Legality of scanned contracts?

Hello All

In my quest to become paperless I am wondering about scanning in legal documents and contracts. Is there any question about the legality of a contract or important document if you don’t have the original copy? For instance, if I had to go to court someday (God forbid), or if I had my taxes audited could I be disadvantaged by having a scanned and then reprinted copy of a lease, tax receipt, etc… instead of the original? I’m wondering if I can throw the originals away and not have to worry about only retaining the scanned copy in DT. I suppose there will be differences by jurisdiction. I live in Canada now but will probably move to the US fairly soon. Does anyone have any insight into this issue?


I know here they say never to sign any document you send, for example, to a collection agency – because they can scan the signature, paste it on a contract, and then take you to court saying you never honored a given contract. WTF? Yeah, but still – that’s what they say.

I have a leasing contract with my apartment. We just have a photocopy, and I figure that’s good enough for most problems that might come our way. The judge would inspect any photocopied/printed contract, and likely be able to tell in most cases when something is a forgery or the real deal.

If you’re into things like real estate deals, serious business, or anything like that, I definitely wouldn’t throw the contracts away – just put them into airtight, fire-resistant storage containers and throw 'em in a climate-controlled storage facility. They start at about $40/month, and to have all your documents backed up offsite for $50/year isn’t bad. Really.

But I think, 99 times out of 100, you won’t even need to print the contract. On that 100th time, you can print it out, and 99 times out of 100, it’d be fine. On the 100th time, even the real deal, signed and thumbprinted with attached DNA samples, voiceprint identifications, and the entire population of Vatican City as witnesses – will still mean you’re going to court.

Just my uneducated opinion. By far, my worst experiences with contracts have had to do with not being able to find the damn things and fax them to the right people, or getting them to understand the finer points of contract law (I don’t care if you bought the apartment complex, you still can’t raise my rent in the middle of my lease). DTPO is the way to go, with offsite storage if you’re doing big things.

My accountant tells me to keep everything.

My clients and I throw electronic contracts around all the time, but I’ve never needed to test the validity of such agreements.

Maybe you should consult a professional licensed in your jurisdiction?

You should definitely consult a professional if getting it wrong would cost you significant time or money.