Pet peeve - landlords who don't return calls about past tenants

24 Replies

Its always striking how often small time landlords won't call me back when I call about a past or current tenant.

I always return calls about my tenants as soon as possible because I know how important it is for landlords to get a timely response as they consider an application.

I'd say they are hypocrites, but they are not necessarily since some may be the type of landlords who are too lazy to call landlords references when evaluating an application.

My pet peeve as well.  You will find that not all landlords want to stand together to help make change for all of us.  

I had been working with a Lobbyist to change the law regarding "hold overs".  Worked many years trying to get the law to allow landlords to remove a tenant from the property once the lease expired and they didn't move, instead of having to go to court again and have the Judge decide whether or not they violated the contract by not moving.   A Contract is a Contract!  But nobody supported me.  

Nancy Neville

Agree with Dan. Maybe 10% of prior landlords have returned my calls in the past

I have only been called twice.  I returned the calls, but not out of any feeling of responsibility to a fellow landlord.  Rather, out of a feeling of responsibility to my former tenants, who I happily provided positive references for.

The reality is that it does a landlord no good, and could do harm, to respond to a reference request.

I have also gotten calls from landlords lobbying for a statutory and regulatory change.  My experience so far has been that most of those people have a particular hobby-horse, based on their own personal history or personal interests.

Maybe if you leave a vague message referencing the property, you might get a better response.  It also might be that you are sometimes getting old phone numbers.  If it is a cell number, try a text and call.

Not excusing the lack of responsiveness, but part of the problem is this information is very urgent for you, but not a high priority for the previous landlord.

I think a lot of landlords don't want to lie, so they just don't respond.  If I have a hinky feeling about someone and their landlord isn't responding, I would take that as a bad reference.  If a landlord wants to get rid of a current tenant, they shoot themselves in the foot by telling prospective landlords that the tenant is bad.  So, what's left?  Just not responding at all or lying.

In CA, it became popular among the corporate apartment communities to just answer with the dates of tenancy and if asked if they'd rent to them again, the pat answer (which must be taught in seminars, I swear) is "If they qualified again, I would rent to them again."  

Uh, and that means exactly what? LOL.

What they'll also do is require you to send them your request via fax on your letterhead.  Uh, ain't got no fax, and ain't got no letterhead.  "Sorry, that's our requirement."

I did get one corporate manager once who told me the above, and then she weirdly kept loudly saying "Good luck!! Good luck!!!"  I took that as - don't rent to these guys!

You can always tell the tenant you won't rent to them until you get a reference.  Put it on the tenant to bug the landlord to return your call.  I helped a friend rent their first home for the first time, and they had some iffy young tenants apply who the wife "really liked."  Oh no, I thought...  Their landlord wasn't responding, so she told the tenants they had to get her to respond, which they did - and in that case the referral was good.  It was only for the boyfriend, though, so they still took a chance on the girlfriend.

Anyway, I suggest you put it on the applicant to get their landlords to respond.  If the applicant disappears rather than gets the landlord to call you, they just screened themselves out LOL.

But, yeah, it's frustrating trying to get referrals.  I was also really honest if I ever got a referral call which was about 6 times in 8 years with 25 units.  Go figure.

Even worse  then a landlord who doesn't return calls is the darn property manager who is a real estate agent who can't  be bothered to even verify occupancy or answer a specific question about a former tenant!  

I don't give references and I don't ask for references.

I had a horrible tenant who wanted a recommendation. I wasn't going to say anything that could make my move out worst or them destroy my house. So I took the approach if you can't say anything nice don't say anything.

I know a landlord here in towns who is a lawyer and does not give reference either. Each to their own but it's something I do z

Originally posted by @Dan C. :

Its always striking how often small time landlords won't call me back when I call about a past or current tenant.

I always return calls about my tenants as soon as possible because I know how important it is for landlords to get a timely response as they consider an application.

I'd say they are hypocrites, but they are not necessarily since some may be the type of landlords who are too lazy to call landlords references when evaluating an application.

I, as a landlord personally and as a property manager professionally, will avoid a return call if I had a negative experience with a residential renter, (i.e. eviction or late rent) because I don't want to jeopardize their chance to find a place to stay.  If, I call back and say I have no comment, then the new landlord could read between the lines.  I believe that sometimes people learn from their mistakes and may be a great renter under different circumstances.  If the tenant was malicious or has a poor track record then will return the call with an honest account of our experience.

I admit, I don't always return each reference inquiry.  If I pick up the phone, I do answer truthfully and at worst try to stick to actual public info (at best I'll give some actual details/personal opinion).  Used to be if I missed a call (and get a voice mail) and it might be...awkward to discuss the tenant, I would wait until a second incoming call before responding.  

Oddly, most of the folks who call are checking on tenants who I either had to give a pay-or-quit notice to or have actually evicted. I had a former tenant with an anger management issue. Since the new landlord was calling me, I assumed they were checking public records and would clearly see the nature of the person...I was relieved that the landlord called just once and got voice mail. I know, I'm chicken!

