Can I sue a landlord for a bad reference? Sometimes, the actions of your previous landlord make you look at them as a slumlord. But in the event of writing a bad reference letter about you, suing them may be an option.
If you previously had to take your landlord to claims for illegal fees they charged you or you violated the lease, it may be the reason for the bad reference.
It could even be that you are never late on rent, or believe you did not violate the lease.
Depending on their claims, especially if they have no proof, suing them may be the way out. But suing your landlord is not always the go-to solution. There are other ways to get past a bad landlord reference. You also do not want it in your record that you sued your previous landlord to prevent prospective landlords from rejecting you.
Can I sue a landlord for a bad reference?
Although you can sue a landlord for a bad reference, consider cease and desist. This is a legally enforceable order from a court or government agency directing your landlord to stop giving bad references about you, if their claims are false.
Besides, you must prove actual damages to be successful in litigation to prevail in law suits.
Also, to attach defamation liability, your former landlord needs to have made a concrete, false statement of fact.
If your statement does not meet that requirement, due to being subjective, opinion-based quality, suing the landlord is not worth it.
Have a lawyer send a cease and desist letter to your previous landlord. Contact a local lawyer and discuss the issue in detail to get counsel to warn the landlord against making prejudicial statements against you, without justification.
You could potentially sue a landlord for defamation, but not when there is a false statement of fact.
Your landlord’s remarks about you may not be a false statement of fact, but rather an opinion, which could be potentially true.
Nonetheless, it could also be defamation, depending on the content of the reference letter.
With the above said, litigation can be expensive and might not be financially worth it. So, consider sending the landlord a letter to desist, perhaps an ORS 20.080, asking them to cease defaming you.
Talk to your prospective landlord
You would have to find out what your previous landlord says about you. If you were a bad tenant, they ought to have evicted you.
Since you were not evicted, it could help to explain the situation to your prospective landlords.
Suppose your previous landlord lied about late rent payment, offer to present copies of your rent checks/receipts to your prospective landlord.
Suppose your previous landlord accuses you of causing damage to the property. Have the potential landlord inspect the condition of your current apartment to see for themselves.
If you violated a no-pet policy, give reasonable explanations to your prospective landlord. You can demonstrate that the pet is an emotional support animal (ESA) by presenting an ESA certificate from your physician. Moreover, ESA is covered under the Fair Housing Act (FHA), preventing a landlord from evicting you for keeping an emotional support animal.
If you did not pay pet rent but your pet caused damage to the property, demonstrate that you reached an agreement with your previous landlord not to pay pet rent. Assure your prospective landlord that you would be willing to pay pet rent.
Do not use your previous landlord as a reference
If your previous landlord keeps giving a bad reference, consider using past landlords, friends, neighbors, and employers as your reference.
However, do not fake your rental history for the new apartment. If the landlord finds out, you could be evicted, and the eviction will appear in your records.
Have in mind that truth is an absolute defense to libel and slander. Therefore, if there is any truth in your previous landlord’s statements or claims, you will not get far suing them.