10 MARCH 2001, Page 63

Q. For years my partner and I lived in a

lovely house in a waterside suburb of Sydney owned by a well-off local family. The rent was well below market rates, and no lease or bond was expected: solid tenants introduced by a reliable source were enough. All dealings were honourable and generous, ending only when a family member moved in. An unreliable acquaintance, of turbulent personal and financial affairs, contacted the owners about renting the premises without asking our advice on how (or even whether) to proceed. It is very likely that we have been held out as having proposed the idea. How would you handle this one with minimum fuss?

T.R, Sydney, NSW, Australia A. Write the owners a short note saying that rumour has reached you that they may be getting in touch in the near future to ask you to give a reference for the potential tenant in question. Then write that, for personal reasons, you would be very grateful if they would mind not asking you to do so.