Tenant referral; what can/cannot I say?

13 Replies

I'm curious as to what I can/cannot say in a tenant review with a new landlord. I know it can get you in a tough spot if you say the wrong bad things about an employee to a new employer - how does it pertain to tenants good and bad? 

Do I simply answer a new landlords questions with 'yes' and 'no' or do I go into details?

Just confirm the facts, when the tenant lived there, what they paid, and how many times they were late. When you are asked if you would rent to that tenant again, say you would need a new background/credit check before deciding as situations change.

When a landlord calls me about a tenant I tell them everything they want to know, I would expect the same when I call a previous landlord. The communication is verbal, it is hearsay and can not be held against you.

I will advise a landlord as to whether they should or should not rent to someone based on the experience I had with that tenant. If you are not willing to do that then there is no point in landlords calling previous landlords as part of screening. If landlords are going to be evasive, vague or avoid being honest what is the point in screening.

Originally posted by @Thomas S. :

The communication is verbal, it is hearsay and can not be held against you.

LOL! Anything you say can and will be used against you. Can and will! You'd be surprised how strong "hearsay" can be. I recently received a restraining order against a tenant based entirely on hearsay. The judge granted my order without even speaking with me. The same tenant will likely be arrested for burglary, as a result of nothing but circumstantial evidence. No direct evidence is required by the courts.

Also, my phone is set to record all phone calls automatically, just in case I need them. Your hearsay can easily be recorded and saved by the other party. Additionally, verbal contracts/agreements are considered valid in many places.

Verbal communications very much can be held against you.

Hearsay is very rarely allowed in a court of law. Certainly not something as insignificant as what we are referring to at least. I personally am confident the information passed from one landlord to another would not be taken seriously if challenged by a tenant. The consequences to the tenant are insignificant. Yes it is normal for restraining orders to be issued on a individuals word, in almost all cases in fact, however the standards in a court of law are much higher.

I have been sc***ed by landlords not being forthcoming with information about tenants and I personally will never do that to another landlord. In my opinion those landlords are reprehensible. When I get the call I will hold my responsibilities to protect other landlords to a high standard.  

You can ask the landlord to fax , email, or mail you a written release they should have asked for from the applicant at time of application that gives permission for you to release the information the new landlord is requesting, on their form, If the applicant landlord doesn't' have that form, Then I just say yes they lived here, rent amount was $$$ and I can't disclose anything else with out their permission it's the same for anyone that has lived here. 

Originally posted by @Thomas S. :

Hearsay is very rarely allowed in a court of law. Certainly not something as insignificant as what we are referring to at least. I personally am confident the information passed from one landlord to another would not be taken seriously if challenged by a tenant.

It would be taken very seriously if you said the wrong things. Say a minority tenant is trying to get a new place, and the landlord calls you, and you say "no way, don't rent to that guy, he's a dumb (racial slur) and his friends are all gay!"

In that situation, it's very likely that you could get sued. You can't just say whatever pops into your head, even if you *think* what I said above.

Also, it's not hearsay if the conversation was recorded or there was another witness.

@Account Closed

We can go around this circle forever and you will always be wrong.

You are disseminating fear. Fear is derived from a lack of knowledge.

"no way, don't rent to that guy, he's a dumb (racial slur) and his friends are all gay!"

You can in fact say exactly that without consequence and all it amounts to is a racist, bigoted slur. It is not a criminal offence. What you are failing to understand is that if the information one landlord passes along to another is the truth there is no legal violation of any individuals rights. Expressing a opinion is also not against the law. As long as the information a landlord passes to another is the truth there is no violation of anyone's rights. Landlords are not held to the standard of doctors or lawyers, the information they have is not  in any way privileged.

There is no greater handy cap in business than fear born from ignorance except for ignorance itself.  

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@Steven J. , you can give facts. If you have records (and you should have records for any tenant) then you say "Bob Jones lived in my property at 123 Main St. from January, 1998 - May of 2005. They paid $900 a month rent during their last year, they paid late once in January of 2003. I would not rent to them again, they were not quiet and I had 6 complaints from other tenants during the course of their tenancy."

You should not say, "I think they were drug dealers, but I never caught them doing anything wrong."

Mindy Jensen, Real Estate Agent in CO (#FA100049656)
Originally posted by @Thomas S. :

I will advise a landlord as to whether they should or should not rent to someone based on the experience I had with that tenant. If you are not willing to do that then there is no point in landlords calling previous landlords as part of screening. If landlords are going to be evasive, vague or avoid being honest what is the point in screening.

 Because of a bad experience with the tenant, the Current LL will sometimes tell you what you want to hear.  I even caught one reference who wasn't the LL at all but just a friend trying to help a friend.  This is why you need TWO prior residences - - the one two locations back has no need to expel the bad apple and will tell you the truth.

@Mindy Jensen

Correct. You can provide any information that is the truth (try proving otherwise) and you may offer your opinion as to whether they are a good tenant based on your personal experience with that tenant. You may provide full first hand details. You may honestly answer any direct question you are asked. You should not slander by telling a untruth or making statements of assumptions that you do not infact know are true.

If I have a bad tenant I tell the next landlord they should not, in my opinion, rent to them. I give reasons.

Originally posted by @Thomas S. :

@Ryan R.

"no way, don't rent to that guy, he's a dumb (racial slur) and his friends are all gay!"

You can in fact say exactly that without consequence and all it amounts to is a racist, bigoted slur. It is not a criminal offence. What you are failing to understand is that if the information one landlord passes along to another is the truth there is no legal violation of any individuals rights.

And this is what you fail to understand: You cannot just say whatever you want. First, it has to be truthful. Then you need evidence to back it up. If you say bad things about somebody without evidence to prove it, you could be sued for slander or defamation. And yes, in some circumstances it is considered a hate crime (criminal offense) to use racial slurs against your tenants. It's not legal to be racist when you are a landlord.

Try explaining those racial slurs to the judge. It won't go very well.

Now you are becoming ridicules. I don't know what world of fear you live in but it must be really scary there. Do they still burn books.

Provide us with a actual case study to support any claims you are making. Beyond the most extreme example of some crazy lunatic landlord you will not find any.   

U.S. First Amendment.  

I'm not going to waste my time finding case studies for you. The fact remains, you cannot just say anything you want about anybody if it is not true. Its called slander and defamation. If you prevent somebody from getting the unit they wanted with your phone call by making false statements, they might just come after you if you said the wrong things. Don't assume just because it's verbal it can't be used against you, and may well have been recorded.

And no, it's not legal to be racist when you are a landlord. You can easily have a restraining order placed against you for that. In the united states, that means you lose your right to own a firearm, among other things. Not sure about Canada, but I don't really care either.

Based on the restraining order I was just granted, If I was black and my landlord called me the N word, I could get a restraining order based solely on that. For that matter if they called me a white cracker I could probably do the same. It's alarmingly easy to get a restraining order, and, nothing you say has to be proven.

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