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When a prospective new landlord seeks a reference on an old landlord’s past tenant, the referring former landlord must always give a fair and honest report on the tenant in question.

The reporting landlord must remain cognizant of the various points of import to landlords in general when rendering the report on the individual tenant. Keeping in mind the fundamental points which make a good tenant is important; a report that the former tenant was “nice” does not describe her qualities as a tenant for the inquiring landlord. He seeks to make an informed decision that is based on ascertainable facts as to whether or not to rent to the individual.

When a landlord takes on a new tenant, that landlord should be curious about what sort of individual will be leasing the premises. The potential tenant must be evaluated in terms of:

– ability and inclination to pay rent owed under the lease
– ability to live in close proximity to neighbors without conflict or disturbance
– ability to keep the premises in good repair, usual wear and tear excepted
– ability to refrain from conducting criminal, illegal, or otherwise prohibited acts while a tenant of the premises.

While all leases should have provisions addressing these points, being aware that a potential tenant will cause trouble in any of these areas should be a red flag warning potential landlords to avoid renting to such individuals.

Offering negative, albeit honest, feedback on a potential tenant is risky in our litigious society. Any feedback offered pertaining to an individual should be substantiated by written records which reflect an accounting of all transactions referred to by the reporting landlord. It is crucial to keep precise documentation as this information could impact an individual’s ability to secure housing in a community.

Keeping copies of all information released to the new landlord and offering a copy to the tenant if requested is important to be able to establish that the revelations about the tenant were based on documented facts rather than personal bias.

Offering an honest, factual, unbiased report of the conduct and financial responsibility of a past tenant is in line with the duties of a landlord. A tenant who keeps up her end of the lease agreement should have nothing to fear if such a reference is solicited. A tenant not in good standing will have to face the truth if such a truthful reference is disclosed to a future landlord and will have to be able to defend herself to refute the information disclosed.