to older methods. 

But which is the better option between the two? And what is the difference? 

Let’s look at the answers to these questions below.  

The Difference Between Electronic Signatures and Digital Signatures 

It isn’t uncommon to see electronic and digital used interchangeably when people talk about signatures. People often don’t differentiate between the two. However, they aren’t the same.  

What are electronic signatures? Electronic signatures are any letters, characters, or symbols manifested by electronic or similar means that are executed or adopted by a party with an intent to authenticate a writing. They provide a quick, simple way to obtain a signer’s intent and consent for an agreement between two or more parties. Almost all of us have signed something using an electronic signature at this point. 

A digital signature, however, refers to security protocols related to an entire agreement or document. A digital signature is a type of electronic signature that encrypts documents with digital codes that are difficult to duplicate. This involves encryption, decryption, and verification of the specific document and all associated alterations to said document. Landlords can use digital signatures for various security measures related to the transmission and application of digital documentation. 

The main takeaway here is that digital signatures secure documents and electronic signatures verify documents. An electronic signature confirms legal authorization and consent regarding an agreement. A digital signature is the online equivalent of notarizing a signature. Think of a digital signature like a unique fingerprint that adds an exceptional level of security. 

The Benefits of Electronic Signatures 

Life before electronic signatures required landlords to print out loads of paper and get signatures in person. This was a time-consuming and often frustrating process. If mistakes were made, then manual changes became necessary and more signatures had to be tracked down. Thankfully electronic signatures changed all of that.  

Electronic signatures make signing a document as easy as clicking a button. Tenants can review agreements from anywhere and sign a document on the go. If edits need to be made to a lease agreement, it no longer requires all the steps paper copies did in the past. Now, the change can be made, the document can be emailed back to your tenant, and they can sign it all in a matter of minutes.  

The Benefits of Digital Signatures 

Digital signatures ensure that the documents you’re using come from verified sources, your tenants’ identities are verified and accurate, and no one has tampered with the documents that shouldn’t have access. 

Digital signatures embed Personal Key Infrastructure (PKI) into the signing process, which allows them to identify the party asking for the signature and the party signing the document. PKI develops two keys, a public one and a private one, that uniquely identify a signer.  

What is an example of this process? Let’s say Mary needs to sign a lease agreement. After she reads through the document, she signs it using her private encrypted key. Next, she provides you with her public key. If that public key cannot decrypt Mary’s signature, it isn’t valid. 

Again, think of this like a fingerprint or driver’s license; it verifies her signature and keeps someone from misrepresenting her online. This process is also the key differentiator between electronic signatures and digital signatures. 

Digital Document Signing Platforms 

Most major document signing platforms allow users to apply secure digital signatures. That being said, the application and terminology used by different providers often varies. 

DocuSign 

DocuSign works with digital signatures and electronic seals. It makes document sharing and signature verification easy and quick. 

Adobe Acrobat Sign 

Adobe Acrobat Sign supports two kinds of digital signatures: Certified and Approval. 

With certified signatures, you’re the document’s author and want to ensure security against tampering. Certified documents show a blue ribbon on the top of the document with the signer’s name and the certificate issuer. This acts as a valuable indication of the document’s authenticity.  

Approval signatures, on the other hand, speed up an organization’s approval process by storing electronic approvals made by people or departments and embedding them in the document as a kind of digital signature stamp.  

Microsoft Word 

Like Adobe, there are two kinds of digital signatures for word: visible and non-visible. 

Visible digital signatures look like a typical signature line. They’re typically used when you need more than one user to sign a document. 

Non-visible line up with what the name implies. They are at the bottom of the document and won’t appear on printed copies.  

Conclusion 

Electronic signatures and digital signatures changed the rental business. Landlords no longer have to chase down signatures and print tons of paper.  

Electronic signatures and digital signatures aren’t the same thing, though. Digital signatures are more difficult to duplicate because of the added security. That being said, both have revolutionized the rental industry and made landlords and tenants’ lives considerably easier. 

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