Giving a Tenant a Reference

by Readers Question

10:52 AM, 13th March 2014
About 7 years ago

Giving a Tenant a Reference

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Giving a Tenant a Reference

I was approached this week to give a reference to an outgoing tenant by an Agency in Beverley.

I answered all their questions honestly.

Whilst this tenant has created us some problems they were minor compared to what some tenants do. Giving a Tenant a Reference

I summarised by stating that I would have no hesitation renewing a tenancy agreement with the tenant or keeping the tenant on. I added to the reference that the information was given in the strictest confidence.

I have since had some very irate phone calls and texts from my tenant claiming the agency have turned her down based on my reference.

I re-emailed the Agency pointing out that the information I gave was in the strictest confidence. My tenant also called them up again after. The Agency then went onto give more specific information from the reference to my tenant, but giving a slightly different spin on it. She as since called and text again and is irate that she has lost her £400.

I spoke to the Agency yesterday and they claimed that they would not have released this information. However, it is very specific and not something that could apply to every tenant, so there is no doubt in my mind they have. I could even tell the lady on the other end of the phone was not convinced her college had not released the information.

They claimed that there were other reasons too that the property had not been offered to my current tenant, although that is not something my tenant is saying. I suggested that they might have simply used that reason or reasons instead of taking an element of what I had wrote using that. The lady could not answer that.

What should I do?

Is there a body to make an official complaint to ?

What I suspect they have done is used small parts of my reference to turn her down instead of giving her the genuine reason.

Overall the reference I gave was honest but did suggest that she was a tenant I was happy with and would accept.

I am very seriously considering refusing all reference requests in the future.

I would appreciate your thoughts.

Many thanks

Dean


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Comments

Mark Alexander

10:57 AM, 13th March 2014
About 7 years ago

Hi Dean

In my opinion the letting agency concerned are bang out of order and should be reported to the ICO and the local Trading Standards Office. I'd also suggest you cc your letters of complaint to the agent and any professional bodies they belong to.

Given that you have answered totally honestly I can't see that your tenant has any legal comeback on you. They might become bloody awkward though and that's just not right or fair on you.

Maybe you should send a full copy of the reference to your tenant to prove absolutely that you are an open book.

What did your tenant pay the agency £400 for by the way? The cynic in me is thinking they might be ripping off hundreds of tenants with this scam!
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Mark Alexander

11:01 AM, 13th March 2014
About 7 years ago

PS - why not become your tenants champion and help them to make complaints too?

You could show them your complaint letters and my comment above.

If the agency is pulling a fast one they need to be dealt with. They might just give your tenant his/her money back just for some peace. If not, I'm sure that both you and your tenant will have great joy in exposing their little scam.

You and your tenant may also wish to consider posting a review on the All-Agents website - see http://www.allagents.co.uk/
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Dean

11:10 AM, 13th March 2014
About 7 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Mark Alexander" at "13/03/2014 - 11:01":

Thanks Mark

I asked them to refund the £400 yesterday and they agreed but I do not know yet if this has happened.

They promised to send me details of how to complain which they have and call me back yesterday afternoon when they had looked into it further . They have not done this yet despite another email reminding them. I intend to give them until this afternoon then I will call again. But I am definitely writing a full complaint to them and any governing body . I think they mentioned ARLA ? I will contact Trading Standards I had not thought of them. I thought maybe Data protection Office ? Who is ICO please?

Thanks

Dean

Mark Alexander

11:23 AM, 13th March 2014
About 7 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Dean " at "13/03/2014 - 11:10":

Hi Dean

The ICO is the Information Commissioners Office, the government backed department which is empowered to enforce the Data Protection Act.

