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Is it Illegal for a Landlord to Not Provide a Reference?

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As a renter, you’ve likely heard stories of nightmare landlords that are, at best, a bit annoying and, at worst, operating a bit outside the law. As such, you might have wondered if it’s illegal for your landlord to not provide you with a reference (good or bad!) when you move. In this article, we answer your questions and more. 

So, is it illegal for a landlord to not provide a reference? No, landlords have no legal obligation to provide tenants with a reference. However, if landlords choose to provide a reference, it must be truthful as any misleading information could have legal implications. 

Read on to learn more about landlord references and the legalities surrounding the topic. 

Can Landlords Refuse to Provide a Reference?

Landlords can refuse to provide a reference for tenants, however, it is always best to provide tenants with a reference, good or bad, as the new landlord has the right to know about the history and character of their prospective tenants. 

However, no reference can be just as telling as a bad reference. A previous landlord refusing to provide a reference can imply that their tenant was a bad tenant for one reason or another. At least by providing a reference, landlords can be specific about why the tenant was a bad tenant, and you won’t end up in the new landlord’s bad books. 

What Can a Landlord Say When Giving a Reference?

When providing a reference, landlords should be truthful, but fair. A reference should paint an accurate picture of the prospective tenant. 

Stick to the facts

The new landlord wants to know the facts, so when writing a reference, a landlord should include relevant information, including:

  • Did the tenant pay on time?
  • Did the tenant skip payments?
  • Did the tenant damage the property or any items in any way?
  • Any arrests during the tenancy
  • Any social issues that arose (e.g. noise complaints)
  • If the tenants were good, quiet tenants that didn’t cause trouble, the landlord should highlight this

Avoid opinions and emotions

In order to be fair, opinions, emotions, and speculations should be left out of references. Just because a landlord and tenant didn’t get along doesn’t make the tenants bad. Similarly, if any comments or points cannot be proven they should be left out as they can be taken as slander. 

Similarly, landlords could wind up in court for giving a bad reference simply because they don’t like the tenant. 

Don’t lie or mislead

Whilst it is not illegal to not provide a reference, lying or misleading comments in a reference could have legal implications where the tenant sues for damages. That being said, as long as the landlord can back up any claims and comments, that is completely legal. 

What Happens if a Landlord Gives a Poor Reference?

If a landlord gives a poor reference, it will look bad on the surface but, depending on the comments in the reference, the tenant may be able to work around it. 

If the reference claimed that the tenant didn’t pay on time, or skipped payments, tenants could, where possible, offer to pay 6-12 months rent upfront to prove that they can afford the rent. 

If the reference claimed that tenants were bad tenants due to character-related issues, the tenant could ask a previous landlord or agency to provide a reference that may be better. They could also ask their employer, neighbours, or other relevant parties to provide a reference. 

If the landlord’s reference is incorrect, biased, or untruthful, the tenant could set out to prove the landlord wrong by gathering various documents or supplementary information to provide the new landlord with. 

What Can I Do If My Landlord Doesn’t Give Me a Reference?

If a landlord doesn’t provide their tenant with a reference, the tenant may still be able to rent, however, they may need to make other arrangements. Here are a few things that tenants can do in this situation:

  • First, the tenant should speak with the letting agent to see if there is anything they can do. They may be able to speak to the landlord on the tenant’s behalf
  • The tenant can ask a previous landlord or letting agent for a reference
  • The tenant can explain to the new landlord or letting agent why you cannot provide a reference. They may ask for alternative checks in its place
  • The tenant can collate bank statements to prove that rent was paid on time
  • The tenant can  for a character reference from someone that knows them well

Can Landlords Charge for Referencing?

Landlords and letting agents are no longer allowed to charge referencing fees under the Tenant Fees Act (2019). They can only ask for the rent, tenancy deposit, and a holding deposit. 

Similarly, the Tenancy Fees Act also placed a cap on the amount that landlords and letting agents charge for deposits and holding fees;

  • Deposits are capped at the equivalent of 5 weeks’ rent for annual rents under £50,000. 
    • Annual rents above £50,000 are capped at the equivalent of 6 weeks’ rent
  • Holding fees are capped at the equivalent of 1 weeks’ rent

Landlord Lettings in Leeds and Bradford

Valor Properties are experienced landlord letting agents in Leeds and Bradford. Our experienced landlord lettings team can make letting your house, flat, or bungalow fast and easy, helping out with all the responsibilities of being a landlord.

A policy unique to Valor Properties is that every tenant we process requires a full-time working guarantor. Whether a candidate is a student or works full time, a guarantor is required to be eligible to occupy one of our properties. This ensures that landlords are paid each month, regardless of the situation.

Visit our Lettings Advice Clinic for more information or click below to arrange a valuation. 

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