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How we handle leases and lease signing

By the year 2000, Congress had passed a series of laws that effectively make any agreement enacted electronically just as binding as agreements enacted on paper.  In short, clicking a button on a web site that clearly states agreement, or sending an eMail with an agreement, will suffice as a legal signature.  The one hitch is that there should be evidence of both parties receiving notification of agreements.  We handle that by asking our guests to validate leases and to send us an eMail confirmation.

You can read about the acts of Congress here.

Following established precedence and guidelines, we implement lease signing as follows:
  • We generate a lease with the terms specific to you, our guest.
  • We save this lease as an Adobe Acrobat Portable Document Format (PDF) file.  These files are easily printable from most computers, and will retain all text and formatting, regardless of the computer.  Your computer probably already has the Acrobat software installed, if not, you can get it here: Adobe Acrobat Reader
  • We generate an MD5 fingerprint for the PDF file.  This creates a unique code for the file, using a standard algorithm based on the contents of the file.  To a high degree of certainty, any tampering of the PDF file would result in a different MD5 code.  Even changing one byte in the file will most likely change the MD5 fingerprint.  If you are interested in how MD5 algorithms work, see this Wikipedia article.  
  • We send this lease to you via eMail, as an attachment.  In that eMail are:
    • The PDF lease
    • The MD5 fingerprint of the PDF lease
    • The title of the lease, which includes your name and rental dates
    • Our agreement to be bound by the lease upon your acceptance
    • Instructions for how you can signify your acceptance and agreement
    • A link to this web page you are reading.
  • When you are satisfied with the lease (and have printed or saved a copy for your records, along with the eMail containing our agreement statement), you reply to the eMail containing the lease with specific language that states that you agree with the terms of the lease.
  • We then save the eMail you send, along with the headers from your eMail provider.

If you wish to validate the MD5 fingerprint of the PDF we send you, you may use one of the programs listed below.  They are all free or already installed on your computer.  They should all produce the same fingerprint, given the same input file (the lease PDF).  In this way, you can be sure that the document you are agreeing to is digitally identical to the version we have.

Here is an example of how to run software to produce and MD5 fingerprint for a lease for John Doe starting January 1, 2008, contained in the lease JohnDoe20080101.pdf.  (Note that the filename is not used to determine the MD5, only the contents of the file.)

  • Save the attachment from your eMail program somewhere on your hard drive.
  • Open a terminal window.
  • Navigate to the directory where you saved the file.
  • Enter the command, for example:
    •     md5 JohnDoe20080101.pdf
  • The program will spit out the MD5 signature, which will, of course, comprise completely different digits, but which will look something like this:
    •    4997B1AD66DA1E6B02C4AF4D6735D191
Here are some programs and the command lines for using them

OS Program Example Command-Line Where to get the software
Mac OS X md5 md5 JohnDoe20080101.pdf Included in OS
Linux/FreeBSD md5 md5 JohnDoe20080101.pdf Included in OS
Cygwin md5sum md5sum JohnDoe20080101.pdf Available in Cygwin, probably in /usr/bin/md5sum
Windows  md5sum md5sum JohnDoe20080101.pdf Included in some versions of Windows, provided by Microsoft
Windows / ActiveState MD5 - free version md5sum md5sum JohnDoe20080101.pdf http://downloads.activestate.com/contrib/md5sum/Windows/
Windows / FastSum - free command-line version fsum fsum JohnDoe20080101.pdf http://www.fastsum.com/download.php
Look for the link: FastSum Command Line Edition executable setup