What can I do about a bad reference from a former landlord?
Question Details: I rented an apartment 2 years ago with a roommate. He and I both signed the lease but a year later I moved out. This was my first time renting any place and my roommate told me that I didn't need to bother taking my name off and that he would be renewing the lease with another roommate. I trusted him and moved. Then, 6 months ago, his roommate shot a hole in the wall with a firearm by accident and they received a notice of eviction. They moved out in a timely manner and paid for damages so the apartment complex said they were never actually evicted and thus an eviction isn't on their record. My problem is that my name was still on the lease. My wife and I have been turned down by several places to rent because they called my former apartment and were told of the incident. I know I messed up bad and it's biting me in the butt. What should I do?
If the landlord is lying about you--and as a practical matter, you can prove they are lying, since there's no point in suing if you can't prove your case--you could sue them for defamation. So if they are telling people that you fired the gun, for example, when you did not, that would provide a basis for a defamation lawsuit. In such a suit, you could seek monetary compensation and/or a court order that the defamation stop.
But if they are telling the truth--such as saying that a hole was shot in the wall of the unit you were renting without saying that you did it--then there is nothing you can do about this: the law does not stop people, including landlords, from making factually true statements even if they are harmful to you.