The last reference check inquiry was from a landlord I didn't know but it was a really good conversation between the two of us; her response suggested the vast majority of folks do not call her back...(maybe I'm getting better, that was definitely an awkward situation for the tenant).

Unfortunately in the world we live in today, there is too much liability in telling the truth about a previous tenant.  You can be sued or a complaint filed against you if you are an agent for saying a tenant sucks when they actually do......suck.  I am very hesitant to give out information for this very reason.  Sad but true

I get the touchy situations with bad tenants.  But I think a lot of times even with good tenants they don't call me.  They are just lazy and rude and it annoys me.  My experience in Milwaukee has been the professional management companies usually call me back, its the small operators who often do not.

This is a pet peave of mine too. As landlords we need to work together to reinforce good tenant behavior and punish bad behavior.  

I'm happy to answer objective questions as my records support my answers. The questions I ask are the same for every application I screen and allow for objective answers so I am not putting the former landlord in a difficult situation.

I don't tell turn downs why they didn't pass the screening process and you shouldn't either. With this approach we can work together to protect our investments and income. Let the deadbeat tenants rent from unprofessional landlords who don't screen well. 

Where is the liability in making factual statements in a private conversation @Greg H. ? It doesn't fall under slander or libel laws. From what I understand, if something is true about someone it is legal to say it.

Originally posted by @Dan C. :

I get the touchy situations with bad tenants.  But I think a lot of times even with good tenants they don't call me.  They are just lazy and rude and it annoys me.  My experience in Milwaukee has been the professional management companies usually call me back, its the small operators who often do not.

It's been my experience that the big operators will ask you to fax in the authorization, then you do, and you don't hear back from them.  The small ones, you will call, and 80% of the time you don't hear back from them.  Then I've also had the situation where I've called the current landlord, got a glowing reference, then called the one prior and was told they were the most HORRIBLE tenant ever.  So that meant the current landlord was lying to me.

I've had very few calls about prior tenants, so little in fact that I could count on one hand.

Dawn Anastasi, Core Properties, LLC | http://www.coreprop.biz | Podcast Guest on Show #29

I am to the point where I have stopped calling landlords or emplyers. Its hard to get good someone on the phone and then the questions is how much can you trust the information you get. I use mysmartmove for background checks and look at paystubs for emplyment and income verification. When in doubt I meet tenants at home, that is usually very insightful. But for the most part I look on data, credit scores reviel patterns. Like my boss used to say "In god we trust, all others bring data."

Medium bluedenube logo op3Marcus Auerbach, Blue Danube Properties LLC | [email protected] | 262 671 6868 | http://www.bluedanubeproperties.com | WI Agent # 82189

We have a landlord who is upset that people are leaving and so they refuse to answer the calls from the new place people want to move to.  A lot of comments here that say people don't respond if they had a bad tenant, so by ignoring the calls of the new place people are moving to,  the idea is formed that they were a bad tenant even though we weren't.  They just made the place unlivable so everyone wants to move.  What can you do?  As a leasee do we have any recourse?

@Anna Marie   be honest but don't say too much.  Say I have the experience that my landlord is unlikely to return the call because she is upset we are moving. Can you show proof you paid in full and on time? When you say she made the place unlivable you need to be sure when you talk to potential landlords you don't come off in a bad light complaining about the landlord. If you share any complaints they should be the easily recognized as behavior you would not want to live with in a new place. Entering without notice, for example.

I do return calls but often get calls with no tenant name which is annoying. In our area the most frequent calls are regarding student tenants. Most times I have to look them up.  I have to say I had a few nice conversations with local landlords over those calls.  For tenants with issues I don't usually get calls and I would probably treat them the way they treated me, the facts coincide with how bad they were. 

@Elizabeth Colegrove I like that point of view.  I probably wouldn't take the call either but send to my property manager for the call back.  After they are screened I focus on other business as I'm paying a manager to deal with the tenants directly.

Medium company logoShawn Ackerman, IKEPTIT Real Estate LLC | [email protected] | 516 /992 /6401 | http://www.ikeptitrealestatellc.com | NY Agent # 10401277940

@Dan C. If landlords don't call just fax over the reference form with your info at the type so the landlord knows you are real and can check you out before supplying the info.

@Sue K. If you don't send via fax on your letterhead, a landlord will consider you are not real and fishing for info. An honest landlord would send the request on their letterhead.

I respond but not always timely.  However, in the past year I have had ONE property manager get with me for a reference.  Getting others to respond to my request is tough as well.  I almost always call them to follow up and/or email them a few times.  I should probably force the tenant to have their property manager send me a background request form instead of me approaching the property manager myself.  That way the motivation of the tenant gets the job done.  This would have to be sent from a company specific email or fax that I can reference online so the tenant isn't doctoring the form.

Medium evermark logo originalMichael Thompson, Evermark Property Group | [email protected] | 317‑645‑3034 | IN Agent # RB14048067

Originally posted by @Account Closed :

@Dan C. If landlords don't call just fax over the reference form with your info at the type so the landlord knows you are real and can check you out before supplying the info.

 Send over a fax ?  Should I leave my pager number as well ? Anybody can create a letterhead in 2 minutes.  It doesn't make you real.