In renting a new apt, the prospective landlord asked me for references from prior LLs. I gave him three. One of those was my brother (he owned the prop), the other my most current LL & the final was my first LL back in 2006. This was from college days.
Find out Tuesday that prospective landlord will not rent to me. Asked him why, he said received a bad reference. Asked him WHO? He refuses to say. I called all 3 of my refs (including brother) & they are denying they gave a bad ref.
Since I moved out on time with previous LL, I suspect it's the first one. My brother is cool with me, don't owe him $$. First LL from college days was a slumlord & never fixed anything. I moved out & he tried to take me to court for damages, but I counter-sued and gave move out photographs & Rug Doctor bill. Judge found in my favor.
I was denied another apt back in 2011 & was told it was denied w/no specific reason. I now suspect it's the bad LL mentioned above. How do I find out? And if it IS that one, what legal steps should I take? I AM VERY ANGRY about this.
I am not admitted in FL (only in CA), so I can only provide a sort of general response. In general, all defamation actions (slander is a type of defamation) require these elements:
(1) a false and defamatory statement concerning another;
(2) publication of the statement, without privilege, to a third party;
(3) fault on the part of the publisher, amounting at least to negligence, in ascertaining whether the statement is true or false; and
(4) special damages.
[Restatement 2d, Torts § 558]
Typically speaking, you must prove that statements were made about you that were actually false and that the person making them had knowledge of the falsity of the statement. This is sometimes hard to prove, if there is any aspect that is true. Also, statements made that are merely "opinions" are protected. (For example, there's a difference between saying "I think that guy is a crook" and saying "that guy is a felon." In the first instance you may be stating an opinion, where the 2nd example, if false, could be defamatory.) In your case, you don't appear to know what was said to know if the statements, if any, were false. For that matter, the current prospective LL may have made the decision not to rent to you on grounds completely unrelated to the information, if any, that was provided by the former LLs.
The 3rd issue to address is damages: it's often hard to show actual damages resulting from the publication. In your case, you'd have to show what damages you suffered as a result of the statements.
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Without damages, a defamation lawsuit will cost more than you will recover. A defamation lawyer will probably want $5,000 retainer, and will bill you hourly when that runs out in a couple weeks.
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You will need to prove that your landlord made a false statement of fact that harmed you. You will also need to show that there was no privilege in the statement. Here's a pretty good article (I wrote) on defamation in housing situations. http://www.becker-poliakoff.com/pubs/newsletters/cu/cu_2002_12.pdf
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