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Written by Emma Lunn

A newspaper consumer column has highlighted a potential problem for letting agents and landlords - that is, a tenant has an apparent right to see a reference even if the referee who authored it does not give consent and even if it identifies the referee in question.
Observer consumer champion Anna Tims  received a letter from a tenant stating: “I have been turned down by a letting agent for a flat as I failed the referencing. It couldn’t tell me why, so I contacted Blinc Referencing, which handled the process. It refused to tell me. Are they allowed to do this? Is this a data protection issue? MH, London.”
Tims says she contacted Blinc, which says it withholds references to protect its referees. 
“We would be able to write to the referees to ask if they would be happy for us to provide the applicant with a copy of the full reference,” says Blinc director Darren Bignall. “If they decline, then we would not be able to do so.”
But Tims says this position contradicts consumer protection laws. According to the Competition and Markets Authority guidelines - confirmed to Landlord Today’s sister site Letting Agent Today by the CMA this week - the tenant’s right to know the reasons for a failed check outweigh a referee’s right to confidentiality. 
“The failure to explain why a check was failed may count as a misleading omission since it deprives the tenant of the chance to defend their case. You have the right under the Data Protection Act to request a copy of your personal data," advises Tims. 


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    Maybe the issue is the Agent referencing multiple separate tenants and just making up an excuse to get double fees

    • 09 January 2015 11:12 AM
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    Oh dear as a consumer champion I think Anna had better dig a little deeper.

    There is no LAW that states a tenant is entitled to see the actual reference. There may be various references that look like it, but in the end the DP Act will overrule and apart from anything else the cluse is in the article.

    A tenant is entitled to know why they have failed referencing. Just use the same technique I did when referencing for a major Building Society for 20 years

    1. We have taken the references you would expect us to
    2. These are employer's, last Landlord or mortgage lender, bank and credit reference.
    3. Mr prospective tenant you know what you earn, whether your rent or mortgage payment record is impeccable, and whether your credit rating is good

    Now then which of these do you think may not have matched up to what you have told us?

    If they still struggle then tell them which reference. And they can have the actual referencing company report, but tenants are not entitled to the actual individual reference. if they were no-one would ever give one so if tenant's want this right.....................

    Incidentally the personal reference would be an exclusion in a subject access request because it involves a third party - as opposed to purely personal date an employer holds solely between them and the employee personal data request.

    The reason for refusing a tenancy to any applicant is also contained in the T&Cs a prospect signs and the referencing application form

    • 09 January 2015 10:02 AM
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