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Can you sue an agent for not obtaining or negligently obtaining references?


Who can you obtain a reference for?

You can obtain a tenant reference for any prospective tenant.

Can an estate/letting agency pass on information obtained about a client to a landlord?

Many agents claim that they are not able to do this as it would be a breach of data protection to pass this information on to the landlord. However, as provided by the Information Commissioner’s Office, the agency may pass this information to the landlord, provided that when the reference is asked for, they make clear to the tenant and the referee that this will happen. Arguably the agent may be in breach of their duties to their landlord client if they fail to do this.

Where information is collected for referencing purposes, under the Data Protection Act 1998, the agency is required to inform the tenant of how this information is to be used. Consent should be sought when the information is collected.  The data must be stored securely and destroyed securely when it is no longer required.

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Can you sue an agent for not obtaining or negligently obtaining references?

Allowing an unsuitable tenant to let the property can cause the landlord to incur thousands of pounds of loss in unpaid rent, legal costs and, possibly, damage to the property. Therefore, where an agent has failed to do their job correctly and obtain a proper reference for a prospective tenant, it is only right that the landlord should be entitled to compensation for such losses. The landlord may be able to bring a claim against the agent for breach of contract under the Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982, as was the case in Hale v Blue Sky Property Group [2016].

What if my prospective tenants are students?

If you let your property to students, they are unlikely to pass a reference check due to having no previous credit history. However, your rental income can be protected by referencing a student’s guarantor, such as a parent or guardian, who will be responsible for paying the rent in the event that the student is unable to do so.

Can the landlord give out information about the tenant?

Landlords should make clear to tenants when they sign the tenancy when and how their information will be used or given out. The landlord should not give out the tenants’ details without their knowledge or consent.
However, the Data Protection Act 1998 does not prevent a landlord from releasing personal information about the tenant where they have a legal obligation to do so, or for example, where the tenants contact details need to be passed on so the property can be accessed for emergency repairs.

Can a landlord pass the names of new tenants to the utility companies?

Yes. A landlord has a legitimate interest in making sure that utility charges are directed to those responsible. The landlord reserves the right to notify any provider of services the names of tenants who are liable for the utility charges.

Article written by Chelsea Rose – Paralegal at Garner & Hancock

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