Are Current and Past Landlords an “Accurate” Source of Information for Tenant Screening Purposes?


Landlords and property managersIn screening perspective tenants for rental properties, do you call current or previous landlords for references? Often times it can prove to be an exercise in futility. On the other hand, sometimes it can open a pandora’s box of information.

Current and previous landlords don’t always provide a “true” picture of the tenant

I typically don’t do rentals on other’s properties.  I take care of my own. As a landlord, when I receive a call for a reference on a current or previous tenant, after I have asked for written authorization from my tenant to release information, I am careful to only provide very general information...’Yes, the tenant paid as agreed’ (if they did). And, I will confirm the period of time in which they rented from me.  That’s pretty much it!  I typically do not give out any additional information.  On occasion, if I have a great tenant I will happily tell the new landlord that I would happily rent to them again!

As landlords, with our own tenants, we must be careful what kind of information we provide to a new landlord. I am very cautious in dealing with deragotory information.

What if I have a tenant that has always paid his rent late?  

What if this tenant was difficult through the term of the lease?

What if he has destroyed my property? 

As a REALTOR and a professional. I must be careful what I tell a new landlord. I don’t want to be accused of/or sued for slander. 

What if you have a tenant that you have filed eviction proceedings against?  He hasn’t paid rent in 3 months and you can’t get him out of your house? You know he must rent something first, or find another place to live in order to get out of your property? 

Let’s say you get a call from another landlord for a reference on this tenant..

What are you going to tell them? 

Will you tell the perspective landlord that the current tenant is living in your house for free?

And, that he has made your life miserable and done $5000 of damages to your house and you can’t get him out?

‘Oh my gosh, I wouldn’t rent to this guy if he were the last tenant on earth.’ 

Unlikely you’re going to say any of these things, as you could potentially be sued for slander!

AND, if your tenant can’t find someplace else to move because you’re telling all of his new potential landlords that he’s awful, you’ll never be rid of him!

Eviction filings are public record.  So, anyone call look them up.  Here in Brevard County Florida, we can find  information on local tenants on the Brevard County Clerk of Courts website. Criminal records and histories can also be found online. It’s amazing the amount of information I have been able to find online in reference to a perspective tenant.

Look at the other side of the coin…would this difficult tenant of yours be likely to give out his correct landlord information to a new perspective landlord?  Probably NOT, many of the bad ones don’t!

I’ve had perspective tenants give me incorrect information about their current or previous landlords, inadvertently or otherwise: incorrect names, phone numbers and property addresses.

On the other hand, I have talked to landlords that have provided a slew of information about their previous or current tenants. Often times, they have given me an earful, sometimes good and sometimes bad. And, sometimes it depends on whether that bad tenant is a PAST tenant of theirs or a CURRENT tenant!  Often, I know they have told me much more than they should!

In all of the checkpoints we have in screening for tenants, I think that all of them combined can give us the  an all around complete picture.  And often, we have to decipher fact from fiction – that in itself tells us something about whether we should rent to this tenant.

So, as a landlord or property manager do you call current and/or previous landlords for references?

Let me preface my post in saying that I have some wonderful people that I have rented to for years – some over 10 years.  And, I feel that the number of deceptive tenants that are looking for a rental today are certainly the minority. This post is not to say that perspective tenants are in anyway bad.

Sandy Shores Melbourne FL RealtorThis article is authored by Sandy Shores, Melbourne FL REALTOR.

It is the exclusive property of, and may not be used without the written permission of Sandy Shores, Brevard County, Florida Space Coast. All information is believed to be accurate, but is not warranted. Copyright 2008.


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