I would suggest you write your complaint to Trading Standards and the ICO and cc to the professional bodies.
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Dean

11:51 AM, 13th March 2014
About 7 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Mark Alexander" at "13/03/2014 - 11:23":

Thanks Mark I will

Dean

Mike W

12:13 PM, 13th March 2014
About 7 years ago

An interesting story and as often on P118 we only have one side of the story. I am not suggesting anything.
I am frequently asked for tenant references and I am very upfront with what I am likely to say. Usually the tenant expects me to write them a letter which they can pass on. I point out that is not how it works. First the person seeking the reference will want to check me out - whether I exist and whether I am a landlord and of what property - and that can be done quite easily - in Scotland. Then of course they will want to ask specific questions. Subjective questions are rarely asked. Whatever I say, irrespective of confidentiality, I make sure I can substantiate. Otherwise there could be 'damages'.

And yes there have been occasions when I have said do you really want a reference from me?

Frankly I do not use credit referencing or any other agency any more. My own checks suffice (and I am not going to provide the details here). Suffice it to say that very simple checks & meeting people often rule out unsuitable tenants. Luckily I can often choose between several tenants on the same viewing day, so it is not a problem. Yes there have been mistakes but nothing serious.

Bottom line, don't provide any information that you would not do in a court of law. And when you ask for a reference bear in mind the previous sentence.
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Dean

12:28 PM, 13th March 2014
About 7 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Mike W" at "13/03/2014 - 12:13":

I do not use reference agencies either I do very much the same as you .

The reference I have given is very honest. That's the problem. The things I did say in there are specific to a couple of problems we have had with this tenant. as a result she knows that I have mentioned them. However, it is the context I mentioned them in she does not know. Put out of context it could be taken very differently.

I know if I were the reader of that reference I would not have turned her down on that basis. If I had a better potential tenant I would. However, she will not be happy that I have even eluded to them. That will result in a unhappy leaving tenant. Who knows what potential damage or problems that will lead to.

I have absolutely no problem if someone wanted to take me to court over these answers either. All are honest and all can be backed up by correspondence and third party evidence, including a third party from the local council who is this persons support worker and has had dealings with her over some of these issues.

I appreciate that although there is only one side on here of the story it is a truthful side and one I am prepared to take to any official body

Eleanor White

12:35 PM, 13th March 2014
About 7 years ago

Hi Dean.

I had a very similar case to this. We had to decline a tenant based on not only their landlord reference, but some other issues that were also concerning the new landlord, not least their credit history. They demanded the transcript from our referencing agency, which under data protection and freedom of information they had to provide. They then took the issue up with the agent who had provided the reference. The agent had said that they would relet, but in view of the culmination of evidence in the reference report (and their general nervousness about the tenant) the landlord still declined them. As Mark says, perhaps it is worth you providing the tenant with all of the information you provided. You have a duty to be honest in your reference, and they can't object to the facts that you noted.

From what you have said, it does seem that the agency are using a few things you have mentioned as the basis of their decline, but it is likely that there were various other factors at play.

Dean

12:47 PM, 13th March 2014
About 7 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Eleanor White" at "13/03/2014 - 12:35":

Yes I appreciate that . I would have no objection to my tenant seeing the reference in its entirety.

However, having read your comment I think I may now start to decline all reference requests unless I can honestly say that there are no issues at all. Even if I do that what happens if the next landlord does have problems . Is someone likely to come back to me ? I doubt that would ever be the case , but it seems to be reason enough just to refuse giving them at all. Which is wrong because I really so much on landlord references.

this has left a bad taste Im afraid .

12:48 PM, 13th March 2014
About 7 years ago

Hi Dean,

I was just asked to provide a reference yesterday and I hesitated saying that the tenant played the drums and practiced during the day, because overall he is a good tenant. In he end I decided not to mention it.

I was worried that, if I did mention this, and he somehow found out, he could be angry at me for thwarting his chances to get a new property!

A reference is a double edged sword. If you have a great tenant that you do not want to leave you, you could write a bad reference to scupper their chances of being accepted in a new property.

Equally, if you know the tenant is bad, but want them to leave, you might write a more glowing reference than they deserve, just to get shot of them!!

In this case, the referencing agency are bang out of order, and Mark has given you some good advice.

If the £400 fee gets refunded, then no real harm done, although your relationship with the outgoing tenant might have been compromised.

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