Providing a Reference – I have been asked to provide a reference for one of my tenants who is moving on. What is my legal position in this and am I putting myself at risk if I say he was a bad tenant?
Referencing (seeking verification of a tenant’s past performance) is an increasingly common practice in the letting process. It may be carried out by the landlord, the landlord’s agent, or as is increasingly common, by a credit checking agency. Usually it involves a telephone call to the referee, seeking verbal and then written confirmation of a tenant’s bona fides.
Referencing should not be overlooked as a legitimate method of indicating the likely success of a future tenancy. They are frequently sought from previous landlords, letting agents, employers, accountants or solicitors (for the self-employed or retired), character referees and banks or building societies.
No one reference should be totally relied upon, but should be seen as one element in the overall pattern of information gathered about a prospective tenant. Bank or building society references in particular are usually sparse on information, written in coded terms, usually involve a fee, and take a long time to obtain. For those reasons they are less commonly used. Having sight of a tenant’s last 3 banks statements is usually more enlightening.
Landlords are under no legal obligation to provide a reference, and indeed if you have had a bad experience you may wish to decline, in which case the credit reference agency seeking the reference will refer to other sources such as a previous letting agent.
However, most landlords wish to co-operate and should always provide truthful and factual information, bearing in mind that giving misleading information could have legal implications:
- If your tenant is rejected by you giving false negative information
- The landlord takes on a bad tenant when you have given false positive information.
Reference forms usually consist of a set of questions with a general (opinion based) question at the end. You should answer by sticking strictly to the facts, for example: Was the rent always paid on time? If this was the case then the answer is simply “yes”. The final general answer should give a fair and in no way misleading assessment of the overall tenancy performance.
Bear in mind that the reference you give will be cross referenced with information obtained from other sources, so it’s important that your answers are totally honest and truthful.
If your tenant was a bad tenant then your factual answers to the questions will make this very clear, but avoid any temptation to go into opinionated personal feelings which understandably a badly treated landlord may really like to do.
©LandlordZONE All Rights Reserved – never rely totally on these standard answers which apply primarily to England and Wales. Before taking action or not, always do your own research and/or seek professional advice with the full facts of the case and all documents to hand.