Almost a year ago to the date, the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (AKA, “HUD”) extended new parameters around the use of electronic signatures, electronic storage and digital transmission of documents for its partners in multifamily assisted housing.
You probably also remember that, about a year ago, our nation was only a couple months into the Coronavirus pandemic and enduring a coast-to-coast shutdown – HUD’s swift adoption of contactless facilitations was (literally) a life line to the many who fell on hard times and were suddenly in need of a roof over their family’s heads.
Even as our country continues its recovery, many Housing Authorities (like most government departments) have found that electronic processes are here to stay – not only do simple, digital substitutes, such as eSignatures, speed up processing to fill units faster, but they offer unparalleled accessibility to citizens who, otherwise, may not have the transportation to get across town and “wet ink” a signature, or the time away from work to do so within the Hosing Authority’s operating hours. While Housing Authorities have been required to continue providing the in-person, “wet signature” option, the pandemic-induced, urgent need for these digital roundabout means and their widespread success hints that the majority will opt for the more convenient, faster, electronic method.
While quickly stood-up, makeshift processes were honored during the pandemic’s early, uncertain, do-what-you-can-to-help-your-neighbor months, the time has come to set them in stone and safeguard their use (and powerful return on investment) by ensuring these new means are compliant.
What Constitutes an “Electronic Signature”?
When we say “electronic signature,” our minds can identify a few possibilities: (1) using a signing pad at a grocery store or bank, (2) using a computer mouse to attempt to virtually sign a digital copy, or (3) opening one of today’s most common eSignature platforms to point-and-click a preset stamp of your name in a cursive font.
While none of these are technically wrong, what constitutes an electronic signature goes beyond what many of us have experienced or would even deem acceptable. The good news is that we don’t have to decide what, in HUD’s eyes, constitutes an eSignature – they’ve laid it out for us, and the criteria are pretty cool.
According to Section V(B) of HUD Notice H 20-4, acceptable variations of electronic signatures include (but are not necessarily limited to):
- The name, typed by the requested signer, into a signature block or at the end of an email
- A digital, photographed image of the requested signer’s signature attached to the electronic record
- A PIN, password or other “secret” identifier that is shared and recognized between the signer and the system
- A fingerprint, voice identifier or retinal eye scanner
HUD’s Security Requirements
As you can see from above, some of these “eSignatures” are not even signatures at all. Some, like secret identifiers and fingerprint systems, are a type of security authentication process, which is a large part of cooperating with compliance efforts.
For legal documents and higher-risk agreements, more advanced authentication might be necessary. This can include phone authentication, requiring signers to answer identity-proving questions, custom passwords and other multi-factor authentication steps.
Pre-Packaged, Compliant eSignatures for Housing Authorities and All Government
Housing Authorities have made significant strides in adopting available technologies to better reach and serve their communities. Because we want this type of achievement for all governments, we’ve made it easy to implement and securely extend compliant, electronic signatures and other digital workflow components to constituents.
By adopting TrueSign, governments are leveraging the highly secure, Microsoft Azure Government Cloud environment to facilitate electronic signatures between both internal staff and external parties. Available for a straight-forward pricing model, agencies won’t be nickel-and-dimed for every user – and there will surely be many who want to hop aboard just to try out our real-time, QR Code signing. In a nutshell, each digital document is delivered with a unique QR Code so that, in the event you need to sign a contract during a video call, you can use your smartphone to scan the code and then sign your smartphone screen using your finger or a stylus. Not only does this provide the often-needed real-time signing experience, but it serves as another level of security – the other parties on your call can see that it was you who actually signed.
For a quick rundown of how TrueSign serves your needs, enjoy one of the quirky, targeted “explainer” videos below.