What can you do when your landlord lies when giving a referral

The Lying Landlord

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The Lying Landlord

I am in a unique situation. I pay a high monthly amount in rent: $1900 for a plain 2 bedroom/2 bath (I was desperate at the time) on time, every time. The condo was kept clean. My landlord tells me in person that I am very nice and sweet. I was surprised I had been turned down for a few new homes until I found out that he was giving bad references! One of the prospective realtors did not believe him and decided to check my home out. I feel my landlord is selfish and is sabotaging me, so I will stay longer! What should I do?

Get Letter of Reference

I would suggest asking the lying landlord directly for a general letter of reference. Since he already knows you want to move (as he's heard from other prospective landlords), this shouldn't be a surprise to him. And since he knows you will see the letter, he is more likely to be honest. If this doesn't work, you might want to print out bank statements showing your cleared rent checks as a way to verify timely payments. You could also get letters from neighbors and past landlords.

Put Your Ducks in a Row

As a former professional property manager and Paralegal handling litigation for a number of real estate companies, if your landlord is indeed lying about you, he is engaging either in slander and/or libel, depending on whether it is verbal or in writing. You can sue for both of these and try to collect damages. To do so, you would need witnesses, copies of negative letters, etc.

However, litigation is expensive, and you have to live with the lying landlord until you have a new home. I would suggest you gather all your receipts, documenting your timely payments for at least two years. Take photos of your home, showing it's maintained in a clean and positive condition (including a current newspaper with date). Get testaments from neighbors and/or check with the local police to ensure there are no reports on you. You could also get references from prior roommates, landlords, etc. Then hand all of that to any prospective new landlord or lender. It's easier if you just broach the subject with them early, and say that you've become aware that your current landlord isn't looking forward to replacing a valued tenant or losing $1900+ per month and is handling it in an unprofessional manner.

Related: Be an Attorney's "Best Client"

Choosing a new tenant and/or deciding to make a loan is very much based upon personal impressions. Provided you have reasonable credit, if you have all of your documentation and ducks in a row and appear credible and responsible, you should be able to counteract your current landlord's silliness.

If needed, you may be requested to pay a higher security deposit/down payment. After you have moved, you have a year to deal with the former landlord at least. That additional money you had to pay out and the loss of interest on it would be the basis for a damage claim.

Make Sure Credit Reports Are Clean

I would suggest you make copies of your proof of payments for your rent and utilities. I would take pictures of rooms in the rental (with a date stamp). I would include these items with all applications. I would also check my credit reports. If your landlord is lying to the credit bureaus, you can take action. Another thing you can do is ask any friends that are lawyers or law school students to inform the landlord of potential action that could be taken if he continues to ruin your reputation.

Find an Ideal Replacement

Find someone to take over your lease when you move. Tell the landlord you are thinking of moving and have the ideal candidate to lease his unit. See if that makes a difference.

Have an attorney write a letter to this landlord informing him that if he does not stop giving you an undeserved bad reference, you will sue.

Have all your rent receipts and pictures of your unit ready to show the prospective lender at the time of application and tell them your landlord doesn't want to lose you so he is giving you a bad reference. If you do this before they contact him, perhaps they will see your side of the story more easily.

Have Proof in Writing

If your lying landlord is making false statements to make you stay, that is libel and slander. Get your proof lined up in writing and go to the local police department and find out how to file charges. Then I would go back to every place I filled out an application and tell them what your landlord said and why.
Toni B.

Use References from Previous Landlords

You need documentation. It's not enough to have a cashed check. The lying landlord could hold it and cash it after the due date and say she paid late. She needs a receipt showing payment received and signed and dated by him. I agree that taking pictures or even having a neutral party walk through the apartment is a good idea. If he is slandering her character, what will he say about the condition of the place?

As for a new place and references, if Lorrie has previous landlords, she should have them listed on the reference page. If three landlords give a good report and this guy gives a totally opposite report, it may raise a red flag like it did for a prospective realtor.

calculator iconCalculator: How much mortgage can I afford?

Lorrie does not say how long her lease is or how far into a lease she is. Contacting the housing authority may also help with this toxic situation. She may be taken advantage of (think extortion), especially if the rent is way too high for comparable condos.

Can she negotiate a lower rent? Or is it past that point?

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